In partnership with the Lebanon County Library Association, LebTown is proud to introduce “Library Letters,” a series of columns about the programming, people, and possibilities offered by libraries around the county.

Today’s letter is from Amy Davis, director of the Myerstown Community Library.

Lebanon County Librarian Amy Davis has generated renewed interest in local PA Dutch dialect with the posting of her reading of the Pennsylvania Dutch Night Before Christmas Story by Chet Williamson.

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Davis, persuaded by library colleague, Suzanne Schaeffer to read the story for a special Facebook Live storytime on December 22 bashfully began her rendition of the story. 

The PA Dutch Night Before Christmas is charming parody of the Christmas classic by Clement C. Moore blends Santa Claus with the traditional Pennsylvania Dutch figure of the Belsnickel, a thin, cantankerous old man who visits children before Christmas and rewards, or punishes, them based on their behavior.

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According to the author Chet Williamson, the story grew out of family tradition and persuasion by his wife to write a local version of the Night Before Christmas featuring language and images familiar to everyone in PA Dutch Country. It seems as though all these “Dutchmen” need persuading!

Davis’s video has reached over 50,000 views and has provided lots to talk about during the Christmas holiday!

“It has been so much fun to see the comments on Facebook, says Davis. “I had no idea people miss hearing Dutchified English! I tried so hard to get rid of any accent during college and I stopped using many of the words my parents used just for simplicity and to not seem backwards or dumb. I never embraced the joy that everyone else seems to find!  This was a very fun project!”

To learn more about Pennsylvania Dutch history, language, cooking and architecture visit any of the six Lebanon County Libraries. All the libraries feature collections on the PA Dutch history and culture.

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If interested in Dutchifiying your English, check out “How to Speak Dutchified English” by Gary Gates, available in print and audiobook at Lebanon County Libraries.

Stories are the links to our past that help us all find the way to our future. Share a story and see where it can take you!

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