Pennsylvania Dutch Night Before Christmas

Pennsylvania Dutch Night Before Christmas
Pennsylvania Dutch Night Before Christmas (Pelican Press, 2000)

Those readers who know me from my work in suspense and dark fantasy may well wonder what this strange creature is. What it is, friends, is my best selling book to date.

For many years I’ve written my wife Laurie a short story every Christmas. (My friend Charles de Lint does the same for his wife, and I suspect we’re not the only ones.) Lancaster County, where we live, contains a lot of Pennsylvania Dutch folks, and my grandparents all spoke with that curious dialect (my grandfather Hershey actually wrote poetry in that regional language), and my rendition is pretty good.

When my son Colin was small, we of course read The Night Before Christmas to him, and found The Cajun Night Before Christmas, which became a tradition as well. One Christmas Laurie told me that I should write a Pennsylvania Dutch version, so I did that instead of a story. It proved such a hit that she insisted I send it to Pelican Press, which printed a number of these Night Before Christmas parodies in hardcover. So I did, along with a cover letter praising the area as a tourist trap in which such a book would sell mightily, and they bought both the argument and the book. The late James Rice did the illustrations, but being a Texan he didn’t quite grasp such regional niceties as hex signs and Amish quilts, and even though I provided a lot of reference photos, there are still a few errors in the art (check out those horns on my Holsteins!). Nevertheless, the book was and continues to be a huge regional success. At one Borders pre-Christmas signing alone we sold 800 books, and the line stretched out of the store. The book is in its sixth printing, and sells year after year, along with the coloring book and the recording that I made (complete with sound effects). Check out Pelican Publishing for the whole “product line” and an old photo and bio. I’ll be putting up an excerpt from the book on the website soon…

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