The Christmas season in Pennsylvania is one of the best times of the year. The beautiful snow, the twinkling lights on Christmas trees and in homes, and the delicious food, make the holidays a wonderful time for Pennsylvanians. Some old, enduring traditions make celebrating the holidays in the keystone state truly special. From the light shows and home light displays to the feasts on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, our traditions are a great way to celebrate the season with our friends and family. Here are some unique Pennsylvania holiday traditions that we look forward to celebrating.
While many households across the country decorate their homes with Christmas stars, many Pennsylvanians choose to decorate with a Moravian star instead. The first Moravian star originated in the 1830s at the Moravian Boys’ School in Niesky, Germany, likely as a geometry lesson or project. The Moravian Church adopted the star as an Advent symbol, which continues to have significance in the Moravian-founded communities of Bethlehem and Nazareth.
Moravian stars typically have 25 or 26 points and are hung in windows or above porches. The Central Moravian Church in Bethlehem has a 6-foot star for the belfry, which was a gift from the Moravian Star Factory in Herrnhut, Germany. Some stars can even have up to 100 points, but however big or pointy, the Moravian star has become a fixture of Pennsylvania holiday traditions.
Pennsylvania holiday traditions hardly get more unique and interesting than this one. Pennsylvania has a rich history of German immigrants, and one practice those immigrants brought over was hanging their Christmas trees upside-down in their homes. The reason? To keep mice away from the tree and prevent them from eating the ornaments. Many of the ornaments that the Pennsylvania Dutch would hang on their trees were edible, such as the “snitz,” a dried apple garland.
While most people’s homes are free of mice, some people in Pennsylvania still hang their trees upside-down. If you are looking for a unique way to add the holiday spirit to your Christmas tradition, hanging your tree upside-down will certainly do the trick.
We have all seen this, as a miniature village is one of the most iconic Christmas displays of the holiday season. Christmas villages, like many Pennsylvania holiday traditions, came from the Moravian church, and came to the United States in early Moravian settlements. These miniature decorations go beyond a traditional nativity scene. Villages often include elaborate arrangements of buildings, animals, and animated parts such as electric trains.
A Christmas village is also called a putz, from the German verb putzen, which means “to clean” or “to decorate.” The Christmas village became widely popular after World War II, especially once porcelain and ceramic villages were introduced. While this tradition has become more nationally popular, gathering around to build the Christmas village will always be a special occasion in Pennsylvania.
One of the more unique holiday traditions has equally unique origins. Some Pennsylvanians hide a decoration of a pickle in their Christmas trees and challenge family and friends to find the pickle. Whoever finds the pickle first earns a reward, such as opening the first present on Christmas day, or good luck for the next year.
The origins of this tradition are a complete mystery. The common belief was that the Christmas pickle originated from Germany, but this has been discounted and is now believed to be an American tradition. Another origin is that the tradition came from Camp Sumter during the American Civil war, while another suggests a Victorian-era tale started the tradition. Regardless, plenty of children in Pennsylvania look forward to being the first to find the pickle in the tree and receiving a special gift from Santa Claus.
To help celebrate your Pennsylvania holiday traditions, visit the Burkholder Holiday Market. We have a variety of unique, thoughtful gifts to choose from, and we are serving complimentary hot chocolate, wine, or beer to our visitors. Come in, find your fresh cut Christmas tree, have a drink, roast a marshmallow, and enjoy a special holiday shopping experience.