They've been celebrating this memorial day for more than 260 years—the longest continually-celebrated Thanksgiving in the country—and yet many of us have never heard of it.
I guess that's because the “they,” in this case, is not very many people. It is estimated that Schwenkfelder churches have a combined membership of fewer than 3,000 people. My high school was larger.
But it started a whole lot smaller. When the Schwenkfelder Society first came to North America and settled in the Pennsylvania-Dutch region, there were fewer than 200 people.
How is Schwenkfelder Thanksgiving celebrated? With a huge feast? Roast turkey? Pies and cakes?
No, it is celebrated with a simple meal of water, bread, butter, and apple butter. This celebration first happened on this date in 1734, just two days after the people had arrived in North America, so they didn't have crops to harvest. The people were giving thanks that they had escaped the religious persecution they'd faced in Europe: being driven from their homes, imprisoned in dungeons, even sold into slavery.
Did you know...?
The Pennsylvania Dutch aren't Dutch, but instead come from German ancestry. In the past, Pennsylvania Dutch people commonly spoke German, but nowadays most speak English; yet many German customs still flourish today!
Another thing we all loved was the delicious food available in Pennsylvania Dutch country. (What's not to love?) Teri's Kitchen has a ton of recipes so you can enjoy Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, too!
If you like paper dolls, Heritage Paper Dolls website has a Pennsylvania Dutch dress to be printed and colored. (Notice the PDF file to download and print.)
Also on this date: