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Fraternization is a Swabian custom which is regularly held around the Transdanubian part of Hungary. Most likely it derives from the 18th century, when Maria Theresa settled German labourers down in Hungary.
The fraternization relationship between families starts with the christening but it is not bound to either common Christian religion. Many years ago, when home birth was customary, the ceremony was held right after the delivery or later that day. The godparents are the so called sponsors, ‘komák’ in Hungarian. The word is regularly used in everyday life, as well. The godmother is the best friend of the mother – she does not have to be a relative of the family, because the children get the religion of the mother. Each child has the same godparents. This relationship works back and forth and is much stronger than any other family bounds, it is even stronger than the aunt's or uncle's relationship, as for an extreme example if the children become orphans the godparents will automatically become the stepparents.
After the birth giving there is six weeks, during which the mother is in the so called ‘gyermekágyas’ status, when the godmother comes and brings lunch three times for the mother. The families keep in touch and they have lunch at each other’s on Christmas and on Easter. Moreover, the children have to be present on these meetings until they get married because earlier marriage was the sign of adulthood. On these days the children get gifts until they reach the age of twelve. The last gift is the most expensive; it is usually a pair of earrings for girls and a watch for boys. At the engagement ceremony the godparents give the most valuable present, which is usually a table set for twelve people. At the civil wedding ceremony the godfather is the best man and at the church ceremony the godmother holds the candle. After that, at the wedding reception, the godparents are the ones who sit right next to the newlywed couple and not the parents. (Earlier the parents did not sit down there at all.) If it is possible, the godparents give the most valuable present again. The close relationship between the godparents and the children ends with the matrimony but the parents (komák) still keep close to the godparents.
In the folklore, there are some examples for the fraternization customs, which can be found nowadays in children’s short speeches and in other folk songs. As for an example, if a family slaughtered a pig it was proper to send a taste of the food for the fraternization family and they had to send it back. The plate on which they sent the taste was usually the most beautiful plate of the household. Till nowadays, it is very rude if somebody send a taste of food on an inappropriate plate. The short speech for this custom is the following:
Meg is aranyoztam.
Ha nem tetszik komának,
Küldje vissza komának.
Another short speech is about the mentioned bound between the fraternization parties:
Koma - koma, komálunk,
Ha élünk, ha halunk,
Mégis komák maradunk.
I composed the article with my mother, grandmother and a friend of mine. My whole family have Swabian relatives; moreover, I am Swabian from several points of view. I live in Paks and my whole family keeps this beautiful custom as nearly everybody in the town does. It was not written based on an old story which was told by my grandmother because it is a still practised custom. My friend who helped me is entirely Swabian and she interested in our Swabian line. One of her teachers at the university is a pillar of the Swabian society in Szekszárd.
For example in Madocsa, which lays close to Paks but earlier was on the other side of the River Danube, everybody was called ‘koma’ who was present on the christening ceremony but the godparents were the so called ‘tartókomák’ – ‘holding sponsors’.
Maria Theresa settled German labourers down in many parts of Hungary. Among some others, she settled the German down in those areas where the Hungarian population died out under the Turkish occupation. Swabians are those Hungarians who have German ancestors.