Christmas with Der Belsnickel

151212_PA Landis Valley Christmas_3361acsTwas the week before Christmas and down on the farm

Three simple wreaths hung on the side of a barn.

151212_PA Landis Valley Christmas_3353acs

More hung on the doors, made of cedar and pine

Amongst which dried flowers and seeds did entwine.

151212_PA Landis Valley Christmas_3537acsNo fake plastic baubles, shiny tinsel or such

Would be found in the land of the Pennsylvania Dutch.

The fanciest touch these ornaments showed

Was the colorful plaid of a ribbon or bow.


151212_PA Landis Valley Christmas_3722aGreens covered the table, and apples – and lookie!

151212_PA Landis Valley Christmas_3651acs

A window was hung with freshly baked cookies!

151212_PA Landis Valley Christmas_3610acs

All natural décor was the theme of the day

Folks flocked from all over to see the display.


151212_PA Landis Valley Animals_3300acsThe bull in his pasture, the hen in her coop,

151212_PA Landis Valley Animals_3373acsWeren’t bothered by crowds that wandered the loop.

151212_PA Landis Valley Animals_3415acsTwo horses were lonely, away from the mob

151212_PA Landis Valley Animals_3325acsBut one was soon “Best Friends Forever” with Robb.


151212_PA Landis Valley Christmas Belsnickel_3429Then what to my wondering eye should appear

Than a raggedy man stalking ever more near.

He was dressed all in fur, his face tarnished ash black

He carried some switches, a whip and a sack.

151212_PA Landis Valley Christmas Belsnickel_3434acsHis presence caused fear, my skin started to prickle

The German legends were true!

Here came Der Belsnickel!



He comes before Christmas, Santa’s disciplinarian,

To chastise young children who act too contrarian.


151212_PA Landis Valley dfn_5466a2 copy“A photo, but quick! I’m much in demand

I have a young child I must reprimand.”

The children were wary, they peered round the bend

At the sight of the Belsnickel there with my friend.


151212_PA Landis Valley Christmas Belsnickel_3661acs“I know what you did”, he started to scold

But in fact this strange man had a true heart of gold.

The children soon smiled, and started to giggle

At the humorous tales told by the Belsnickel.


With other children to greet, it was time to move on

But he had one last caution before he was gone.

Der Belsnickel exclaimed as he strode out of sight

“Merry Christmas to all, and behave well tonight!”

151212_PA Landis Valley Christmas Belsnickel_3449acs

“Pennsylvania Dutch” is a misnomer. The people that settled in Lancaster and surrounding counties are not Dutch from the Netherlands but German. The term “Dutch” comes from a corruption of Deutsch which means German.

The legend of Der Belsnickel takes many forms. In Pennsylvania German regions it goes back to at least the early 1800s. The Belsnickel – in one version of the tale – was a grouchy-looking man dressed in ragged, dirty clothes and furs (“St. Nicholas in fur” is one translation of Belsnickel.) He wore ashes on his face or a mask, and carried a switch and a sack of treats. The Belsnickel appeared in houses in the weeks leading up to Christmas as a reminder to children to behave. He often asked the children to recite for him or sing a song. Then he would throw candy, fruit and nuts on the floor. A child who jumped forward too eagerly might get the wrong end of the switch. The good children would end up with a fistful of treats.

Light Up The Sky

MI Fireworks_2027acsThe Fourth of July celebration in Ludington, Michigan moves to the lake in the evening. Fireworks are a great excuse for one big beach party!

MI Fireworks Beach_1892acsComplete darkness doesn’t arrive here until 10:30, so there’s plenty of time for other entertainment. People gather in droves at the city park, and bonfires stud the shore of Lake Michigan. Fireworks start going off up and down the coast long before dark.

MI Fireworks Badger_1844acsLucky boat owners will anchor off the shore for a unique view. Others will sign on for a special tour by the S. S. Badger, Ludington’s beloved car ferry.

MI Fireworks Lantern_1926acsUnique lanterns drift through the air.

MI Fireworks Lantern_1916acs

As darkness falls, another lantern is prepared for flight.

MI Fireworks Badger_1957acsThe Badger, maneuvering into position to give her passengers the best view. Let the show begin!

MI Fireworks_2001aMI Fireworks_2002a

MI Fireworks_2007aMI Fireworks_2010MI Fireworks_2011aMI Fireworks_2033aMI Fireworks_2040aMI Fireworks_2046a

After the grand finale, Mother Nature lights up the sky over Club Mich with her own brand of pyrotechnics.MI Fireworks Stars_2065acs

Small Town Americana

MI Parade 2_1154acsNothing says the Fourth of July more than a small town parade. And nobody does it better than the small Western Michigan town of Ludington. Everybody turns out to celebrate the country’s birthday. One parade participant estimated the crowd at 30,000, quite a feat for a town of 8,000.

People start lining up chairs at dawn. When the show gets under way at 2 in the afternoon, spectators are packed three and four deep on the sidewalks for the entire one mile route.

MI Parade 1 Audience_1714aMax’s owners cheerfully waved me to an adjacent open spot on the curb when they saw my camera. Front row seat! Everybody’s genuinely friendly in Michigan.

MI Parade 2_1186aThe parade started with a bang, courtesy of the Civil War re-enactors and their cannon.

Youngsters  know to be prepared for the concussion when the cannon goes BOOM!

MI Parade 2_1260aAlso making noise was the Ludington High School Band.

MI Parade 2_1526acs copyThe Harvest Festival Queen, from neighboring Scottville, waves to the crowd.












MI Parade 1 Audience_1575acs4

Not every beauty was participating in the parade. A few were watching it, and hoping for candy.

MI Parade 1 Audience_1630a

Future Miss Ludington.

MI Parade 2_1542acsThere are certain requirements for any parade. Like floats…

MI Parade 2_1214aThe local contingent of fire engines…

MI Parade 2_1664aMI Parade 2_1633acsA long line of classic cars…

MI Parade 2_1703aAnd in farm country, tractors.

MI Parade 2_1712aAlso marching in the parade were gymnastics and dance groups, the Rotary Club’s Briefcase Brigade, Smokey Bear, a young fife and drum unit, and a string band that had me wondering at first how the Mummers got here from Philadelphia.

The 4-H Club and Mason County Sherriff’s Office each brought their equestrian units, with the obligatory clean-up crews, who got big cheers from the crowd.

This entire 2-hour spectacle was just the warm-up act for the main attraction…

MI Parade 9 Scottville Clown Band_1744acsThe World Famous Scottville Clown Band!

MI Parade 9 Scottville Clown Band_1757acsEveryone in Michigan knows the Scottville Clown Band. They’ve been around since 1903, after all.

For those who aren’t familiar with them, I have no idea how to describe them and do them justice.

Philadelphians might look at it this way: Take a really good brass band, throw them in a vat with the wenches and clowns of a Mummers Comic Club, stir it up, and what you’ve got is the Scottville Clown Band.

MI Parade 9 Scottville Clown Band_1755aRowdy, bawdy, and hilarious, these guys are also very talented musicians. They come from all over to perform many times over the course of a year. They also sponsor music and performing arts scholarships and fund a band shell in Scottville.

MI Parade 9 Scottville Clown Band_1816acsMostly they just make people happy.

MI Parade 9 Scottville Clown Band_1784aLike drum lines everywhere, Scottville’s drummers are mild-mannered and well-disciplined.

MI Parade 9 Scottville Clown Band_1813acs Oval 3Of course there has to be a tuba-player in a tutu.

MI Parade 2_1601acsTime to wave good-bye to this year’s Fourth of July parade.

Stroll down to the beach, maybe enjoy an adult beverage or two, and rest up. The party continues with fireworks tonight!MI Parade 2_1317a


The One-Eyed Guardian of the Covered Bridge

Bartams Bridge Guardian_0280acsThe One-Eyed Guardian of the Covered Bridge

Keeps watch by day and by night;

Alert, he’s perched atop the ridge,

A jolly sort of sprite.

The bridge is old, none go across

Its glory days are past;

Few see the knight, to their great loss

They hurry by too fast.

Tedium does not plague the soul

Of our solitary deer,

For close at hand is a fishing pole

And a frosty mug of beer.

I do not know from whence he came

Or whither he may go,

Or why he thought, in Heaven’s name,

To watch here in the snow.

But he remains, though cold his post

In Mother Nature’s fridge;

So join me in a heartfelt toast:

The Guardian of the Bridge!Bartams Bridge Guardian_0288acs