PA Dutch tra­di­tion of New Year Wish­ing con­tin­ues

Win­scher wishes a di­alect bless­ing, a solemn wish for God’s bless­ing for happy, healthy, pros­per­ous and pro­tected New Year

Northern Berks Patriot Item - - FRONT PAGE - By Lisa Mitchell [email protected]­tu­ry­media.com @kutz­town­pa­triot and ham­bur­gitem on Twit­ter

This year, lo­cal per­form­ers Mike Hert­zog and his wife Linda, On­te­launee Township, wel­comed the New Year by per­form­ing the tra­di­tional PA Dutch Nei Yaahr Wish or New Year Wish­ing at 12 homes. Ted Fen­ster­ma­cher from Macungie will be join­ing them on fid­dle at five church pro­grams.

Linda noted that her hus­band Mike went New Year Wish­ing with John P. Fritsch from the mid 1970s to the mid 1980s. John P. Fritsch joined a New Year band in 1931. He learned the wish from Her­bert Hoppes of Han­cock, Longswamp Township, who was the wisher at that time. Af­ter Hoppes’ death, John did the wish­ing and car­ried on the tra­di­tion faith­fully for 46 years. Af­ter John’s death in 1998, his son Peter V. Fritsch picked up the tra­di­tion us­ing the same, old Penn­syl­va­nia di­alect wish his fa­ther had re­cited for so many years. Af­ter Peter’s death in De­cem­ber 2015, Mike Hert­zog, who had been help­ing Peter since 2000, de­cided to con­tinue the tra­di­tion.

“When Peter passed away on Dec. 16, 2015 Mike and I de­cided to keep the tra­di­tion go­ing be­cause Peter had booked five churches for the Wish­ing,” said Linda. “We did not can­cel any wish­ing at the churches or the pri­vate par­ties peo­ple had sched­uled. Peter had been ask­ing Mike for a long time to take it over.”

This year on Dec. 29 and Dec. 30 Mike and Linda were in­vited to 12 homes to do the New Year Wish­ing.

“We are still do­ing the bless­ing,” said Linda.

They per­formed New Year Wish­ing at Solomons Church in Macungie on Dec. 31. Up­com­ing New Year Wish­ing events for January 2018 will be held 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 14 at Huff’s Church in Here­ford Township, 10:15 a.m. on Jan. 21 at St. Peter’s Church in Moll­town, 10:15 a.m. on Jan. 28 at Longswamp UCC Church

in Longswamp Township, and 10:15 a.m. on Feb. 4 at 1st Re­formed Church on 3rd Street in Ham­burg.

“The hol­i­day cus­tom of Nei Yaahr Win­sching (New Year Wish­ing) was brought over from the Pfaltz area of Rhineland, Ger­many by our fore­bears many gen­er­a­tions ago. Sadly, the cus­tom died out in most parts of Penn­syl­va­nia by the 20th cen­tury. The tra­di­tion did survive with some tried and true Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch folk in iso­lated pock­ets of Berks, Le­high, and Car­bon counties,” said Linda.

She said that in the ear­li­est days of Penn­syl­va­nia, where Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch folk had set­tled, it was cus­tom between Christ­mas and New Year for groups of young peo­ple to gather at coun­try cross­roads and to make the rounds of nearby houses and farms.

“At each house or farm vis­ited, the leader of the group, who was know as the win­scher, would step for­ward af­ter call­ing out to the house­hold, and if done in proper fash­ion, wished a di­alect bless­ing upon the master of the house, his wife, children, menser­vants, and maids. It was a solemn wish for God’s bless­ing for a happy, healthy, pros­per­ous and pro­tected New Year. The wish was de­clared in a singsong style of an­cient church liturgy in­tone­ment,” said Linda.

Af­ter the Win­scher had done his part, Linda said the group would play lively mu­sic in­clud­ing hymns.

“Some would beat out the tempo on make shift in­stru­ments such as drums, pans and sleigh bells. The fi­nale of the mu­sic of­ten came in the form of two or three youths shoot­ing off guns,” she said. “The well wish­ers were then in­vited in to the home to warm up and of­ten treated to cider, ap­ples, and Christ­mas cook­ies, for each fam­ily con­sid­ered the visit of the Nei Yaahr Win­sch­ers a com­pli­ment,” said Linda.

The New Year Wish­ing is a sig­nif­i­cant Pa Dutch tra­di­tion.

“For many Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch, then and now, the wish was a near ne­ces­sity to go forth into the New Year. They felt that by hav­ing wish­ers com­ing to their home, they would have good for­tune in the com­ing year,” she said.

The Hert­zogs feel it is im­por­tant to carry on this tra­di­tion.

“New Year Wish­ing will be for­got­ten if we don’t con­tinue to carry it out and ed­u­cate young and old about this tra­di­tion,” said Linda. “It gives the com­mu­nity a sense of unity.”

Mike is the leader of the band Mike Hert­zog and The Blue Moun­tain Gang, play­ing coun­try and blue­grass mu­sic as a soloist and a mem­ber of the band for more than 25 years. He also per­forms with East Side Dave and The Moun­tain Folk Gang and with Keith Brintzen­hoff and The Toad Creek Ram­blers. He gives mu­si­cal lessons on Banjo, Gui­tar, Man­dolin and Bass at Mead­owood Mu­sic in Blan­don, ac­cord­ing to his bio at http://mike­hert­zog­mu­sic.com/.

For more about Mike Hert­zog visit http://mike­hert­zog­mu­sic.com/.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO - COUR­TESY OF UN­CLE JEF­FREY TAPLER AT CWTAP TELE­VI­SION

Mike and Linda Hert­zog, On­te­launee Township, wel­comed the New Year by per­form­ing the tra­di­tional PA Dutch New Year Wish­ing at 12 homes Dec. 29 and 30. Un­cle Jef­frey Tapler at CWTAP has been tap­ing the New Year Wish­ing for years.

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