Editor’s Note: This column is a great example of how Amish Christmas celebrations vary from community to community. In the most conservative Swartzentruber Amish settlements, the day is scarcely noticed. In more mission-minded and progressive communities, the day is met with family and fellowship. Past Christmas columns have featured traditions rooted in the Berne, Indiana Amish settlement, while this year’s Christmas column is more reflective of the larger Holmes County, Ohio area Amish community. Personally, I don’t think one is better than the other, but I think the differences are fascinating. While most Amish homes don’t display a lot of secular decorations for the holiday, as this column illustrates, food is an area where the Amish will allow themselves to indulge and “celebrate” the joy of the season. The stromboli mentioned in the column also caught my eye as it illustrates how much Italian-themed foods have made it into the menus of Amish cooks everywhere.
Meanwhile, The Amish Cook is penned this week by Gloria's Mom, Dorcas Raber, age 50. Gloria will return two weeks from today, with a special guest writer next week!
– Kevin Williams, Amish Cook Editor
THE AMISH COOK
BY DORCAS RABER
Joy to the world, the Lord has come!
I love Christmastime! It is a joyful time of year. In our Amish culture we don’t celebrate Christmas exactly like our “English” friends but we do keep Christmas as a remembrance of Jesus’s birth and we have family gatherings with big meals and lots of time for fellowship or games. Christmas carols are sung, such as the old favorite “Silent Night, Holy Night.” I’m so thankful that Jesus did not remain a baby in a manger but that He was willing to shed his blood for all mankind. All honor and glory to Him!
Christmas time is a wonderful time to gather around with family and friends. There is also a keen awareness , though, that for some people this is a difficult time of year, people who are lonely or have lost a loved one. To those, let us offer our sympathy and loving thoughts.
My husband David and I moved out here to Flat Rock, Illinois (from a large Amish community near Shreve, Ohio, about 30 minutes east of Mansfield) almost 20 years ago. Very seldom have we traveled back to Ohio to spend Christmas with family. 400 miles is too far to travel with a horse and buggy! But we are planning to go this year. How exciting! Daniel and Gloria hired a driver to take us. They have a wedding to attend also.
When I talked with my sister about our plans she said that part of the Christmas Eve supper has been planned already. I think it sounds scrumptious! Sister Sharon had said she’ll make a large batch of three different kinds of Stromboli: meat, deluxe, and chicken bacon ranch (stay tuned for her recipe in a future column!).
They are also planning to set up a salad bar for the 46 or so who will attend. The salad bar will consist of lettuce with lots of toppings including sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, cheese, bacon, carrots, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, peppers hard-boiled eggs, onions, croutons, cottage cheese,
I plan to take cranberry salad along. I absolutely love salad bars. Do taste buds change as you get older? More and more I like veggies and sweet and sour foods like 3 bean salad. Maybe it’s partly because I am more health-minded than I used to be?
Dessert will be ice cream pies. These are pies made with a Rice Krispie crust and filled with ice cream.
After supper, a Bingo game is played. A smorgasbord of unwrapped gifts will be on the table and whoever gets Bingo will get to choose a gift. Then we go on again until eventually everyone has a gift (no one gets two).
Afterwards I anticipate singing Christmas songs too. One of my fondest memories of Christmas time as a little girl is going Christmas caroling with my siblings and our cousins who lived “just up the road from us.” We walked down our street and stopped at various homes singing as only children can, on porches, usually. One of my favorite songs was “Go Tell It On a Mountain” and I remember being pleased that we sang the chorus with 3-part harmony. Our cousins mother and my Mom are sisters and they passed down their love of singing to us children.
Years later out here in Flat Rock I gathered some neighbor children together and we went from house to house singing carols. It makes for good memories. They still do that sometimes and I’d like to go along again.
Another thing I enjoy this time of year is keeping in touch with family and friends by sending Christmas cards and newsletters (an update of what is happening in our life). With over 30 cards to send, it’s too time consuming to write individual letters, so I make copies. Often I add several personal lines to each letter. I love to hear from friends too. Mailman time around Christmas is especially exciting!
A highlight for all of us over the years has been a Christmas box sent from my Mom and Dad . We all gather around to open the box filled with gifts and goodies. Can we imagine how the early settlers who traveled out west with wagon trains would have enjoyed such a box from “back home?”
May we all reflect upon the wonder, the true wonder, Jesus, at this Christmas time.
Here is the recipe for cranberry salad that I’ll be making for our Christmas Eve gathering, a friend gave it to me years ago, it is very refreshing!
1 box strawberry jello
1 box black raspberry jello
3 cups boiling water
5 unpeeled apples
1 cup cranberries
1 orange, peeled
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple
1 cup white sugar
Dissolve jello in boiling water. Then add cold water. Grind apples,cranberries, and orange. Add crushed pineapple and sugar. When jello begins to thicken add fruit and mix well.
This is a recipe that will be on the menu for Christmas eve snack time that I’d like to share. I buy the powders mentioned in the recipe at our local bulk food store.
CHEDDAR SEASONED SNACK MIX
2 pounds snack (suggestions pretzels, teddy grahams, ritz bits, pita chips, Life cereal squares)
1 1 /4 cup vegetable oil
5 tablespoons sour cream and onion powder
3 tablespoons cheddar cheese powder
Mix real well, then mix with snacks. Bake at 225 for 45 minutes. Stir every 15 minutes.