Holidays, Amish-style

With the leaves changing, the cold and flu season well underway, it’s only a matter of time until the holiday season!  Simply Sara starts out in December, so I thought it might be interesting to see how an Amish girl felt about American Christmases.  To get a feel for the contrast, I first spent some time researching the way the Amish spend the holidays.

When it comes to Thanksgiving, the Amish take a cue from the Pilgrims and fast.  The fasting begins after dinner the night before, and lasts until the big meal, usually served around noon.  The women prepare the meal during that time – no tasting allowed!  The fasting applies mainly to the baptized church members.  For children, the fasting is optional.

November is wedding season for the Amish, so sometimes Thanksgiving celebrations are rolled into wedding celebrations.  If there isn’t a wedding going on, families and friends will often gather to celebrate together.

Before eating, the Amish family gathers together in the morning for devotions and talks about what they’re thankful for.

A roasted turkey is often the centerpiece of the meal; rather than purchase frozen birds, many Amish raise their own or purchase them from neighbors.  They may also serve mashed potatoes, cooked vegetables, salads, breads, noodles, and pie.

After dinner, it’s not uncommon for the Amish to sing German hymns, taking time to give thanks to God through music. Remember that sung music is the one kind of music allowed by the Ordnung – there are no instruments in Amish homes or churches.

American Christmases are busy, and Amish Christmases can take just as much preparation.  Amish students will prepare recitations, a play, and songs to be performed on Christmas Eve.  Amish families may gather together to make their Christmas cards, to be given to friends and family.  Amish women will make cookies and candies.  Decorations, if any, are kept to a minimum.  There are no Christmas trees and no Santa Claus.  If there’s snow, though, Amish children may entertain themselves by making snowmen.

Celebrations vary among Amish groups – some spend Christmas day in a more somber celebration, saving festivities for the day after.  Others exchange gifts on Christmas Day, returning to work and school on the 26th.  Either way, Christmas is still an exercise in simplicity.  Children know to only expect one gift from their parents, and gifts are often homemade.

An Amish New Years Eve is marked with a church service, hymn-singing, and a pot-luck.

One tradition I discovered was Old Christmas, celebrated on January 6th, a date traditionally also known as Epiphany.  Businesses will close on this day, and families will celebrate with food an visiting, much like Christmas Day but without the gifts.

Oh – and it should go without saying that the Amish don’t do Halloween.

How do you and your family celebrate Christmas?  I have to say, the day is not coming when I hand-make each and every Christmas card.  We sent out postcards of a beautiful snow photo I took last year, but that’s as crafty as it’s going to get in this household.  I also enjoy a good cookie swap, as well as getting in the car, putting on Christmas music, and looking at Christmas lights.  Last Christmas was pretty stressful, not just because of the tree.  I’m looking forward to a do-over this year.  What are you looking forward to?

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6 Responses to “Holidays, Amish-style”

  1. I started ready the amish books 3yrs. ago, and i enjoy them. I am so happy to have come across all of these new names. And
    I promise to get all of your books.

    Thank You so much,
    Dorothy Popecki


  2. When will “Holidays, Amish Style” be available?


  3. Thank you, Dorothy, you’re so sweet!


  4. Wow everybody, it’s Thanksgiving Day! I’m enjoying my extra day off, and I am planning to make something fun that will probably involve a car trip and seeing something new in Oakton I haven’t seen yet.
    You write new post at Thanksgiving?


  5. Zeitlin – I’ll write a new blog here soon! Until then, you can always check in at my personal blog, Sounds like you had a great day planned! Hope it went well!

    Nancy – “Holidays, Amish Style” was just this one blog post. But my first novel, Plain Jayne, will be out VERY soon, and Simply Sara a year after that!

    If you liked this post, Mindy Clark has an About the Amish book out (I think it’s been released), with even more information about the Amish.


  6. This is not my first time here, and again you know what you’re doing, keep it.


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