| Main |

November 21st, 2012

Harvest Home

In Pennsylvania Dutch country, where I’m from (and where Organic Gardening is produced), many churches celebrate a festival called Harvest Home in late summer and early fall. It is a throwback to much earlier harvest traditions brought over from Europe and adapted for American use. A hundred years ago, the festival would have been marked by members of a church congregation bringing a selection of their best home-preserved foodstuffs to share with the less fortunate. As you can see from these century-old photos, Pennsylvania Dutch women canned every type of produce in abundance, and so they had plenty to share. Nowadays, church members typically bring store-bought canned goods to church on Harvest Home Sunday, because, sadly, many people have been taught to fear home-canned foods. But displays full of corporate logos and bar codes can’t match the beauty of these natural and healthy offerings from years ago!

Canned fruits and vegetables, relishes and preserves are presented along with fall flowers and sheaves of grasses at this Harvest Home display in a Bucks County church in 1907.

Canned fruits and vegetables, relishes and preserves are presented along with fall flowers and sheaves of grasses at this Harvest Home display in a Bucks County church in 1907.

Potted plants join the mounds of onions and other produce on the altar of this Allentown church in 1906.

Potted plants join the mounds of onions and other produce on the altar of this Allentown church in 1906.

The pastor of this Reformed church in Lehigh County was happy to have his portrait associated with this beautiful Harvest Home display circa 1906.

The pastor of this Reformed church in Lehigh County was happy to have his portrait associated with this beautiful Harvest Home display circa 1906.

I hope everyone’s harvest was successful this year and that you had enough for your families and enough to share. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tags: , , , , , ,

April 18th, 2011

Eggs Don’t Grow on Trees…or Do They?

nancy-80x80Some curious fruits begin to appear on bushes and trees in Pennsylvania during the Lenten season. They’re most frequently pastel-colored and appear to be, well, plastic.

EasterEggTree3

That’s because they are plastic. They’re the modern adaptations of a custom that originated with using real blown-out chickens’ eggs to decorate shrubbery outside the home before Easter.

EasterEggTree4

Some “eggs” are larger than others…

EasterEggTree8

Historical descriptions of these outdoor decorations suggest that the eggs were undyed at first; later folks began dying them, and finally replaced them with plastic to better withstand the elements (and, one suspects, the wildlife).

EasterEggTree5

EasterEggTree7

The custom seems to have been practiced among the Pennsylvania Germans since at least the mid-19th century, although not as universally as decorating a Christmas tree. This postcard, postmarked 1907, is remarkably similar to its modern counterpart below:

EasterEggTree2

EasterEggTree6

A similar custom involves decorating an Easter tree to display inside the house, and this tradition in American does not seem to have come from the Pennsylvania Germans. Historians believe it may have been imported from Germany about a hundred years ago when people copied the indoor trees they saw depicted on Easter greeting cards. (Alas, I have yet to find one of these!)

Then, in 1950, a Pennsylvania author and illustrator named Katherine Milhous wrote a popular book called The Egg Tree, and the practice spread nationwide. Homes throughout the United States began incorporating egg trees into their indoor holiday decorating. Unlike Christmas trees, Easter trees are most often not evergreens but are bare-branched deciduous trees. Sometimes the base is surrounded with a display or “Putz” made of Easter-related figurines, such as rabbits and chicks. This extravaganza, from Allentown in the mid-20th century, showcased more than 1,000 Easter-related items:

EasterEggTree1

Many of these eggs are painted, gilded, or otherwise decorated. The Pennsylvania Dutch were famous for their onion-skin-dyed eggs, into which they scratched folk art designs. Our photo director is making some of these this week and will post photos on her blog, Christa Snaps. Stay tuned!

Tags: , , , , ,






OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image
OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image OGFooter image