Mennonite Heritage and
Memories of Shivaree . . . pg. 4
Let's take a Look into the Past
Chirvaree or Chivaree or Shivaree
Charivari is the term for a French folk custom in which the community gave a noisy, discordant mock serenade, also pounding on pots and pans, at the home of newlyweds. Wikipedia
Shivaree : a Mennonite Tradition that has gone
A Shivaree was, so to speak, a "right of passage" - an acceptance of the two individuals, as a married couple, into the community. The individuals that showed up at these events may or may not have even known the targeted couple.
From about the 1920's to the 1950's or '60's, area Mennonite young people embraced this Shivaree custom for decades.
M. Unruh Flaming remembers (married in 1979) that her Sunday school class came over one evening with a meal and bags and bags of shredded paper to put everywhere. 15yr. went by and they moved out of that house. In the back closet shreds of paper still could be seen floating and fluttering down and around.
Oats in the bed was a mainstay of the event. Or, pepper was emptied onto the bed sheets in abundance. And since most lived on a farm in those days, the running gears of a wagon were taken apart and reassembled in the hay loft of the barn. My uncle, Ernest Duerksen (an avid shivaree participant), was given pay back, when at his own shivaree, people put the running gear of a farm wagon in his house. The back wheels in the kitchen and the front in the diningroom with the doorway inbetween.
I.rvin R. remembers that at his own shivaree, he had to leave the "horse-fiddle" out on his own porch so the people could use it to shivaree him and his wife. Irvin was the one that brought "it" to every shivaree he attended. So it obviously was no secret when the event would take place. On that fateful evening, Irvin and Edna remember that they had two sets of shivaree groups. The first group thinking "Wouldn't it be a funny prank to move all the bedroom furniture from the second floor - to the main floor". This accomplished the group then said "good-by" and maybe went on to other mischief. The second group of young people shivareers showed up (maybe days later), and not knowing of the first shivaree group's "hard work". They think "What a fun prank it would be if we moved all of the bedroom furniture (from what they thought was the couples bedroom on the first floor) up to the second floor". This group thinks "mission accomplished", but Irvin and Edna are thinking " This is great, our bedroom furniture is now back where it started and we didn't have to lift a finger".
Since " Horse-fiddles " were homemade, they may have had many variations. This one was reported to come from north of Hillsboro, KS.
A double disk is said to be the loudest and more offensive than a one disk model.
As a side note : this Hores-fiddle sold at the 2016 MCC Sale for $300 and went to the Inman area.
This is another version of the horse fiddle from the Goessel area, found at a farm auction.
A "Horse-fiddle" was an instrument to make such a horrendous vibration of noise, so much so that the poor unsuspecting couple might think the world was coming to an end. The instrument was leaned up against the couples house causing the whole house to vibrate. This typically was the start of the whole evenings events.
Two old disk blades were fitted with a spring and a crank to a toothed gear. The teeth of the gear pulled the metal disks apart and when the crank was turned the most tremendious noise results.
A discription of a
At one shivaree Irvin remembers that someone threw a dirty work sock into the flour bin of an old Hoosier cabinet. A flour sifter at the bottom of the flour bin and finally the sifter did not work any more. The couple had to empty the whole bin and there after many pies or cookies or loaves of bread - here was the dirty sock stuck in the sifter.
Two young men caught in the act of using a "horse-fiddle.
In the Hillsboro area a newly wed couple thought they had outsmarted the shiverers by refusing to let the group into the house. One prankster had the last laugh when he spent the whole night poking corn stalks down into the basement through a small vent opening. Also at an unnamed Hillsboro newlywed's shivaree, two unnamed men put cockleburs in the couple's bed.
By 1971, when Roger and Fern got married the shivaree was almost a lost art and only stories emerged. Then one evening when they had settled down for the night and had the window open for some air, they heard the melodious racket of a horse-fiddle at the farmhouse across the section. Roger and Fern had heard of past shivarees and wanted to join in. So they once again got dressed and drove over to the party. Orlin and Mary Jane Janzen were the recipients of that "music".
At this very shivaree a small pig showed up. After several failed attempts to bring the pig into the house (which of course had to be done in secret) - this was not an easy feat with a squealing baby pig. But, finally the scheming brother-in-law accomplished the deed. When all the company had left and all was quiet, Orlin heard very strange sounds coming from their basement.
Alma Warkentin said that they had been prepared by sleeping in their regular chothes for weeks, so they would not be surprised,. But the one night that they were sure no one would come, they went to bed in their night clothes. "Here THEY CAME pounding on the doors and windows", she said.
Linda and her husband Melvin got married in 1942. At their shivaree, one of the young participants came into the house carrying the bulb from the yardlight pole. Had this young man shinnyed up the pole to unscrew the bulb ? It was quite high off the ground, and Melvin was not quite sure how he would get it back up there. They were awakened out of a deep sleep. The group had brought groceries for the couple but, took all the labels off the cans.
Ron F. said that he was made to push a wheel borrow down main street with his new bride in it. But, then he told the story of his son's "friends", "booby trapping" the couples' house with thread wound around lamps and furniture up and down so that anywhere they went in the livingroom, they would cause something else fall across the room.
Dr. Penner grew up in Hillsboro and told this story of one couples' shivaree. D. Hiebert and his wife were letting it be known that they were going to outwit any shivareers by pre-marking all the canned goods in their pantry. Thereby knowing what was in each can even though the labels might be pulled off by eager pranksters. Well, not to be outwitted, the merrymakers brought nail polish remover to do away with the writing on the top or bottom of the can. And they had a whole assembly line going, one person took cans off the shelf and the next one, pulled off paper labels, and then another removed the permanent marker (identifing the contence) with the remover and finally back up on the shelf.
Dan B. said at his own shivaree (early 60's), while he and his wife were distracted by other pranksters, her friends had spent the whole evening in their bedroom sewing the fly to all his shorts shut. For days after the shivaree he had to deal with this delema.
Vernetta and her new husband were married and ready to to go into 1 - W (an alternative service for conscientious objectors, instead of going into the military during WW2) They were living upstairs in her mother-in-law's house and here came the branksters. They tied knots in the sheets and would not go away until she made pancakes. When they returned from 1 = W after 2 yr. " They came and shivareed us again, that wasn't fair ! " she said. "They gave us cans of food but they had removed the labels from the cans so it wasn't known what you were having for supper".
Otto was married in 1948 and he remembers alot of confetti in the bed. Shivareers drove Model T ''s at the time and so if you would adjust the spark of the engine, it would make the engine backfire and that created a lot of noise.
Elsie and her new husband were sleeping and there was a terrible noise outside the house and she was so scared. Her husband said that it was OK they were just being shivareed. They brought the machinery up into the yard, but he asked them to leave the one implement alone that was his dad's. They drove the big implements onto the yard but didn't bring the dad's machine. They were other young couples that were participating.
Elva was married in 1951 and living in the country. The shivareers were from the Springfield community which was her husband's home church. They short sheeted the bed and she had to do some cooking - pancakes.
And so, this page is dedicated to the endless creativity of shivaree pranksters.
By printing these Shivaree stories, the Museum does not endorse this custom, nor does it seek to revive it in any way.
2014-2021 Mennonite Heritage
and Agricultural Museum
Created by Fern Bartel nee Schmidt