Nationwide Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage
Candlemas in Spergau
The “Spergauer Lichtmeß” (Candlemas in Spergau) is celebrated every year on the first Sunday after February 1 in Spergau in Saxony-Anhalt and signifies the expulsion of winter. The first indication of this custom was found in a manuscript chronicle of the year 1688. Today on festival day, the whole village is on its feet. For every inhabitant of Spergau it is natural to open his or her door while relatives and former citizens of Spergau join in.
The Spergauer Lichtmeß is basically a bachelor's tradition, only unmarried young men belong to the Candlemas association - about 60 participants every year - which organizes the Candlemas as an executive committee. The roles within the association and regarding the begging custom are fixed according to seniority. The kitchen lads are the oldest participants. They are responsible for the order of events and have six kitchen maids at their side. The maids also need to be unmarried and can only slip into their role when one or more former maids got married or do not want to take part anymore. There are also roles which are not played by members of the Candlemas association that can also be taken over by married men and women.
Starting in September of the previous year, the kitchen lads meet and agree on the dates. In December, the first assembly will take place with all participants. Here, roles are determined as well as corresponding tasks, processes and dates. When the day of the Candlemas has come, a parade begins early in the morning. A fire is lit to symbolically burn what is no longer needed in the new year. Men disguised as horses race through the fire with an old plough. This is meant to steel the ploughshare for the coming fieldwork. The man playing the role of a “registrator” raises his name list and the whole Candlemas parade begins the begging by going from house to house collecting gifts and singing serenades. The begging ends in the evening and people head happily back to the local inn "Zur Linde" where the Candlemas day ends with music.
The transmission of the extensive knowledge regarding the Candlemas is highly important for the safeguarding of this tradition. It takes place when new and young participants take over from their predecessors. However, it is not only the custom that is handed down but also the peculiarities of each of the roles. In order to safeguard the tradition and pass it on to younger generations, a “small” Candlemas was re-launched in 1986, which is said to have existed before World War I. At the small Candlemas, which takes place one week before the actual event, the children of Spergau, who are not yet officially allowed to participate in the "big" Candelmas, will re-enact the traditional event with all its highlights.