Happy Easter from everyone at HGTA!

Easter Customs and Traditions in our Twin Towns

The Easter break in our twin towns is celebrated over a 4 day week-end, as it is here.  This year, they are mostly unable to celebrate with the events that would normally happen, as public life is still largely locked down.  However, our friends have been keeping in touch and sending us information about their national and local traditions.  Here’s a little more about some of their traditions and their Easter story.

Gubbio  – Buona Pasqua!

As a traditionally Catholic nation, Italy follows the tradition of Lent, or in Italian – Quaresima. In many regions, Italians cut ‘Old Ladies’ in half by way of a tradition! Exactly half way through the 40 days of Lent they “Segar la Vecchia” , “cut in half the Old Lady”. A cake, made in the shape of an old woman to represent the Quaresima, is cut through the middle.  The tradition has pagan origins, and to ‘cut the old’ means to knock down the oak (in the past), or to interrupt the aging process of nature. In the Christian tradition it represents the attainment of half of the lenten penitential path to Easter, with its associated sacrifices (giving up meat, chocolate, alcohol etc).

           Gubbio, and the whole region of Umbria, is rich in ancient religious traditions linked to Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, intertwined with habits celebrating spring and the rebirth of nature.

Holy Week starts on Palm Sunday, and in Italian churches, twigs of olive-tree  are blessed and the faithful take one home at the end of the Mass.

The rite of the Washing of Feet is also part of the Catholic tradition and is celebrated in  many churches on Holy Thursday.  In Gubbio there is an event in the evening, called “Sepolcri’.   In some churches of the town the altars are decorated with pots containing germinated wheat, a symbol of rebirth of nature.

  The wheat seeds are kept in a dark place to germinate, representing the passage from darkness to light,  from death to life. People normally go on a tour, including at least 7 of the town’s churches.

The highlight of the Holy Week celebrations in Gubbio is the Good Friday Procession or the Procession of the Dead Christ,  dating back to the Middle Ages. The procession goes through the main streets of the town and big bonfires are lit in various places along the route. The light of the torches carried by the people in the procession, the noise of the “Battistrangole” (ancient instruments), the chants, the medieval streets of Gubbio all lit with torch-lights for the occasion: all these elements create a strongly evocative, moving atmosphere, which captures believers and non-believers alike. The procession has also become an important tourist attraction, but, like last year, has had to be cancelled in 2021 because of the pandemic.

On Easter Saturday afternoon, the food that is to be on the table at Easter breakfast is brought to the church to be blessed: salami, sweet & savoury cake with cheese, wine, bread, salt and eggs.

That night at 10 o-clock a special Mass called the “Easter Wake” is celebrated in the Cathedral. The ceremony, with readings, chants, sermon, and prayers goes on until midnight, with the announcement of the Resurrection by the toll of the Cathedral bells.

On Easter morning, a typical Easter breakfast would be eggs, bread, wine, salt and salty ‘crescia’. The photo shows the table set ready in Matilde’s house.

Wertheim – Frohe Ostern!

In Wertheim on Palm Sunday (Palmsonntag) branches are fastened to a wooden pole and decorated according to local traditions. The finished palm trees are usually carried in processions (especially in Catholic areas) to commemorate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. In more recent years, this has often been a simplified ceremony held immediately in front of church doors.

Although there are no Wertheim-specific Easter traditions, they join in with the festivities and customs taking place throughout Germany over the Easter period. One such ancient tradition, typical of the Franconia region, is the decorating of fountains or wells. This has been taken up by Wertheim in recent years.

There are food-related traditions for Holy Week which are still observed by some people. On Maundy Thursday, a tyical meal would be spinach with a fried egg on top and Bratkartoffeln (fried potatoes), and on Good Friday – which is often spent with the family – it is customary to serve fish for the mid-day meal. Many people also attend church on this day.

Easter markets are often held on Easter Saturday, these are similar to Christmas Markets, where hand crafted ornaments and fun decorations are sold. In some regions Saturday is also the day for Easter Bonfires. Easter fire is a symbol of light in the darkness and the change from winter to spring they would normally become an occasion for a festival with food and drink.

In the Ecumenical church centre in Wertheim, Easter Night Singing takes place from Saturday night to Sunday. During this midnight Church Service the Easter candle is lit.

Easter Sunday sees children searching for decorated Easter eggs (hard boiled or chocolate ones), Easter bunnies or small presents in green paper nests,  or papier maché eggs hidden in the garden or the home. Many families serve a lamb roast that day. The Easter Bunny actually originates from a German tradition.  Trees and bushes are often decorated with nicely painted coloured eggs or ornaments tied on with ribbons.

In some families, a little contest called ‘titschen’ takes place at the Easter breakfast table. The tops of 2 hardboiled eggs are knocked together, and the one whose egg doesn’t break is the winner – and gets the opponent’s egg. A special Easter cake is also served, called “Der Hefezopf” . It is a yeast-based dough folded into the shape of a plait. It often comes plain and is just eaten with butter and jam – but it  can also be filled with almonds.

Easter Monday in Germany is when people go for a walk, have a picnic and enjoy nature. Some communities arrange Easter egg-and-spoon races for children.

Salon de Provence – Joyeuses Pâques!

In Salon, as in the rest of France, tradition has it that church bells ring every day of the year to invite the faithful to attend Mass. But from Thursday to Saturday in Holy Week, the bells fall silent, as a sign of mourning.  Children are told that the bells have gone to Rome to be blessed by the Pope.  On Easter Sunday, at the end of Easter Mass, they start to ring again.  This tells the children that the bells have flown back to the churches, dropping chocolate eggs into gardens, fields and parks as they fly over. So it is the bells that bring chocolates to children in France! People exchange chocolate Easter eggs,  often ornately decorated with coloured icing. There are egg huts for the children, and these include chocolate chickens, bunnies and fish as well as the traditional eggs.

Of course, there are food-related Easter traditions all over France! In Provence a special kind of dessert called ‘oreillettes’ are often served.  It’s a type of flat sweet pastry, a bit like a waffle. People also enjoy cream desserts of different flavours – caramel vanilla, coffee, chocolate – as well as sweet omelettes. In nearby Marseille, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the creation of soft meringue in a cognac-flavoured custard known as ‘île flottante’ (literally ‘floating island’) was a popular Easter dessert. Some pastry cooks still bake special cakes in the shape of nests.

On Easter Sunday a typical Provençal meal would start with an aperitif with appetisers including, amongst other things, anchovies and tapenade on small pieces of toast rubbed with garlic, black and green olives, small stuffed peppers, and peppers roasted in olive oil and garlic. This would be followed by a leg or shoulder of lamb with provençal herbs, served with hash browns and spring vegetables: beans with fresh spring onions, garden peas and carrots, mangetout, provençal tomatoes, braised fennel, etc. An endive salad with garlic rubbed croutons would often accompany this. For dessert there would be îles flottantes, sweet omelettes etc. The important thing is that egg is one of the main ingredients. The meal would be accompanied by French wines – Côtes du Rhône, Côtes de Provence, Bandol, Cassis and so on. In the afternoon, after coffee and homemade liqueurs, oreillettes or similar sweet fried dough-based morsels are served.

On Easter Monday families often go on a country picnic to celebrate the Spring weather.

Szentendre – Kellemes Húsvéti Ünnepeket!

In Szentendre Easter is seen as a time to welcome in the spring and celebrates the renewal of fertility.

Skanzen, Hungary’s National Living Museum, situated just one kilometre from Szentendre, holds a big celebration of Hungarian traditions over the Easter Weekend.

One of these is the Easter Monday tradition of ‘Sprinkling’  This is more common in the smaller traditional villages and National Dress is often worn. The men chase the women and throw buckets of water over them! Nowadays it is more likely the men will get some perfume and rub it in the women’s hair. This traditional meaning of sprinkling women is to let them bloom all year long!

An Easter tree is often displayed in people’s homes.  The tree will be decorated with Easter eggs and biscuits and there is usually a basket of chocolate eggs for guests.  Easter egg hunts are held on either the Sunday or Monday for the children.

Easter Sunday is the day for the main family meal and this is traditionally made up of smoked ham, ‘coloured’ boiled eggs and horseradish. Originally the ham used to be home-cured and smoked. Sometimes lamb is the chosen meat, and a special sweetbread plait is also served.

Easter Monday is a day for family and friends to visit and exchange chocolate eggs. The main meal is a selection of traditionally cured meats and salads. Here’s a fine picture of a cooked meats market stall.

Another important element of the feast is the Palinka, a traditional fruit brandy most frequently made from plums, apricots, apples, pears, and cherries. Cheers, everybody!

Happy Easter!

 

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E-friends project launched! It’s Gubbio first…

March sees the introduction of our e-friends project being piloted with Gubbio, in Italy.

Like the pen pals of old, e-friends aims to connect like minded individuals to exchange news, views and information about each other’s countries via the medium of the internet.

There has been an enthusiastic response from members with 15 couples and 2 single individuals keen to take part. Everyone has provided profiles, and these will now be matched, via our Gubbio twin town association, with interested people there.

We hope this is the first step towards an exchange of details and the start of new friendships that will help enrich our Association’s connections with our twin towns.

This pilot is for over 18’s only but while it is developing we are also working on facilitating a similar scheme between our secondary schools here and Lycees in Salon de Provence. We hope that this will enable young people to take part under the umbrella of our schools and help with their language practice as well!

We intend to extend e-friends to our other twin towns in due course so keep checking in to see how the scheme is developing.

If you’re reading this and are not a member of HGTA why not click to our Join Us page and find out how you, too, could be a part of our Association.

 

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News from our Twin Towns

As you can imagine, our friends in Salon, Wertheim, Gubbio and Szentendre are going through many of the same difficult experiences that we are dealing with here in the UK. All governments are wrestling with decisions about when to relax lockdown rules so they can re-open schools and leisure facilities, how to encourage citizens to take the vaccine, how to protect their vulnerable people.

To help us keep in touch with our twin town friends and to find out more about their particular experiences, we have been organising a series of Zoom attendances for them at our member meetings.  It has been a real pleasure to ‘meet’, albeit only virtually. Here is a brief summary of what they have been telling us recently:

In Wertheim, as in the rest of Germany, coronavirus cases are falling and there is a cautious plan for the reopening of schools and businesses – very similar, in fact, to Boris Johnson’s ‘roadmap to freedom’ in the UK. There have been 71,000 deaths in Germany, and nearly 2.5 million confirmed cases. There are national elections coming up in Germany in September as well as some local elections later in March. Doubtless The Pandemic will feature prominently in party manifestoes and hustings!

The news from Salon is less positive. They have had almost 4 million cases in France, and 90,000 deaths. The government has imposed a 6pm curfew as well as restrictions about who can meet and where, but not a full lockdown – even though many politicians believe that this would be a wiser course of action. Shops are open, but major outdoor gatherings are not allowed. The good news is that the AstraZeneca vaccine has now been approved for use as well as Pfizer, so hopefully the situation will improve rapidly.

Our friends in Gubbio are also having a tough time. There have been 3 million cases in Italy, with 99,000 deaths. Umbria (the region where Gubbio is located) has been designated a ‘high-risk’ area; schools and day nurseries are closed, as are all but essential shops, and restaurants are only able to offer a take-away service – and only until 6pm. More or less everyone is working from home and there is a lot of anxiety about the local economy – Umbria is not a highly industrialized region and is heavily dependent on tourism.

The news from Szentendre paints a picture which is very similar to how things are here in the UK. They are firmly in the third wave of the pandemic; their population is a lot smaller, of course, but the figures are broadly comparable with the UK. Primary schools are open, but classes – or whole schools- are closed at a moment’s notice if there is any infection. Secondary schools are closed and pupils are home-schooling. Shops are open – everyone must wear a mask – but restaurants are closed except for takeaway service and there is a nationwide curfew from 8pm to 5am.

 

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Exchange Christmas greetings online with Gubbio! December 20th at 6pm.

Laura Zampagli from the Gubbio twinning association has invited us to participate in a special meeting on ‘ Google Meet’ on Sunday, December 20th at 7pm Italian time (6pm in UK), to exchange Christmas greetings and wishes for a Happy New Year.

Here is the link to join the meeting:

meet.google.com/exk-kami-stg

 

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All lit up for Christmas!

Chrismas lights are up all over our twin towns. Huntingdon has a lovely tree and a fine array of lights in the Market Square and around the pedestrian shopping areas.

Godmanchester has gone for an animated light show on the walls of the Town Hall near the Christmas tree on School Hill.

Our twin towns are also beautifully decorated:

Salon de Provence

Wertheim

Szentendre

Gubbio

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AGM, November 18th 2020

The postponed AGM for the year 2019-20 was held via Zoom on Wednesday November 18th 2020. There were 28 members present.

The main business of the meeting was to adopt the new Constitution, and to elect the committee – convened under the terms of the new Constitution – for 2020-21. The Constitution was adopted and a new committee elected. A fuller report of the AGM will appear here in due course.

The new constitution can be found here.

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Covid-19 impact

As everyone is surely aware, many events which were planned for 2020 have had to be cancelled; not only the regular town events in which Twinning always participates, such as the summer gala days and the Christmas Lights switch-on evenings, but also some special events for twinning members : the Quirky Quiz, Chairman’s summer lunch party, Paint Out in the Park, the Murder Mystery evening, and perhaps most regrettably of all, the Youth Sports Festival in Wertheim.

However, there is some good news in that the new committee, which was elected at the AGM on November 18th, is determined that these lovely ideas shall not simply be forgotten in the general gloom created by the Coronavirus pandemic. Just as soon as we are able to arrange a proper in-person event you can be sure that we will do so. And in the meantime we are trying to come up with ‘virtual’ ways in which Twinners can connect to our friends in Salon, Wertheim, Szentendre and Gubbio.

Watch this space.

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June 13th is World Wide Knitting in Public Day!

Today is Worldwide Knitting in Public Day and the Arts Legacy Knitters had planned to join in at the library. Instead, here’s a virtual selection of some of the things the group has been working on both before and during lockdown. Can you spot some of the re-worked yarnbomb pieces? Hopefully, we’ll be back in business soon and able to complete our plans. Thanks to Helen, Nan, Mary A, Mary B, Mary C, Pauline, Patr, Janet, Di, Shirley, David, Diane, Sally and everyone keeping the HGTA Arts Legacy going!

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Business Meeting in Wertheim, 29th February 2020

At the recent business meeting in Wertheim it was agreed that a joint Facebook page for HGTA twinned towns would be created. Wertheim are leading on this; more information and a report of the meeting to follow shortly.

 

 

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Bridge Arts Festival Legacy Activity

As part of the Arts Festival Legacy activities, there is a craft group who meet regularly in Huntingdon Library. They are currently re-working pieces from the yarnbomb into twiddle mats and sleeves for Ferrars Court Care Home residents and Hinchingbrooke Hospital Children’s ward.  These help with mental health and anxiety difficulties.  The next meeting is on Tuesday 28th January between 10.00 & 12.00.

 

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