Olsen details German-Bohemian culture

NEW ULM – The editor of the German-Bohemian Heritage Society (GBHS) newsletter talked about his exploration of German-Bohemian culture Saturday at the annual GBHS Spring meeting at the New Ulm Country Club.

Wade Olsen displayed a photograph of a picturesque forest trail in mountainous land on the west end of the Czech Republic he said became more significant in recent generations as people ventured away from their villages more and more.

“German-Bohemian farmers a century ago were a crop failure away from starvation but were very proud of their culture including music, literature, art, and food,” said Olsen, who grew up in St. Paul but has family roots in New Ulm.

Cultural traditions included the annual maypole raising Olsen said goes back to Pagan times.

“When a man decided he liked a girl, he and his friends who steal a maypole from a neighboring village and place it in front of the girlfriend’s home,” Olsen said. “Arranged weddings were common. Farmers married farmers. Business and craftspeople married people who did the same work.”

He described other cultural elements including female headdresses with glass beads, glassmaking as a cottage industry because all the needed elements were easily available nearby. Lace-making, spinning and music were popular during winters and as a way to supplement income.

“Monks brewed beer, “because without beer, things didn’t seem to go as well, as one monk wrote,” Olsen said. “Budweiser and Pilsner beer came from this part of the world.”

Olsen will lead a GBHS tour to German-Bohemia June 9 to 22, 2013. A few spaces are available. Contact Olsen at Wade@Wadesconnections.com for more information.

Since 1984, the GBHS has been dedicated to sharing stories of German-Bohemians with programs and research. Newsletters cover personal stories, genealogical research and historical perspectives on all aspects of German-Bohemian heritage and culture.

The articles are gathered in book of more than 400 pages. For more information, visit www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~gbhs/

Angie Portner recently completed a book on the history of the former St. Alexander Hospital in New Ulm.

Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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