With Christmas just a week away, it’s the perfect time to look at how Amish observe the holiday.
Contributor Rebecca Miller, member of an Ohio Amish church, shares with us five ways her own family celebrates Christ’s birth (the ways Amish people observe the season may vary).
How Do The Amish Celebrate Christmas?
I have been asked this question numerous times, and as with any other aspect of Amish life, there is no cut and dried answer. But I’ll tell you, our readers, how my family celebrates.
1. Youth Christmas Caroling
The other Thursday evening our youth group of around 70 youth gathered at a host family’s home. From there we split into 5 groups, with 4 of the groups of around 12 each going with vans, and the rest, about 20 or so, walking to a nearby nursing home.
The next couple hours were spent singing for old folks, widows, and house-bound people. We had also brought grocery bags, gift baskets, and fruit trays which we handed out.
Around 8:30 we were all back and enjoyed a light supper and hot drinks. After some chatting as young folks do, we headed home. If it would have been a Friday night we likely would have played games a while. Many other youth groups, besides family and church groups, go caroling too.
2. Youth Christmas Supper
We had ours the past Friday night. Everyone gathered at my uncle’s home where several host Moms had prepared a delicious supper of mashed potatoes, chicken, dressing, and gravy for us. The youth girls had brought in dinner rolls, salads, and desserts. After enjoying our delicious supper we sang some Christmas songs.
We had a guest speaker who showed us slides and spoke of his experiences in Kenya, Africa on mission trips. It was an inspiration for us to think of those less fortunate than us. He encouraged us to be missionaries right where we are. He said that he understands most of us will never be able to go on trips like this, but we can support and pray for them. And he strongly encouraged us to let our lights shine right here at home and to notice those who need help and be there. God only needs willing hearts.
Earlier this year we had fixed shoe boxes for Samaritan’s Purse. We did this instead of exchanging gifts as we usually do. We finished the evening playing games and in fellowship with each other.
3. Christmas Programs
Pretty well every Amish school has a Christmas program. This is usually the highlight of the year for the children. There will be an hour or more of songs, poems, and a few skits the children have practiced over the past couple weeks. Though the program will have some humor in it, it will mostly be Christmas songs and Christmas-related poems and acts. There might be a nativity scene also. We want to keep with the true story of Christmas and the season of giving and joy.
This is followed by gifts for the parents and the pupils’ gift exchange and very likely some candy and visiting. After an hour or so people start heading home, then the school board cleans up. Usually the teachers are given a sizable gift from the parents to show their appreciation. It is a great evening of fellowship and fun.
4. Christmas Day
This year our Christmas Day will be a quiet day spent at home- reading the Christmas story, singing, playing games, and of course eating all the yummy food Mom has been preparing for days. We will probably have a family night of games and snack at our house on Christmas eve.
5. Family Gatherings
We are hosting both Dad’s and Mom’s families this year. It just came out that it was our turn to have both. Mom’s family will be here on New Year’s Day. We are having breakfast Haystack for brunch, plus other goodies. The day is usually spent visiting, singing, and playing games followed by more food in the afternoon. It’s a great way to catch up with cousins and relatives you haven’t seen in a while.
We are also having a New Year’s Eve party for the unmarried cousins over 16. We’ll probably have pizza and ice-cream and then play games until midnight.
Dad’s family will be here on Old Christmas. Since Old Christmas is a fast day, we likely won’t start as earlier. I believe the menu for that is mashed potatoes, chicken, dressing, salads and desserts. Each family will bring some of the food. We again end the day with more food, usually finger food goodies that are brought in.
In church over Christmas we have the Christmas scriptures and sing Christmas-related songs. Another big thing for us is sending out and receiving Christmas cards and letters. We also bake a lot of Christmas goodies and fix plates to share with neighbors, the mailman, business associates, and others. Some families do family gift exchanges. This year our cousin girls exchanged names.
The main focus of the season is still first of all remembering Christ – the true meaning of Christmas, family, gift-giving, and helping cheer others. I hope this will give people a look into our home for the holidays. Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year to you all!