Fersommlinge and Groundhog Lodge Recordings
These are video recordings of Fersommlinge (also Versammlinge) and Groundhog Lodge (Grundsow or Grundsau Loche) meetings. Fersommlinge (singular fersommling) is the Pennsylvania German (Deitsch) word for “gatherings.” Each groundhog lodge meeting is a fersommling, although the term “fersommling” is generally used to refer to Deitsch-language meetings that are not oriented to the groundhog. Groundhog lodge meetings started in 1934 in Northampton, a town north of Allentown in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. The rule is that only Deitsch can be spoken and each word of English results in a fine. The ceremony of the groundhog lodges is centered around the legendary ability of the groundhog to predict the coming of spring. Traditionally, groundhog lodges are male-only events. By contrast the term “fersommlinge” is often used to refer to Deitsch-language meetings that include both men and women. They include the same rule about the exclusive use of Deitsch. They were generally modelled on the activities of the Groundhog lodges, include many of the same men, but without the groundhog ceremonies and they include women.
Both types of meetings usually follow a similar structure of events. A singing of “America,” a Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer (all in Deitsch). Groundhog lodges include a humorous ferbinnerei (oath of brotherhood, loosely modelled on fraternal organizations). Groundhog lodges also include a weather prediction from the groundhog. In both types of gatherings there are songs in Deitsch and a meal with some traditional Dutchy foods. There is some form of entertainment, often a humorous skit. There is usually at least one speech that combines some humor with a moral or social message. Go to the Clarence Rahn Collections associated with this collection for an idea about the speeches that occur at these events.
Many of the groundhog lodges and fersommlinge have closed in recent years because there are dwindling numbers of Deitsch speakers among the more socially liberal Pennsylvania Germans, mostly Lutherans and German Reformed (United Church of Christ). (There are still Deitsch speakers among the Old Order Mennonites and Amish, but they do not attend these events.) In the past there were at least 18 groundhog lodges and scores of fersommlinge in the Deitsch-speaking regions. The height of participation was in the second part of the 20th Century into the early 20th Century.
At present, the best source about these events is my book,
William W. Donner, Serious Nonsense: Groundhog Lodges, Versammlinge and Pennsylvania German Heritage. Penn State University Press.
The following files have been gathered from a variety of sources. We are indebted to Ellen Perez who provided videotapes of the Huff’s Church Fersommlinge, which were attended by her parents.
Kutztown University Library staff helped with the digitalization of VHS tapes.
Submissions from 2014
Groundhog Lodge #1 2014 short beginning, Groundhog Lodge #1
Submissions from 2008
Fersommling Huffs 2008, Huffs Church Fersommling
Submissions from 2007
Fersommling Huffs 2007, Huffs Church Fersommling
Submissions from 2006
Fersommling Huffs 2006, Huffs Church Fersommling
Submissions from 2005
Fersommling Huffs 2005, Huffs Church Fersommling
Groundhog Lodge #1 2005, Groundhog Lodge #1
Submissions from 2004
Fersommling Huffs 2004, Huffs Church Fersommling
Submissions from 2003
Fesommling Berks County 2003, Berks County Fersommling
Fersommling Huffs 2003, Huffs Church Fersommling
Groundhog Lodge #1 2003, Groundhog Lodge #1
Submissions from 2001
Fersommling Huffs 2001, Huffs Church Fersommling
Groundhog Lodge #1 2001, Groundhog Lodge #1
Submissions from 2000
Fersommling Huffs 2000, Huffs Church Fersommling
Submissions from 1998
Fersommling Huffs 1998, Huffs Church Fersommling
Submissions from 1997
Fersommling Huffs 1997, Huffs Church Fersommling
Groundhog Lodge #1 1997, Groundhog Lodge #1
Submissions from 1996
Fersommling Huffs 1996, Huffs Church Fersommling
Submissions from 1995
Fersommling Berks County 1995, Berks County Fersommling
Fersommling Huffs 1995, Huffs Church Fersommling
Submissions from 1994
Groundhog Lodge #1 1994, Groundhog Lodge #1
Submissions from 1992
Fersommling Oley Valley 1992, Oley Valley Fersommling
Submissions from 1987
Grouondhog Lodge #1 1987, Groundhog Lodge #1
Submissions from 1985
Fersommling Lehigh 1985, Lehigh County Fersommling