I could travel with a camera 24/7 and feel as if I died and went to heaven! I have been so fortunate that so many people graciously allow me to enter their world and generously share different aspects of their lives with me so freely. It was like that when I attended the Kutztown Folk Festival celebrating the Pennsylvania Dutch Culture …a truly fascinating study. So many people shared story upon story of the traditions, medicinal practices, foods and crafts with me.
The term Pennsylvania Dutch refers to those who left Alsace, Southwestern Germany and Switzerland and settled in Pennsylvania during the 17th and 18th century. The dialect is a combination of Palatinate German and English. However less than 5% of the words are English and it is spoken by nearly 500,000 Pa. Dutch Americans, mostly the Plain Dutch. According to the tradition signs posted: “This is the cussingest language on earth! Here are just some of the compounds of the best known cuss word: Dunnerwedder:
(since I have no idea exactly what I am saying, I will only pass along one!) Himmel-Dunnerwedder!” (go on, get it out and feel better!)
The culture is divided into two completely different ways of life. The Amish and Mennonites represent a minority known as “Plain Dutch” and they separate themselves from the rest of the world in matters of dress. They are biblicists and strictly conform to the bible. Their approach to worship is very simple. They avoid revelry, waste and “worldly ways” with the goal being to be little and unknown, loved by God alone. The majority of PA. Dutch are Lutherans and reformed denominations and are known as “Gay or Fancy Dutch”. These members do not wear plain clothing nor do they refuse to fight in wars. Much of the folklore is derived from this group. Some of that folklore would be: Raisin pie is known as the funeral pie and was rarely served at any other time. Dinners after the funeral were known as “Sees-Koocha Schpree” (sweet cake spree). The camp meeting was known as the bush meeting. Bush to the PA. Dutch is wooded land. A small grove was cleared, a preaching stand or bush arbor was erected with rows of benches and since participants camped in the woods, the bush meeting was both a religious and social experience. It was believed that if it didn’t rain on May 1st, there would be little hay that year. Rain on Whitsunday (Pentecost) means few chestnuts and if there is rain on that day, there will be rain on the next seven Sundays…and it goes on and on and on!
National Geographic covered this festival twice, USA Today named it one of America’s Top Celebrations and The Washington Post called it a “Must See”! The festival runs from June 29th – July 7th, (2013) 9am – 6pm. Come to join in the celebration of the oldest folk festival in the US!