What is Belsnickeling? Unpacking a holiday tradition among 'most Nova Scotians'
An article in a recent edition of Porter Airlines' in-flight magazine describes the tradition among "most Nova Scotians" called Belsnickeling. (Emily/Twitter)
Ben Cousins, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Thursday, November 22, 2018 2:24PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, November 22, 2018 2:29PM EST
An article in Porter Airlines’ in-flight magazine indicating Nova Scotians go “Belsnickeling around the icy streets of their hometowns” has people online questioning if the holiday tradition even exists.
The article, which appears in the latest edition of “re:porter,” outlines obscure holiday traditions from Atlantic Canada, including that of Belsnickeling, where a group of people dress in Santa costumes with bells and chains, visit their neighbours and have them guess the identity of each Belsnickel. Those who get it right are rewarded with a piece of cake and a hot drink.
The Belsnickel is a German character similar to Santa that is popular in Pennsylvania Dutch communities. The character was made popular during a holiday episode of The Office.
According to the article, Germans brought Belsnickeling to Nova Scotia in the 1750s and “most Nova Scotians” now participate in the tradition.
Nova Scotians, however, are taking to the Internet to dispute whether this strange tradition is in fact celebrated locally.
“Could the Nova Scotian who fed this hilarious lie to Porter please show yourself,” a Twitter user named Emily wrote.
Another Twitter user wrote: “I've literally never heard of this before.”
Rachel Bailey, the mayor of Lunenburg, N.S., an area of the province where Belsnickeling is said to be popular, told CTVNews.ca she’s heard of the tradition, although it is hardly celebrated.
“It definitely is a real thing,” she said. “I don’t know if… you could knock on too many doors and find people that still go Belsnickeling around here, but I wouldn’t say it’s extinct.”
Other Twitter users agreed with Bailey, saying the tradition was popular in the southern parts of the province, but hasn’t been regularly celebrated in decades.
Belsnickeling might even be more popular in Halifax, Pa. instead of Halifax, N.S., where the Belsnickel is part of the Christmas Parade.
A spokesperson from Porter Airlines said while they understand Belsnickeling isn’t common across the province, they hope the article will bring more attention to the tradition.
“We felt it was an interesting bit of history to share with our readers,” the company said. “We're glad we were able to bring more attention to this provincial lore.”
Could the Nova Scotian who fed this hilarious lie to Porter please show yourself pic.twitter.com/lgiAG2Nt0H— Emily (@emilydawnlove) November 22, 2018
Amazing. I've literally never heard of this before— Chris O'Hara (@ohara_chris) November 22, 2018