Only in York County

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A Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas

This cheery card was postmarked on December 14, 1915, in Wrightsville, York County, Pa., and is addressed to Miss Mable Smith, also of Wrightsville. (Courtesy of Chris Otto,

Merry Christmas, Only in York County readers! Today, I’d like to share with you some fun Pennsylvania Dutch (Pennsylvania German) Christmas stories.

First, I have something that was sent to me earlier this year by Dolores Senft.

Dolores said her friend Doris Boyer was also a friend of the late Alvin “Al” Dubs, who you might have known as a local man who, for many years, had a weekly radio broadcast in Pennsylvania Dutch. (Longtime reader Jim Fahringer had shared memories of listening to Al’s Red Lion-area radio broadcast in a late-summer columnm; I also heard from reader Joan Witman that her father, Dr. Edwin Danner of Spring Grove, also had a radio program on WSBA in the 1950s, where he spoke Pennsylvania Dutch.)

Anyway, to the Christmas part of our tale; well, Doris shared with Dolores a copy of a newspaper article from many years ago, in which Mr. Dubs had kindly translated the Biblical Christmas story into Pennsylvania German. There’s no date or source on the article; however, I’d like to take the liberty of reprinting Mr. Dubs’ translation here for your holiday enjoyment! (This is taken from Matthew 1:18-25 in the King James Version of the Bible, if you’d like to follow along in English!)

Pa. Dutch Christmas Story

Mit Yesus Grischtus seinre Geburt waar des nau so: Sei Mudder, die Maria, waar mit em Joseph verschsproche, Un eb sie heiere hen kenne, hot die Maria, en Kind darrich der Heilich Geischt gedraage. Deer Joseph, wu en rechtschafficher Mann waar. Hot net gewollt, ass die Leit iwwer sie schwetze sotten, un hot sei Meind uffgemacht.

Er deet sich heemlicherweis vun re scheede losse. Awwer wie er noch am Konsiderre waar, do is em Harr sei Engel im Draam zu em kumme un hot em gsaat: Joseph, du Soh vun David, du brauchscht dich net ze farrichte far die Maria ze heiere. Es Kind, as sie draagt, is vum Heiliche Geischt. Sie soll en Buh greige un du sollscht em der Naame Yesus gewwe.

Des is, weil er sei Volk vun seine Sinde frei mache soll. Sell is alles gschehne, far em Harr sei Watt inErfill-ing bringe, as er darrich die Broffede hot verkinde losse, nemmlich: en Yungfraa soll en Kind unnich em Harz draage un soll en Bub in die Welt bringe. Un sie sollen em der Naame Immanuel gewwe.

Sell heest in Deitsch: Gott mit uns. Um wie Joseph wacker warre is, hot er geduh, was em Harr sei Engel en gheesse hot. Un er hot die Marie genumme un hot net mit re gelebt, bis sie ihre Soh in de Welt gebrocht hot. Un er hot em der Naame Yesus gewwe, g’schriwwa by Em Deitsch Al. (Translated by Dutch Al.)

Belsnickel and more

One of my personal favorite Pennsylvania German holiday traditions is the legend of the Belsnickel, about which you can read much more by searching for Belsnickel on In fact, our family recently became the owners of a large stuffed gnome that we named Belsnickel!

There’s also a great book called “The Pa. Dutch Night Before Christmas,” which includes great phrases such as “And mama and me, well, we outened the light, crawled under the covers and schnuggled (snuggled) up tight,” and describes the holiday visit of the Belsnickel in his “sleigh plow,” pulled by eight cows.

It’s best if you hear it read with the requisite Dutch accent, which you can very nicely do thanks to the Internet; hear John D. Werley read “The Pa. Dutch Night Before Christmas” here.

Whether you celebrate Christmas as it relates to the Biblical story, Santa or Belsnickel, or whether you celebrate one of the many other winter holidays, I hope you have a wonderful end of the year and a great start to 2017. I am very fortunate to count it among my Christmas gifts that I can share York County stories all year long!

Fun Christmas Postscript: Please enjoy this Centralia, PA, Christmas scene.

Have questions, memories, Christmas stories, New Year’s resolutions or anything else to share? Email me at or write to Ask Joan, York Daily Record/Sunday News, 1891 Loucks Road, York PA 17408. We cannot accept any phone calls with questions or information.