What is Second Christmas?

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I hope everyone had a wonderful and safe Christmas with family and friends or however it is you choose to celebrate. Christmas at my house is usually a quiet affair. We live just far enough away from my family that winter travel can be tricky, so it’s usually just me, my husband, and my son. But to me, quiet time with my family, eating, opening presents, and watching Christmas movies and football is a terrific way to spend the holiday.

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This time of year I get asked plenty of questions about how the Amish celebrate Christmas and which days they celebrate. I can’t speak for Amish all across America, but I have talked with my Amish friends in Lancaster County about their holiday traditions.

Here’s what I know…

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They might not be as elaborate or numerous as the presents we exchange, but they give gifts to friends and family. I was told they prefer gift bags to wrapping paper and their presents tend to be useful rather than extravagant.

Members of an immediate family will exchange gifts with everyone—like a husband and wife will exchange gifts and buy presents for their children–but extended family may choose to draw names like my friend’s family does.

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Second Christmas seems to be one of the more confusing topics when it comes to Amish and holiday celebrations. I’m not sure why. But in order to help you understand Second Christmas, imagine the hobbits in Lord of the Rings and second breakfast. This is the same concept. Another breakfast, another Christmas. (BTW-I looked up second breakfast and Bavaria, Poland, and Hungary actually serve second breakfast! Love that idea!)

Amish families are so large it’s very difficult for them to visit everyone they would like to spend time with on Christmas Day. Second Christmas just gives them more time to visit and be with friends and family.

The children are out of school on Christmas and Second Christmas, then return the following day.

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Old Christmas can go by several names including Three Kings Day, Epiphany, Theophany, and El Día De Los Reyes. (It’s a big celebration among most Latin cultures.) Old Christmas is the last of the twelve days of Christmas and is considered the peak of the Christmas celebration in places like Mexico.

I’m not certain why this holiday has been tagged onto the Amish. I’m sure somewhere out there, a group of Amish celebrates Old Christmas and somehow it has been attributed to all.

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December 26 is Boxing Day in Canada, St. Stephens Day (or Day of the Wren) in Ireland, while Germany, Poland, Scandinavia and the Netherlands celebrate Second Christmas like the Amish. Many Americans will be out shopping today, getting those first after-Christmas deals. For me, twenty+ years working in retail cured me of wanting to shop when stores are busy. Besides, this day has another meaning for me. Today was Bernice, my grandmother’s, birthday. So today I like to spend a little time thinking about her and remembering all those special times. It’s a little like spending the day with family and time I truly cherish.

How about you? How do you manage to visit with friends and family all through the holiday season? Leave a comment below to be entered into this week’s drawing. I have three single copies of The Amish Christmas Sleigh still available.

And as always, thanks for reading!

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Thanks for helping me name my Kish Valley doll. Grace received nearly 50% off the vote! So here she is everyone…Grace from Kish Valley!

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Are you ready for Christmas?

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Christmas is less than a week away! Can you believe it? And this is the last week for my Amish Christmas Sleigh giveaway.

I’m puttering around the house this week. Finishing up edits on Marrying Jonah and working on the new series. And making cookies. Must bake cookies.

Christmas cookies are a tradition at my house. Most probably because they are the family favorite. You know, the sugar cookies with frosting and sprinkles. We love them so much we make them for other holidays too. Yes, I have made Fourth of July cookies, Easter cookies, and Back to School cookies!

Do you have a favorite food/cookie/other tradition at your house? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below telling us about your favorite Christmas tradition. Everyone who leaves a comment will be entered into this last drawing for two copies of the Amish Christmas Sleigh. That’s 2 copies–one for you and one for a friend. And once again, I’ll be drawing three names! Good luck everyone! Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas!

Want to help me name my Amish doll from Big Valley? Here are the top names from the last blog. I chose the names that more than one person suggested. There were so many great names! I loved them all! Thanks, everyone, for your wonderful suggestions!

And since it’s Christmas, here’s a link to a video I found of Big Valley in the winter. I’m not much of a snow girl, but once again, the Valley is beautiful!

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Amish Dolls

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The more time I spend visiting with, studying, and writing about the Amish the more I realize how much there still is to know. Like most of you, I find them fascinating. I love their faith, their sense of community, and their devotion to the needs of their fellow man. But the more time I spend with the Amish, the more I realize that some of the popular (English) beliefs about the Amish aren’t entirely true.

I’m certain that at one time every popular belief about the Amish was grounded in fact, but the Amish are incredibly resourceful. They are ever-changing, deciding what of the modern world to keep and what to leave behind. And it’s these choices that make for such different beliefs and customs among the Amish as buggy color, suspender style, and head coverings, just to name a few.

One of the other big differences I’ve seen is with Amish dolls. It’s a popular belief that all Amish girls play with faceless dolls. As quaint as this idea is, it’s far from true. I’m not even positive that we can say most Amish girls play with faceless dolls considering what I’ve witnessed in Lancaster County.

That’s not to say  that faceless Amish dolls aren’t out there, They are. But they may be different than you think.

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These are the dolls I’ve collected in my travels. The doll on the left came from Ethridge, TN. The doll on the right is from Lancaster County, and the one in the middle is from Big Valley.

Sadie is my doll from Ethridge.

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She was the first one in my collection, bought from a store there in Tennessee. The people who run the store are English, but have a good relationship with the Amish. The shop owners offer wagon rides through the Amish community and stop at certain houses that are tourist friendly. When we visited, I only wanted a doll,  but there were none for sale at the houses where we stopped. (Note: Most of the Amish houses in the area have ‘shops’ where tourists can stop and buy jelly, jams, pickles, and the like.) When we got back to the store, the ladies there told me that they only had one Amish-made doll left. I snatched it up quickly. As they rung me out, they told me where the woman who made it lived (we actually stopped at her house on the tour) and they explained that her bishop said that she couldn’t make any more dolls to sell in the store.

Ruth is my doll from Lancaster County.

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Notice that she has a commercial store tag. That’s because she was bought in town and was made in a factory. Even though, I’ve never seen my friend’s little girls play with faceless dolls. They play with regular old plastic-molded dolls like we had when we were kids. In fact, there are a lot of Amish girls who play with American Girl dolls and even have large, organized tea parties for them! I’m not sure when this change came about and I cannot speak for all the Pennsylvania Amish girls. This is just what I have seen myself.

This doll came from the Big Valley in Pennsylvania.

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I bought her at the dry-goods store. It’s an Amish run store with no electricity. The shelves are just about head high and have a variety of goods, including books, cards, and homemade soap. And dolls of course. As you can see my dollie doesn’t have shoes. They were a separate purchase item. They also had kapps, bonnets, and other dresses for them. Sort of like Build-A-Bear, but not. <LOL>

Dolls are the one thing I always look for when I travel. Sometimes I can find them and sometimes not, but I’m always on the look-out.

Can you help me name my Big Valley doll? Submit a suggestion below and I’ll pick the top 4 or 5 and we’ll vote starting next week!

Also, by leaving a comment, you’ll be entered into this week’s drawing for the 3 sets of Amish Christmas Sleigh. (Remember, that’s one for you and one for a friend x three chances to win!)

And now for something completely different…

Reader Karen G, graciously shared this photo with me of the Amish buggies she saw recently in Whitehall, New York. It’s a wonderful picture! Notice the four different types of buggies represented. Thanks Karen!

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She also emailed me a couple of links to some great articles about the Amish. Here they are if you have a mind to check them out!

http://poststar.com/news/local/broom-making-machine-will-provide-blind-amish-boy-an-opportunity/article_41b76595-511c-5c46-8cad-ddb813b933a5.html

http://poststar.com/news/local/whitehall-s-amish-have-impact-on-farmland-taxes-tourism/article_82fe2b71-e944-59f4-92d5-7a2497dd78ec.html

And a big thanks to you all for reading!

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What’s with those yellow buggies?

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Lately I’ve introduced a lot of you to the Amish of Kish Valley (also known as Big Valley). The Valley is home to the second largest settlement in Pennsylvania and twelve distinct Amish and Mennonite groups. It’s also the setting for my new mystery series that begins in early 2018.

The most obvious distinction between the Amish groups is the use of different colored buggies.

Now most people are familiar with the gray-topped buggies of Lancaster County and the black-topped buggies of places like Holmes County, Ohio, and Jamesport, Missouri. But a trip through Big Valley is colorful in so many ways.

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Before I get into that, let’s talk about the black-toppers.

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The black-topped buggies belong to the Renno or Peachey Amish. I love this name since almost all the mailboxes we stopped to read in the Valley bore the name Peachey.  The Renno Amish are considered to be the least conservative of the Amish groups in the Valley, which isn’t saying a lot. After all, they are more conservative than our Amish friends in Lancaster County.

While we were in the Valley, Stacey and I stopped at a quilt shop that belonged to a Renno Amish woman. Of course the quilts were amazingly beautiful, but I couldn’t help taking note of a few things in the house. The windows were covered with a plain green shade. (You know the kind they use in cartoons that once you pull it down it winds back up with hilarious results.) The floors were wooden and bare. There was running water in the house, but all in all it made me think of my grandmother’s–just a small, country farmhouse filled with love.

The white-topped buggies belong to the Nebraska Amish.

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This is something of a misnomer since most of the Nebraska Amish live in Pennsylvania. The Nebraska Amish are hands-down the most conservative of the three main groups in the Big Valley. They also dress a bit differently. We only saw a couple of Nebraska Amish so I wasn’t able to test my research, but I am told that the Nebraska Amish men wear brown trousers and no suspenders. Their pants reportedly lace up the back and they wear their hair to their shoulders. Nebraska Amish women aren’t allowed to wear bonnets and supposedly wear a tie-on flat straw hat for working outside. On my next trip to the Valley, I am definitely going to be looking closer!

The yellow-topped buggies are certainly eye-catching.

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They belong to the Byler Amish. They are the middle of the road when it comes to being conservative in the Valley. The men wear one diagonal suspender and it is said that the women wear brown bonnets. I can testify that the men indeed wear only one suspender, but I wasn’t able to catch a glimpse at a Byler Amish woman wearing a bonnet. Stacey and I stopped in a bait/hunting shop run by a Byler Amish man who also sold honey. We talked to him a while mostly about hunting and bait, but he was very friendly and seemed to enjoy chatting with us.

Now, these aren’t all the differences in the three sub-groups of Amish in Big Valley. But it’s a start! What’s the most surprising difference that you’ve read in this post?

Leave a comment below and be entered into the Week  #4 drawing for two copies of The Amish Christmas Sleigh! (In order to be eligible for this giveaway you must leave a comment on this blog. Giveaway ends Sunday, December 11, 2016 at 12am EST.)

Thanks for reading!

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