“Transylvania/Maramures/Bukowina/Moldova in Romania may be seen as regions where the East and the West of Europe overlap – perhaps in the Carnival traditions as well. At the beginning of February ‘Lole’ (German ‘Urzeln’) in Agnita, southern Transylvania are ‘chasing’ away the winter with whips, doughnuts and …a ‘bear’. (Quote: Hans Hedrich).
The Lole Carnival, a traditional German event from the 17th century, in the Transylvanian town of Agnita, 312 km (194 miles) northwest of Bucharest, is organised by Romanian NGO Asociatia Breasla Lolelor, in collaboration with Agnita’s townhall, in an attempt to revitalise the traditions of the Middle Ages trades.
It is one of the oldest traditions of Transylvanian Saxons, having deep roots in the work of the guilds. This custom, initially Saxon, includes medieval guild traditions, presents traditional crafts, symbolises the expulsion of winter in a humorous context, refined, passing into a new year. “Legends say that this custom has its roots in the Middle Ages. When the Turkish invaders sieged the burgh of Agnita, a young girl named Ursula got disguised in a scary costume, went out of the burgh and made deafening noises with her whip, thus chasing the scared Turks.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the custom of the lole was closely linked to the custom of handing over the guild box to the new town chief. The gathering was accompanied by the lole, i.e. funny characters whose role was to protect the boxes from the neighbourhoods.
Today, the custom has taken the form of a parade opened by the chief of the shoemakers’ guild accompanied by two little children as a symbol of guardian angels. Then come the tailors’, furriers’ and the coopers’ guilds, each showing the public their traditional crafts through specific elements and characters. The procession ends with the Transylvanian Hymn then the lole run in groups on the streets to chase the evil spirits by stroking their whips and shaking their cowbells. Passers-by who recognise them get a donut as a reward.
Did you know…?
The name of lole comes from the German verb ‘lallen’ — to stutter, referring to the difficulty of speaking with the mask on. The Saxon word Urzeln could not be translated accurately, but it is assumed to derive from the name of the clothes made from pieces of textiles called ‘Urzen’ in the Saxon dialect from Agnita.