I often get asked if the Amish celebrate the holidays and the answer is an astounding …yes! They may not rejoice in the degree as we English do but they still engage in holiday celebrations just the same.
Just like us, Christmas is a big day in an Amish home. They believe that Christmas is a day to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, but they don’t allow commercialization to overstep the real reason we celebrate Christmas. You’ll find no visions of Santa Claus or brightly decorated Christmas trees. What you will see is fresh pine boughs surrounded by a candle or two and strings of Christmas cards strung from one corner of the room to the other.
During the holiday’s Amish families across the country come together by sending letters and special Christmas cards to loved ones near and far.
The highlight of the Christmas season is the annual Christmas Eve school program. The children will read poems, sing songs and pass gifts out to the parents and teachers all while enjoying Christmas snacks. It’s a long-treasured tradition celebrated through most Amish communities. Long winter breaks are not followed in Amish communities. School-aged children may get a half of a day off on Christmas Eve and then Christmas Day and second Christmas, but then its back to school as usual.
On Christmas morning families will gather for devotionals and the exchange of small gifts. Children will most likely receive a toy, young girls will receive an item for their hope chests, and young boys will receive a tool or something special to help them with their chosen trade. In the afternoon they will come together as a family and enjoy a large meal.
Can you imagine having two Christmases? That is precisely what the Amish do, they celebrate Zwedde Grischtfaag, which means second Christmas. Since families are large, it may be difficult to see everyone on one day, so this is where second Christmas comes in. On December 25, they fast, meditate, and on December 26, or “Second Christmas,” they celebrate with family and friends.
A more solemn celebration that begins with fasting, Old Christmas is celebrated on January 6 and symbolizes the day the Three Wise Men came to Bethlehem and found baby Jesus. This day is spent focusing on the reason for the holiday– Jesus’ birth.
No matter what traditions you hold dear may you take the time to step back and remember this holiday in true Amish style …God, Family, and Community.
Photo by Jim Fisher