|Saint Laurentius Church in Zerf|
|Saint Wendalinus Church in Oberzerf|
What is Kirmes? Growing up in eastern Wisconsin near Green Bay, I had never heard that word until I began my first librarian job in the public library in Green Bay. People there knew it as a celebration in two small towns to the north, Brussels and Luxemburg, obviously settled by people from Belgium and Luxembourg.
It was quite a surprise when my research on my ancestors' Rhineland culture and customs told me about the Kirmes celebrations in my ancestors' villages of Zerf/Oberzerf, Irsch, and Serrig as well as almost every village in Kreis Saarburg. Considering the proximity of this part of the Rhineland to the borders of the small countries of Belgium and Luxembourg, I realized it was a very natural similarity. I began to look for a description of how the villagers celebrated a Kirmes.
|Cover, House of Johann|
Some of what I learned is in that kind of a brief summary at the beginning of:
Chapter 19 - Kirmes Celebration – October 1845
One of the nicest celebrations of the year was the Kirmes (Church fair). It was an opportunity to once again see friends and relatives, for feasting and for high-spirited dancing and celebrating. The wife of the house cleaned everything to a high luster: the walls of the kitchen were freshly whitewashed; windows and floors cleaned spotless; the copper polished and the furniture washed down. The husband thoroughly cleaned stalls, stables, and farmyard and moved the manure pile out of the area.* The Kirmes guests arrived on foot or by wagon. They were all dressed in their Sunday finery. The table in the 'Stube' was laden with good food, there was lively conversation and everyone felt refreshed and happy with life".
As I wrote in the Chapter 19 introduction, Saturday was an important part of the Kirmes festival. There was no celebrating on this day. Everyone worked from morning to night in preparation for visitors on the next day.
The Kirmes meal was served in the sparkling clean Stube; the table full of the special foods which had been planned for and partially prepared on the day before. Family and friends sat down at a typical dinner feast such as a large ham, potatoes, and sauerkraut, with wine or Viez to drink; then perhaps a small Schnapps to aid the digestion.
The young were especially anxious to make their way to the church grounds for their customary competition. A common type of contest was a bowling match with a fat goose as a prize. By late afternoon, music for dancing began, often continuing to the early hours of Monday. This was what the young men and girls had been awaiting and while older couples also enjoyed the dancing, it was the young ones who seemed never to tire and danced into the early morning hours.
Some of the guests who had traveled to attend the village Kirmes left in the evening or stayed overnight with family or friends who lived in the Kirmes village. Before anyone left for home, the women of the house would present, wrapped in a clean napkin, a small packet of food from the Kirmes dinner for the guests who were leaving and also for any one of their family had not been able to come to the Kirmes celebration.
Ollinger, Josef, Geschichten und Sagen von Saar und Mosel
Morette, Jean, "Landleben im Jahreslauf"
Croon, Maria, "Die Dorfstrasse."