“You better watchit,
You better not brutz,
You better not holler,
I’m tellin’ you why:
Belsnickel is comin’
to town …”
Yah, the Pennsylvania Dutch life would put a slightly different spin on some favorite Christmas carols, not? No rosy-cheeked, kind-hearted, ho-hoho-ing Santa Claus for these kids. Och, no! Pennsylvania Dutch kids have to deal with the dreaded Belsnickel, with his hat and long, fur coat, a sack full of switches and his rigid requirements for appropriate youth behavior.
Haf you done your chores? Been nice to your sisters and brothers? Obeyed your parents? Thrown the cow over the fence some hay?
In the Pennsylvania Dutch culture, a strong work ethic is of utmost importance, even among children, even during the holidays. Work comes first, always, so it stands to reason that their Santa Claus figure would be a stern-faced, sharp-eyed disciplinarian who seems to grudgingly reward the good and wrathfully punish the naughty.
BRUTZ — cry, fuss (pronounced brootz)
FRESS — eat
GOOT — good
GREISH DAWK — Christmas Day, as in Christ Day (pronounced Grishstock)
HAF — have
NIXIE — naughty
NIX-NUTZ — naughty child (rhymes with brutz)
OCH — an exclamation, such as, “Oh, my!”
STIVER — snow squall or flurry (pronounced shtiver)
WATCHIT — watch out!
NOTE: ALL SPELLINGS ARE PHONETIC