I have been asked (and even wondered myself) about what kind of differences there are between Amish traditions and celebrations during the Christmas season and those who are not Amish.
Now that my family and I have been official Shipshewana, Indiana residents (the third largest Amish community in the United States) for 3 years, we have met and have a number of Amish friends and neighbors.
So, I decided to ask my friends and neighbors about how they celebrate Christmas, if at all.
1. Do the Amish celebrate Christmas?
Yes, the Amish definitely celebrate and recognize Christmas. Just like any family, Amish families each have their own traditions, meals and ways to celebrating the birth of Christ. Sometimes there is a traditional meal like hosting a breakfast with extended family, enjoying time together, and typically celebrating by singing in the afternoon.
The Amish also celebrate what they call "Old Christmas." Old Christmas falls exactly 12 days from Christmas Day, and is the observance of the Ephiphany or "Three Kings' Day" when the wise men came to Bethlehem to find the baby Jesus.
Many Amish take this day as an opportunity to rest and reflect on the significance of the Magi visiting and presenting gifts to the Christ child. Some observe Old Christmas much like they would the Sabbath and, depending on the day it falls, this may include attending a church service. This has also been observed as a religious day of fasting, followed by a celebration including eating together with family.
2. Do the Amish give gifts at Christmas?
Some families exchange gifts, and some do not. It’s a purely personal preference of expressing love to one another and celebrating the joy and hope that comes with December 25th.
For those who do give presents, it's often done by exchanging gifts with family either by drawing names or playing Bingo. Gift giving is kept at a very simplistic level. You won’t find hordes of presents stacked in the living room in an Amish home on Christmas morning.
3. Do the Amish decorate at Christmas?
Some Amish may decorate with candles, poinsettias, garland, or candle-lit centerpieces on the table, although some may not have any Christmas decorations at all, keeping with the simplicity of the Amish lifestyle.
Things you will not likely see are Christmas trees, Christmas lights, or "Santa-themed" decorations.
4. What unique differences do the Amish observe at Christmas?
Not a whole lot, for the most part. There is a traditional meal like hosting a breakfast with extended family, enjoying time together, and typically celebrating by singing in the afternoon. It is all about the celebration of the birth of Christ.
Want to learn more about the Amish lifestyle? Plan a visit to Shipshewana, Indiana to experience it firsthand!
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