By: Dylan Bowman, HAHS Board Member
December 12, 2023
For centuries, the Belsnickel has guarded (or terrorized, depending on who you talk to) the very hearts and minds of individuals throughout Germany and, eventually, American German areas, namely Pennsylvania Dutch country.
However, it wasn't until very recently that the Belsnickel himself visited Halifax and partook in his own parade that is held here each year. Both children and adults alike now recognize his grizzled voice and bushy face when he arrives each December, but the question is then begged: who exactly is the Halifax Area Belsnickel?
The Man Behind the Beard
After the Belsnickel Parade and Festivities of this year concluded, I was able to sit down with the man who dons the beard and switch each December in our town: Dominic Mangle He is both a Halifax native and my closest friend and has long been an aspiring actor. We both attended Halifax Elementary School and the first year of middle school (6th grade) before moving in our own educational directions, ensuring that we kept in touch over the years.
When asked about his memories of Halifax and how it's affected his outlook on life, he was very reminiscent.
"Halifax is a huge staple in who I am. It's where I was raised as a kid, where some of my best friends reside, and it's where I have such fond memories. Not that other places don't carry fond memories, but there's something about Halifax that resonates with me."
Dominic Mangle, 2021
After reminiscing about the rolling hills and mountains surrounding our small town, Mangle was asked how he became the Belsnickel in the fall of 2022.
"I was asked to play the part of the Belsnickel for the first time in the Fall of 2022. One of the skills I've learned in my life is how to act and perform; I've played many roles both on stage and in front of the camera for short films. So when I was asked, it seemed like a fun way to serve my hometown."
Mangle continued on what made him want to play the Belsnickel in particular.
"Learning about the Legend of The Belsnickel, it seemed like such a fun yet grizzled character that would've been too good to pass up on. Plus there are some characteristics he and I share," he laughed.
When asked what his favorite part of being the Belsnickel was and why he enjoyed being a part of the Halifax Area Historical Society, he didn't hesitate to answer.
"My favorite part about being The Belsnickel and a member of the Historical Society is that it's a way to serve my hometown in a way that is fun and exciting. Sure it's only once a year but that just makes the anticipation more grand."
Dominic Mangle preparing for the Halifax Halloween Parade, October 2023
With Christmas growing ever closer, the time to be admirable is now. Belsnickel will be present at next year's parade and festival (and maybe even before), so if you missed your chance to meet him in person and get a photo with him at the 2023 Belsnickel Parade and Festival, don't worry, he'll be back. He loves selfies.
For more information on the Belsnickel, the parade, or the Halifax Area Historical Society, reach out to us anytime at our email (email@example.com). We'd love to hear from you this holiday season!