By Kevin Williams
Lots of newbies on this site over the past year (welcome!). Thought this would be a good time to go over some “basics” of how the Amish celebrate Christmas.
As a general rule (and the reasons for this are varied), the more conservative an Amish community the less Christmas is outwardly observed. And that, by the way, would hold true for all birthday’s, not just Christ’s. So here is a primer:
CHURCH: The Amish typically attend church every other Sunday. If Christmas happens to fall on a “church Sunday”, there will be church as usual. If it does not, then there will be no special service, people will just stay home with their families.
DECORATIONS: In most Amish homes you will not find Christmas decorations. What you often will find are colorful Christmas cards send by family and friends taped up on a door frame or placed on the mantel. Perhaps in some New Order Amish homes you might find a sprig of pine. In some Amish settlements you might see lit candles placed in the windows in Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but that is the exception, not the rule.
CHRISTMAS CARDS: Oh, yes. The Amish are generally prolific Christmas card senders (again, this will vary greatly with the most conservative Amish not really doing this, but most Amish do send a lot of cards). The end of the year is a great time to catch up family and friends as to goings ons. And the cards themselves become decorations.
SANTA: This is a little tougher to pin down. Santa is a secular symbol of the holiday and often scorned by Amish, but some Old Order Amish view him as just a fun, harmless secular symbol so they do include Santa into celebrations. In fact, some of the progressive, New Order Amish who tend to have a more evangelical bent may include Santa less in the holiday than some more conservative Amish. One Amish tourism website in its Christmas traditions section says “There are no Amish communities that practice the tradition of Santa Claus.”…..and that simply isn’t true….
GIFTS: This is another one that, like, Santa is very varied among the Amish. The most insular, conservative Amish won’t exchange gifts at all. Middle-of-the-road, traditional Amish usually will exchange gifts, embracing this secular trapping of the holiday. Yet more liberal, progressive Amish often have a more evangelical streak which views gift-giving with some disdain. In the “middle of the road” Amish you’ll find a wide variation in gift giving, from simple, hand-made items to Amish who shop from Amazon like everyone else.