By: Dylan Bowman, HAHS Board Member
December 3, 2023
The Belsnickel is here. Photo by Dylan Bowman.
The Bells on the Mountain
Bells, all too familiar in sound, came jingling down from Peter's Mountain yesterday into the town of Halifax, Pennsylvania, where the entire valley region was preparing, not for the arrival of the jovial St. Nicolas (his time is coming soon), but of the legendary Belsnickel.
Led by the Halifax Area Historical Society, the Halifax Youth Center was transformed into a place of holiday magic and Christmas Spirit. Classic Christmas tunes played from loudspeakers throughout the day, Christmas lights were strung, large assortments of food were served, and a bonfire was built and maintained by local Cub Scout Pack 156 and Boy Scout Troop 1165, around which dozens of children and adults alike roasted marshmallows to create the Historical Society's rising culinary sensation: "Belsnickel Bites."
Vendors from Halifax and other regions of Central PA set up stands to sell their handmade wares, and with the fog not so much as rising an inch from where it had lain in the early morning, the Bells of the Belsnickel grew closer and closer.
Until they finally arrived.
The festivities of the Halifax Belsnickel Parade and Festival begin. Photographs by Dylan Bowman.
As the Belsnickel arrived in the newly-formed Belsnickel Market Village (named in his honor), it was clear that he was overwhelmed with the sheer energy and excitement of the people there. AND THE NUMBERS! Hundreds upon hundreds had come to see the parade and enjoy the festivities that were being held in the town.
Belsnickel merchandise, selfie stations, a shuttle service, and children's craft and face paint stations were also to be seen throughout the entirety of the day, posing a great success. Many arrived before the parade began to interact with the vendors, see familiar faces and meet the Belsnickel himself.
At noon, the parade (longer than any in years past) began, spreading the festivities throughout the town. With the public lining the sidewalks, the local fire departments, first responders, and other organizations and businesses including as Friends of Fort Halifax, DST Insurance, Fire & Ice Smokehouse & Creamery, and Girl Scout Troops 11300, 11305, and 11570 were to be seen walking, driving, and dancing in the parade and throwing treats to bystanders, decked out in all their holiday garb.
Candy was dispersed and some slight reprimands from the Belsnickel were had, and as the parade drew to its close, the crowds drew back to the Youth Center, for the festivities had only just begun.
The Halifax Belsnickel Parade winds its way through the streets of Halifax. Photographs by Dylan Bowman.
The festivities continued throughout the afternoon, with attendance visibly hitting a peak for an hour or so after the end of the parade as townsfolk and other latecomers rallied to the Youth Center in the middle of town to purchase food and vendor items, as well as participate in the Historical Society's 50/50 raffle and the various children's activities.
With the area of the festival bursting at the seams with life, the crowds enjoyed their food and fun while HAHS member Carol Stoneroad read the "Pennsylvania Dutch Night Before Christmas" by Chet Williamson, a tradition long-held by the HAHS. A short time later, HAHS President, Ryan Bowman, presented the history of the Belsnickel, Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus), Krampus, and Christmas in European and American history.
As the exclusive Belsnickel Yule Log played inside, the festivities continued on until the fire turned to embers and the vendors packed up what little merchandise they had left. Children continued to play in the fields and park nearby and families, with bags of candy and handmade goodies, walked to their cars and homes, filled with the joy of the Christmas season.
If you missed out on the parade or festival this weekend, no worries; we will be right back here on the first Saturday in December 2024, rain, snow or shine! If you have any questions about the parade and festival, becoming a vendor, or how to get involved, feel free to contact us anytime. We can't wait to see you there!
The festivities of the Halifax Belsnickel Parade and Festival continue. Photographs by Dylan Bowman.