Vol. 1, No. 4
Even though the Amish don't celebrate Christmas with all the decorations and trimmings that we do, it is still one of their most important holidays. An Amish Christmas is a little more restrained than ours but is nonetheless beautiful.
Folks exchange cards far and wide. Family and friends give each other gifts. Often presents among neighbors will be homemade food items like candy, loaves of bread, cakes, Shoo-fly and other pies, and fruit baskets. We’ve even received savory meat pies. The year we first moved to Lancaster, we were overwhelmed with gifts and were ill-equipped to reciprocate! That didn't matter- the Amish still give for the thrill and pleasure of giving.
Sometime during Christmas week, most schools host a Christmas program. Both parents, as well as other invited family and friends, attend it. Each student, whether in Grade 1 or Grade 8, will recite a poem or act in a skit. All students will sing hymns, sometimes in high German, Pennsylvania Dutch, or English. Often the guests are invited to join in. Those who have attended a Christmas program know they have experienced something very special, something that touches upon the true Spirit of Christmas. This is often the pinnacle of our Christmas holiday.
While Amish homes don’t have Christmas trees, many a pull-lamp (a lamp powered by propane gas or battery, which is housed in a cabinet below and pulled around for utility) is decorated with garland, and cards are hung from the ceiling or put in baskets decoratively.
The day itself is a profoundly religious holiday spent with family. Family members exchange wrapped gifts and read the Christmas story. Even toddlers know of the baby Jesus [pronounced YAY-soos, last syllable rhymes with “book”].
When families expand to the third generation, they frequently grow so large that it becomes quite an effort to schedule the extended family“Christmas” dinner. And while the Amish don’t decorate to the extent we do, it’s not at all unthinkable that an Amish woman may place a decorative runner or two on her Christmas table like our Red and White Poinsettia Pointed Log Cabin Runner.
If there’s ample snow on the ground, sometimes families will take a sleigh ride to visit friends and neighbors. Of course, they already have the horse! And what is a sleigh ride without sleigh bells? Our largest strap can be used to dress the horse, or maybe they’ll just tie a few bells on his tack. (The same bells can be used to put in little ones’ stockings to duplicate a certain movie’s bell from Santa’s sleigh, but Santa is definitely not Amish!)
Last, many an Amish woman just loves candles. They’re used to light bathrooms at night (for English guests, at least) and to keep the house smelling wonderful. You may wish to try a few of our many candles, be they pillar, hand-dipped tapers, novelty, or jar.
One little-known fact: the Amish, like their modern-day European cousins, enjoy Christmas so much they extend the celebration by a day. Even the hardest working Amish person takes off to celebrate December 26th, or Second Christmas, as they call it.
I hope you like this description of an Amish Christmas, and Ken joins me in wishing all of you the merriest of Christmases, the happiest of Hanukkahs, and a healthy, prosperous 2016!
Next time: Are the Amish Pennsylvania Dutch?