By Mrs. Rudy Kathryn Detweiler
Our Christmas customs remain quite simple. Amish children are not taught about Santa Claus (or shouldn’t be). Neither a snowman named Frosty nor a reindeer named Rudolf have any importance due to the religious meaning of the Holiday, when Jesus, the Christ Child was born in Bethlehem … the Son of God, the greatest Gift of all, born for the forgiveness of sin.
Each church district follows its Ordnung and traditions, so there are some small differences, but, in general, there is no decorated tree in an Amish home. Some greens, red ribbons, red or green candles and even Christmas cards hung from colored string may decorate a room. Christmas cards are very popular both the sending and the receiving. Quite a few send cards they have handmade. Of course, part of our holiday activities center on the making of special cookies and candies.
And here are the School Programs, sometimes referred to as the School Pageant! Several weeks beforehand, the teachers and children begin preparing for this special event. The script is often written by the teachers. Parts are assigned and practices fitted in to their busy schedule. The pupils have stories, little plays, songs and poems all filled with humor and messages of the true meaning of Christmas. Art time is used to decorate the schoolhouse with drawings and paper chains, stars and bells. Names are chosen for a gift exchange and family and friends are invited. Although few have any sort of costume, many schools have a “dress rehearsal” final practice held in front of an audience from another school. When the actual day arrives, the little two-room schoolhouses are filled with family and friends, some even coming from a distance by taxi or van! The mothers bring snacks, juice and goodies. After the play, gifts are exchanged. The School Pageants provide many precious memories to share and chuckle over again and again during the cold winter evenings.
Christmas dinners are a special part of the celebration and usually feature big meals, and Christmas goodies. The opening of gifts and singing of Christmas Carols follow after dinner with plenty of time for visiting and relaxing. Many of these dinners are held on “Second Christmas” but the multigenerational families are big enough that these dinners may continue to be held for a few weeks after First Christmas (the actual Christmas Day which is dedicated to the true meaning of Christmas).
Christmas is also a time to think of others less fortunate. It is a time for doing deeds of kindness. Quietly finding ways to make others happy is the best part of Christmas with the best gift you can give being, simply, Love.