Posted on October 6, 2015
On this date in 1683, thirteen German families landed in the American colonies, specifically in Philadelphia. Because most of the American colonists were British citizens, the town those German settlers formed less than 10 miles from Philadelphia was dubbed Germantown.
The first time this historic anniversary was celebrated was in 1883, two centuries after the setters landed. The holiday was called “German Day,” and it was celebrated in Philadelphia as well as Germantown. Celebrating the day spread a bit – but of course was stopped in its tracks when Germany and America found themselves on opposite sides of two World Wars! Public feelings about all things “German” were pretty low!
In 1983, the 300th anniversary of the first German settlers in America, the celebration was revived. People decided to call it German-American Day.
Did you know...?
There are about 50 million German Americans in the U.S. today – and that is the largest self-reported ancestry group! There are more German Americans than, for example, Irish Americans, African Americans, English Americans, Mexican American, or Italian Americans.
German settlers came to America for all the familiar reasons: seeking land and opportunities, seeking religious freedom, running from political oppression.
Most German Americans are fully Americanized – only 5% speak German. Some of the things German settlers brought with them were kindergartens, Christmas trees, hamburgers, and hot dogs (wieners) – and those things all seem pretty American, don't they?
- One of my favorite German (actually, Bavarian) foods is kaese spaetzle. It's a kind of mac and cheese made with special egg noodles, Swiss cheese, and topped with thinly-sliced grilled onions. Yummers!
I ate a fair bit of kaese spaetzle in Germany, but I have discovered it in the U.S., too, in grocery stories and in restaurants.
- One of my favorite German bands is Rammstein. Check out their song “Amerika” – part of it is sung in English! Can you “get” their message?
- The Tomie de Paola book An Early American Christmas shows how one German-American family in a New England town changed the way everyone in that town celebrated Christmas.
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