Book Review: Eastertide in Pennsylvania

Eastertide in PennsylvaniaLet’s come together and put to rest all those obnoxious memes you see in Pagan circles this time of year regarding the holiday known to Christians as “Easter”. Where did the Easter bunny come from? Why do we color Easter eggs? Why do we then take those colorful eggs and hang them on trees outside or branches in our homes? Why do we call this time of year “Easter” when people in all other languages refer to it as something sounding more like “pascha” or “Passover”?

The answers to all these questions and more can be discovered in the book “Eastertide in Pennsylvania“, authored by the distinguished Pennsylvania folklife scholar Dr. Alfred Shoemaker. Originally published in 1960, this book uses interviews, historic newspaper accounts, and records of holiday traditions for over 150 years to enlighten us on the origins of Springtime holiday traditions. The short answer? All of these traditions come to us from German immigrants–the Pennsylvania Dutch! As you can imagine, it drives me absolutely bonkers when I see claims that these customs are somehow Babylonian–all due respect to Ishtar.

While this well-researched volume is written from the perspective of Christian celebrations, it is abundant with information that is beneficial to the Urglaawer looking for a more complete celebration of Oschdre. You’ll find photos, instructions, and historic examples of egg decorating, special foods eaten at this time of year such as Fasctnachts, the Easter egg tree, and more unusual customs such as Moravian tombstone serenades. The book also includes a thorough bibliography that will help you in further research. You can typically find a copy for only a couple dollars on Amazon, so it’s an absolute steal! (Note that sometimes the prices get artificially inflated for the season; wait a few months if you’re looking to buy around Easter time.)

Shoemaker is one of those authors, alongside Don Yoder, that you just have to know of if you have any interest whatsoever in Deitsch customs and folklore. Together, they founded the Pennsylvania Dutchman, the magazine dedicated to all things Pennsylvania Dutch. Anything by either of these gentlemen is going to further your Deitsch education considerably. As to how much of that is useful for Urglaawe practice, you have to have a discerning eye and match it up carefully with your European sources. This book has some suggestions for avenues for you to take with that research if you’re so inclined.

Bottom line: if you’re an Urglaawer, or interested in Pennsylvania Dutch customs, this is a must-have for your bookshelf!

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