Christmastime is full of beauty, hustle, and bustle, and of course traditions of all types…but whether you’re new to Pennsylvania or a lifelong resident, you may not be aware of the very special and unique Christmas traditions of the Pennsylvania Dutch.  Enjoy!

Hiding the pickle in the tree.

One of the favorites of many is the hiding of the pickle in the Christmas Tree. Claimed to be an old German tradition that started with a Woolworth’s department store back in the late 1800s. Legend has it that customers were so taken with a shipment of glass ornaments of fruits and vegetables- but particularly the Christmas tree pickle ornament- that they started a fun tradition of hiding it in the tree.  The first one to find the pickle on Christmas morning received an extra present.

Turning the Christmas Tree Upside Down!

Yep, you did read that correctly! No, not to keep the tree that way, but as a means to decorate it. It is believed that German immigrants brought the tradition over from Europe and their reason for hanging it upside down was actually very practical.  Because many early tree decorations were actually made of popcorn, fruit, or cranberries to make garland, people turned them upside down to keep mice and rodents from munching on their decorations.

Hanging a Moravian Star

Have you seen a unique star with 26 points showcased on porches and windows or buildings while driving around the area?  This beautiful star is from the German Christian sect of the Moravians. It symbolizes the birth of Jesus and represents the Star of Bethlehem. If you’re hanging one according to tradition, you will start with the first Sunday of Advent until the day of Epiphany, on January 6th.

Welcoming The Belsnickel

Well not actually even a Pennsylvania Dutch word, but similar to “Krampus”, The Belsnickel is popular German Folklore believed to be based on a servant who assisted Saint Nicholas. Legend states that the Belsnickel comes each year before Christmas, wearing ragged clothing and carrying a switch made of brushes for naughty children, but a pocket full of candy and tasty treats for the good children. The Belsnickel is very much a part of the Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas storytelling.

Finally…celebrating a second Christmas!!!

Like Boxing Day in the UK, Second Christmas is observed the day after Christmas. The Amish take this day off to visit family and friends they weren’t able to spend time with on Christmas Day. It also gives them more time to spend with their loved ones during this beautiful time of year.

We love all the traditions of the holiday season and the beauty that they hold. Enjoy your time with family and friends and keep passing down your traditions to future generations.

 

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