Since their farms were set apart,
families had to function as a unit and large families were
vital. The farmer and his sons raised the crops from the soil;
the women cooked and baked, spun and wove. They produced
bountiful crops and full food supplies. The need for thriftiness
motivated the sale of surplus food to less fortunate � or less
farseeing � neighbors. For themselves, the Pennsylvania
Germans needed to buy little except salt and spices.
The children grew up and
started their own families. Family gatherings became common.
They came together to feast, to worship, and sometimes to mourn.
They marked springtime and harvest with festivals. They were
grateful for God�s gift of life in the New World. They loved
and savored this life on earth.
Music and the arts flourished
among the Pennsylvania Germans and their bookmaking was the
finest in the colonies. The Plain People forswore buttons and
other frivolities of dress. They adopted a uniform garb with
invisible fastenings. In a gesture of religious humility, they
washed one another�s feet at communion service. However,
between the Sundays �preaching,� they indulged in hearty
dinners, met their friends and neighbors to talk and catch up on
the news, were outgoing and content.
These Germans were
craftspeople. They made just about, whatever they needed. They
built their great, stone-sided �Swiss� barns thoroughly and
decorated them with what we call �hex signs.� It is doubtful
that they intended these designs keep away witches, or even
lightning, but they were pleasingly decorative and even
mystical. They built their homes with native stone and just as
solidly as their barns.
They make their own furniture.
They paint chairs and chest in bright colors and decorated them
with pomegranates, lilies, angels, and birds. These motifs come
from the Old World. They weave their coverlets in patterns of
tulips and stars, house and rose-trees. They piece their bright
quilts in similar design. Blacksmiths make iron-laced trivets,
tinkers shape cookie cutters to delight the children. They carve
their butter molds with designs and a pie dish (Boi Schissel)
display charming painted figures under its glaze. Schmutz
Amschels (grease robins) are little iron lamps with suspended
wicks and resemble birds.
By their flickering lamps they
labored at keeping his family records, carefully lettering names
and dates in German script and ornamenting the complete Fraktur
with swelling heart, swirling vines, stars, and angles � and,
if it was seemly, a pair of birds �conjugally facing.� Today
you discover as collectibles and museum pieces, the old Fraktur,
the pottery, and the cooking utensils of the early Pennsylvania
Germans. You see the birth certificates, house blessings, pie
dishes, butter molds, cups, flagons, trivets, and spice boxes.
The main theme deals with food � �Here is Meat and
Sauerkraut� reads the legends on one old plate. �Our maid
she is a bride in the year 1810.� The plate commemorated as
wedding; however, they mention food before the bride! Even in
times of plenty, they recalled their years of hardship.
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