Calendar Keeps PA German Heritage Alive
READING, Pa. (AP) – Pennsylvania Dutch – or Pennsilvanisch Deitsh – was the traditional language of Germans who immigrated to Pennsylvania in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.
The language and the customs have survived to the present day, but mainly in rural farming communities, and modern use of the dialect is becoming scarce.
Masthof Press, a printing press and bookstore owned by the Mast family in Caernarvon Township, makes considerable efforts to preserve language and Pennsylvania Dutch history.
Since 2007, historian Gerry Kershner, with the help of Masthof Press, has published a calendar featuring photographs of historic Pennsylvania German landmarks in Berks, Chester, Lancaster and Lebanon counties.
All of the photographs have captions in both English and Pennsylvania Dutch.
Holidays, days of the week and the months also are written in the dialect.
In addition, Kershner has published three children’s coloring books featuring Pennsylvania Dutch images with some captions in the language.
Masthof Press co-owner Lois Ann Mast called Kershner a man of inspiration.
“He was very inspiring and could always convince you to buy his books or calendars,’’ Mast said. “He started to publish the calendar and the coloring book because he wanted to do something for his grandchildren to help them learn about the Pennsylvania Dutch. He related so well to little children.’’
The 2011 edition of the calendar has been on sale at the Masthof Bookstore for several months. It sells for $7.99.
Bookstore manager Lori Jones and Lois Ann Mast said it is always a popular seller, but unfortunately, the 2011 edition will be the last of Kershner’s publications. He died in July.
Although Masthof Press deals with about 80 authors, the Mast family said Kershner always kept them busy with his publications.
After thinking about how loyal customers most likely will inquire about a 2012 calendar, Mast came up with an idea.
“Maybe we should continue to produce the calendar as a tribute to Mr. Kershner,’’ she said. “We will have to think about that.’’