A year of PA German Holidays: Happy Fastnacht Day (almost)


This week I had a chance to learn about Pennsylvania Dutch holidays throughout the year.  Each year, Quiet Valley school tour staff participate in a workshops to stay up to date on the most recent research and learn new items to incorporate into their interpretation. Our first training of the year focused on the traditions and culture of this area of Pennsylvania during the early 1800s.

In this part of Pennsylvania many people were of Lutheran or Moravian background which means they followed, and still follow, a liturgical calendar or a church based calendar.  Their celebrations at home followed those of the religious season.  (Not everyone or every groups celebrated the holidays just like how not everyone today celebrates Mardi Gras or Groundhog Day. )

One of the most interesting (sounding) holiday celebrations is around Fastnacht Day, which is actually coming up on February 28th.  Fastnacht Day falls on the day before the liturgical season of lent begins.  Traditionally it is the day when you use up all of your old fat and lard to make doughnuts before lent began.  It was considered bad luck to not use up the fat on this date.  If you did not eat a doughnut on that day then it was believed you would get boils, your chickens would lay no eggs, and worms and bugs would infest your garden.

Also, children had their own fun traditions for the day. The last person to school would be teased.  So children would try to beat their teachers to school.  When the teacher arrived, the boys would crow like a rooster and the girls would cluck like a hen.  I imagine teachers would try and arrive in the middle of the pack so the children could still cluck at them but they wouldn’t get teased by their students.  I hope everyone has a wonderful Fastnacht Day and enjoys making chicken sounds about their schools.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *