doc marten boots An Amish Christmas
As might be expected, Amish Christmas customs are simple, oriented to the family and the religious meaning of the holiday. So, Amish children don’t visit Santa Claus in the store. There is no lavishly decorated Christmas tree in the home. And strings of colorful electric lights do not grace the front of the Amish house. But the making of special cookies and candies is certainly a part of the holiday activities. Greens and candles may decorate some home interiors. School children often pick names and exchange small gifts, such as writing paper or a needlepoint kit. Families usually exchange some small gifts as well. Some Amish also send Christmas cards, often to their “English” friends.
The Christmas church service may or may not be held on December 25th, but both Christmas and the following day, sometimes called “second Christmas,” are holidays for the Amish. This second day is usually one of relaxation or visiting others. Christmas dinners are a special part of the celebration, These are usually large meals, not unlike those served at weddings, and various groups beside the family will hold get togethers, such as single women, teachers, and others of like interest. These gatherings may continue into January and February of the New Year.
One of the highlights of the Christmas season, for children and their parents, is the Christmas program held in many of the one room schools. Beforehand there is much rehearsal and perhaps some simple decorations made by the children for the school. At one Amish school, children worked on making a quilt showing the school and eight apple trees, for the eight grades. Each tree had an apple for each student in that grade, along with his or her name.
On the day of the presentation,
carriages arrive and parents file anxiously into the room. Some, of course, may have more than one child attending in grades one through eight. Stories, plays, and songs are filled with humor and messages of the meaning of the season. And this is one of the few times you will ever see Amish children on a “stage” or “performing for an audience.”
For non Amish visitors who may be invited to enjoy one of these presentations, it is a memorable experience indeed, since most of the program is in English rather than the Pennsylvania German dialect.
A few years ago, I discovered an interesting book in an Amish bookstore titled “Getting Ready for Christmas.” This book was filled with “Christmas plays, poems, and songs suited for Amish schools.” An Amish lady, Emma Lapp, collected the materials included, and the typing was done by a wheelchair patient, who “will get a percent of all the books sold.”
The Christmas programs usually begin with a welcome, sometimes by one of the younger “scholars.” Here is a sample from the book.
I’m glad it isn’t size and weight
‘Cause then I might not have the chance
While stories are often about their non Amish neighbors, and may even mention Santa Claus and Christmas trees, clearly this is not what the season represents. Some of the dialog from the plays suggests the morals behind the stories.
“Sometimes the gifts you make bring more happiness than anything you can buy.”
“Giving and making others happy is the best part of Christmas.”
“The best gift you can give is simply called love.”
Here are some sample selections from the book, beginning with one of the many poems that might be heard:
This Christmas season let us try
In this selection, “Christmas Bees,” imagine the seven children walking to the front of the classroom,
each holding a bee shaped “shield” with a word on it. They begin by reciting in unison: