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.