Fifty years ago Groundhog Day was only a holiday in Pennsylvania. It was a day when Pennsylvania Dutch men would gather in the morning for the ceremonial awakening of the grundsau (groundhog, to the English) and declare six more weeks of harsh winter weather or an early spring that was supposedly predicted by whether the local grundsau saw his shadow or not. They would then hole up in their Grundsau Lodges and celebrate or commiserate by drinking large quantities of beer and telling off-color jokes in the local German dialect.
Thanks to a quirky comedy movie, this local tradition has gone international and lost a great deal of its cultural significance in the process. Things which were unique to our state and region are becoming widespread or worse, disappearing. There used to be a dozen local restaurants that served Pennsylvania Dutch food. Now the nearest one is thirty miles away.
Until the mid 1970’s, the Pennsylvania German dialect was widespread in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Businesses in the Lehigh Valley used the dialect in their daily proceedings. Now it is rarely spoken more than a week out of the year and only when the local folk festival is underway. Even the few words that I spoke regularly as a child have been lost to time. A piece of my heritage has been lost.