The Sorbian settlers brought with them numerous myths and customs which still leave their mark on the Spreewald and its culture to this day.
Sorbian traditions and customs still occupy a firm place in the lives of Spreewald residents. Particularly in the summer months, many villages host hometown festivals and fairs which offer visitors a glimpse of the Sorbian way of life.
Sorbian carnival (Zapust) in the Spreewald
The Sorbian carnival is one of the main festivals in the Lausitz region. The long winter is bidden farewell and evil spirits and demons driven away. One important element of the Sorbian carnival is the so-called custom of Zampern: costumed Zamper people go through the village accompanied by a band with pannier, basket and cashbox. The village residents offer them bacon, eggs, money and brandy. The Zapust is crowned by the traditional carnival dance and the eating of pancakes.
Easter customs in the Spreewald
The numerous Easter customs in the region can also be traced back to the Sorbs. They include egg-rolling, fetching Easter water and the widespread tradition of the Easter fire. Easter riding is also celebrated in the Oberlausitz region, particularly among Catholic Sorbs.
Decorating Easter eggs
The Sorbs/Wends developed typical ornaments and techniques for decorating Easter eggs. Using their wax and scratch technique, etching and embossing, gaily coloured works of art are created to decorate Easter shrubs and nests. Various meanings are attached to the gaily coloured ornaments. For example, wolf teeth (triangles) give strength and protection from evil.
Healing and rejuvenating powers are ascribed to Easter water. Easter water must be drawn from a stream at sunrise on Easter Sunday. Not a drop may be spilled nor a word spoken while it is being transported. This is supposed to preserve the purity and power of the water.
Wendish Easter Ride
The Easter ride announces the happy news of Christ's resurrection. This custom is widely practised above all among Catholic Sorbs and in Oberlausitz. You can experience it every year in Zerkwitz.
Duck customs in the Spreewald
A series of duck customs enrich cultural country life in the summer months. The fertility spirit of the old year is driven out by means of the traditional cock-plucking and cock-beating and the symbolic killing of a cock.
A cock is killed and hung on a richly decorated gate. Young men on horseback try to grab the loosely attached head or wings of the cock. The winner has earned a dance with the girl who wins the frog-carting.
With cock-beating, a live cock is put in a pit which is covered with a wooden board and weighed down with an earthenware pot. Blindfolded men have to feel for the pot and smash it to pieces. The cock thus released must then be caught.
In frog-carting, the girls have to push a barrow across a finishing line with a live frog sitting on one shaft. The frog also has to make it across the finishing line. The winner has earned a dance with the man who wins the cock-plucking.