Thursday, December 8, 2011

Do the Amish celebrate Christmas?

Having just written the Christmas volumes of Amish Knitting Circle, I'm reflecting on all I’ve learned from my Amish friend about how they really celebrate Christmas. I don't think I'll be the same! I'll put up my tree and decorations, but something has really broken in me...the need to be perfect on Christmas.
What do I mean by that? Well, I need to get those perfect gifts so people will feel loved, right? I need to get that perfect Christmas sweater from Christopher & Banks!  I need to make my perfect cookies in my perfectly clean house, right? And of all things, I need to have all my kids with spouses come to my perfect orb for half the day or they won't have a holly, jolly Christmas, right?
When I sat with pen in hand, ready to take down notes as Lydia explained to me how she celebrates Christmas, she just kept repeating herself no matter how I asked the question. "We just spend time together and have fun." No candles in the window? No greenery? Any special games? "We just spend time together and have fun." Any special cookies you bake? "We make cookies all year. We just spend time together and have fun." I leaned forward, "BUT, you have to have a favorite Christmas cookie, RIGHT???" She leaned back and
In shock, I moved on to the dates I knew they celebrated Christmas: Christmas Eve, First Christmas, Second Christmas and Old Christmas.
I asked about the children’s play at the one-room schoolhouse on Christmas Eve. What is it like? "Oh, well, we don't always have it on Christmas Eve. It may be three days before Christmas." I almost fainted. I thought of little Hannah and Eli in their little Amish clothes not understanding what "Eve" meant. The night before? So I asked her if the kids minded changing the date every year, and she gently leaned toward me with a look of concern, thinking I'm neurotic. "Now, why would that matter for?" She tries to calm me down...
On to Christmas Day, or First and Second Christmas as the Amish call them, Dec. 25th and 26th. Any traditional meals? Please, tell me you have this! "We just spend time together and have fun." How about Second Christmas, is there something special you do? "We just spend time together....."
Maybe I just needed to hear it ten times to hear what she said. To the Amish, once again, nothing is more important than spending time together and enjoying each other company. 
I asked her about her favorite Christmas memory as a child. Her eyes lit up and she said she got a doll once. She could describe that doll in vivid detail. Then she went on to tell of her brothers’ presents, plastic animals that she then went on to describe, clapping her hands as she recalled their happy expressions.  But she added, "Aw, we had so much fun spending time together..."
As I’m still in shock, I thought maybe they're more into their German roots, and celebrate on January 6th, which they call Old Christmas. She must be saving this day to tell me all their holiday traditions. She only said, "Nothing special....we just spend time together...seriously."
To be honest, I'm still taking it all in and I started this research on Amish holiday’s months ago. But I think it’s helped my two sisters and me change our view of the holidays. We now have First and Second Thanksgiving! I didn't have 20+ people at my perfectly clean house with that just perfect turkey, and then half-way through the meal feel the need to drop dead. No, I saw my sisters the next day and we even talked about going to see a movie, but ended up ... spending time together just having fun!
Who knows what changes we'll make for Christmas? I just hope we can simply spend time together and have fun, no matter what day we actually celebrate the holiday.


  1. Honestly, this sounds perfect to me. We are changing everything this year, and I was Dec. 25th to be about "just spending time together" ~ with whichever of my 7 children can be here. They are living in 4 different states and just getting everyone in the same place at the same time, is very stressful to me. This year we are going for simplicity ~ we will be at home, if they can come thats wonderful, if not we will still have a good time. Our decorations are minimal and lowkey. I'll enjoy reading what others say about a simpler holiday!

  2. Today we feed 120 homeless people at our Church family dinner! What a treat to see the joy on their faces when they received a bag of hygiene items and a blanket or tarp. Makes one rethink what the Christmas season is all about...

  3. Thank you for your heartfelt comments. I just figured out how to respond to a comment. So many accounts with passwords mixed up. Need an excell spreadsheet! Like the part about feeding the homeless. My friend asked me a question, "How do you give Jesus a birthday present?" I didn't know. She said when you've done it to the least of these you've done it unto me....That's the heart of Christmas!

  4. Why do Amish people have Christmas at all? It's
    A made up pagan holiday that Constantine substituted for the Roman Saturnalia?