Versammlinge—community events filled with songs, performances, speeches, and skits that celebrate Pennsylvania German heritage and culture—are held entirely in the Pennsylvania German Deitsch language. Some, the “groundhog lodges,” feature a ceremony honoring the groundhog, while others do not. These unique meetings, expressions of a distinctive ethnic identity in the context of a rapidly changing society, have become a traditional mainstay among Pennsylvania Germans who have worked to preserve their language and culture into the twenty-first century.
Serious Nonsense introduces readers to Pennsylvania German cultural practices that tourists rarely see and that outsiders, including most scholars, rarely learn about. The book explores the origins of the versammlinge and details the practice’s significance since the 1930s, when the first meetings of the Pennsylvania German groundhog lodges were held. Much as they did then, versammlinge today follow a pattern of prayers, patriotism, and speeches extolling values associated with Pennsylvania German identity, as well as theatrical and oral events that humorously contrast a simpler past with a more complex and confusing present. And the groundhog lodges feature one Pennsylvania German tradition that has become familiar in popular culture: groundhog weather prognostication.
About the Author
Table of ContentsList of Illustrations
1 The People and Language That the Versammlinge Celebrate
2 Making Tradition: The Origins and Development of the Versammlinge
3 “Let Us Deitsche Be What We Are”: The Structure of Versammling Events
4 Theatricality: Performing Tradition
5 The Message of the Versammlinge: The Reverend Clarence Rahn and the Main Speech
6 Region and Nation: Contexts for the Versammling Movement
7 The Future of Pennsylvania Germans and Their Versammlinge