Sorbian Traditions and Customs

Sorbian traditions and customs covering a wide range of cultural life are still very much alive today, and some have often been adopted by the German population.

The Birds Wedding (Vogelhochzeit)

A widely celebrated custom is Ptači kwas / The Birds Wedding, which is one of the most popular customs among the children. On the morning of January 25, a plate filled with sweets and special pastries is placed outside on a window. These are symbolic gifts of the birds that celebrate the wedding on this day and which thank the children for feeding them on cold winter days. The Vogelhochzeit is popularly celebrated by many nurseries and schools in the Lausitz. In some areas, Wedding Societies of children in traditional Sorbian costume – mostly those of the Catholic Sorbs – are imitated.

Easter Rides

This lively tradition has been cultivated in Bautzen over the course of many centuries. Although interrupted for various periods in the past, today, the Easter Rides is a firm fixture in the life of the Sorbian Catholic community in Bautzen. Each year more than 50 riders and their horses carry the Easter message of the Resurrection far and wide into the countryside around Bautzen. During their procession to the neighboring community of Radibor and on the return, the Easter riders sing and pray of the resurrection of Christ, in the Sorbian language. The Sorbian Easter Rides in Bautzen, and also in the surrounding communities, is today an extremely important religious and national event for the Sorbs.

Witches Burning

The 30th of April is the night of Burning of the Witches (Chodojtypalenje), which takes place mainly in the surrounding villages, but also in Bautzen itself. Huge bonfires, often topped out with a figure of a witch, are set alight at nightfall. The custom has its roots in the traditions of driving out the winter and welcoming in the spring at this time.

Zampern

An important custom at Fastnacht (Shrove Tuesday) is the “Zampern”, which is popular particularly in the central Lausitz. Here the adults go on “Zampertour” to collect enough money, liquor and other donations for their Carnival celebrations.

Sorbian Easter Egg Market

The Sorbian Easter Egg Market, which takes place annually five weeks before Easter, is an attraction for thousands of people. Here you can see the elaborate and colorful decoration of Sorbian Easter eggs, exquisitely and painstakingly painted by hand. Visitors can watch the artists as they wax the eggs, and then color, polish or scratch the pattern into the shell. You can also try out the various techniques of egg decorating yourself and choose from a wide range of Easter eggs on sale.

Maypoles

In many villages around Bautzen you can also experience the erecting of the Maypole and the “sport” of Maypole throwing.

Heischgänge

In the Oberlausitz, children and young people dress up and go from house to house asking for small gifts of sweets. This practice is a tradition of the Catholic Sorbs and takes place either on “Fastnacht” (Shrove Tuesday) or on St. Martin’s Day (November 11).