Folk Customs Preserve Wend’s Hard-won Ethnic Identity

This article by Carlos Vidal Greth first appeared in the Lifestyles section of the Austin American-Statesman on Friday, May 26, 1989. it was a secondary story to The Way of the Wendish. Photos were done by Taylor Johnson.

The Wends, who moved to Texas in part to preserve their ethnic identity, hold dear the remaining folk practices:

•           Easter-egg decoration – elevated to an art form – is practiced by craftsmen In East Germany and Central Texas (photo at right). The decorators inscribe elaborate designs on empty eggshells with a stylus dipped in hot beeswax. After the wax hardens, the eggs are boiled in dye. When the wax is scraped off, white designs are revealed on the brightly colored shells.

•           Another tradition is the gathering of the “Easter water” by older girls in a community. Early in the morning of the holiday, they go silently to the creek and fill pails with water. At daybreak, they “baptize” the livestock and the sleeping household – often to angry yowls – to ensure good luck for the year.

•           The birds’ wedding takes place Jan. 25, when children place empty saucers outside, often on fenceposts out of the reach of dogs and cats. When the children awaken the next morning, they find the dishes filled with candy supposedly left by birds. Parents say that the birds were celebrating their wedding and wanted to share their gifts with human neighbors.


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