An Amish Year of Holidays

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When people find out that I write books about the Amish, it seems everyone has a question ready to ask. Especially around the holidays. Do the Amish celebrate birthdays? Do they give Christmas cards? Do they stay up late on New Year’s Eve?

As with the English, the Amish traditions vary from settlement to settlement, but for the most part, the Amish celebrate the same holidays we do.

After all, holidays are important to the Englishers. It only stands to reason that they are important to the Amish as well.

amish-holidays-memeI’ve asked my Amish friends about New Year’s Eve and most stay up and watch the clock tick over to a new year. They like to eat pork and sauerkraut (recipe below) on New Year’s Day and enjoy time with family and friends. However, for a great deal of the Amish especially for those working in rural settings, work continues as normal. Livestock isn’t concerned with human holidays and must be milked and fed regardless. (Just a note here–most of my Amish friends work for English companies and no longer farm for a living.)

Everyone loves Valentine’s Day. Couples make special plans, youth groups organize fun activities, and Amish school children make Valentines to give each other. There are special lunches to celebrate and cards are exchanged. And though we would like to believe that the commercialism of store-bought valentine cards, candies, and roses have not taken hold in the Amish culture, this isn’t the case for every district. A lot of this is determined by how integrated the Amish are into the English community around them.

Naturally, Easter is a big holiday for the Amish. And since the Amish hold their church services every other Sunday, it is possible for Easter to fall on an ‘off’ Sunday. Amish families can either attend a service in another district or observe Easter at home. Amish children color Easter eggs and even have egg hunts.

Surrounding Easter is Ascension Day, the thirty-ninth day after Easter Sunday. The day celebrates Christ’s ascension into heaven. The Amish also celebrate Good Friday and Easter Monday. Both days are usually filled with quiet reflection.

In addition, the Amish celebrate Pentecost. It’s the fiftieth day after Easter and is the celebrated day when the Holy Spirit appeared to the apostles. Some consider this the birthday of the church. Easter can also be a big time for school programs if they aren’t held at Christmas.

The Fourth of July is not normally observed by the Amish. They have nothing against it per se and some even set off fireworks. Though it seems more for fun than true celebration as the English do.

St. Michael’s Day is observed on October 11th. If you live near an Amish community, you may be surprised to find less traffic on the roads and a great many (if not all) of the Amish businesses closed for the day. The Amish observe this day with rest and fasting and preparing for the upcoming communion service.

This holiday was a new one for me. Most probably because it’s a Catholic holiday, though it is not celebrated on the same day for all who observe it. So why do the Amish celebrate a Catholic holiday? Most likely tradition. In the old days, a great many Amish were tenant farmers. They paid a certain percentage of their profits to the land owners on specific days. October 11 just happened to be one of the ‘quarter days’ (or payment days) and somehow managed to work its way into Amish tradition.

Halloween is not celebrated by the Amish for obvious reasons. However, many Amish decorate with pumpkins, though they do not carve them.

The Amish celebrate Thanksgiving much the same way English do with a big meal and visiting family. However, Thanksgiving falls in the middle of the Amish wedding season and can sometimes take a backseat to a wedding celebration. Traditionally the Amish get married on a Tuesday or Thursday. It’s not uncommon to have a wedding or even more than one to attend on Thanksgiving Day.

Christmas traditions between the Amish and the English are as kin as they are different. The Amish do not put up a Christmas tree, though they decorate in other ways—like with Nativity scenes and candles. They exchange gifts, though my Amish friend’s family draws names to keep things as simple as possible.

The Amish school children host a Christmas program. They participate in skits, Bible readings, and even sing a few Christmas carols.

For the most part, Christmas is quiet and reflective. The day after Christmas, or Second Christmas, is filled with visiting friends and neighbors. Second Christmas came about as an extension of Christmas Day itself. The Amish have such large families that it’s impossible to visit everyone they would like on one day.

The tradition of Old Christmas is still followed in many districts. This day (at one time the actual day Christmas was celebrated) is another day of reflection and visitation by families. Old Christmas falls on January 6th. Note: none of my Amish friends in Pennsylvania celebrate Old Christmas.

So as you can see, the traditions of the Amish are rooted in the past as well as looking toward the future. But as a devout society, the traditions of the Amish are bound in faith and caring.

What are your favorite holiday traditions and how do they compare to the Amish?

I hope you’ll leave me a comment and let me know you visited! Everyone who comments will be put in a drawing to win a signed copy of Titus Returns. My latest Wells Landing book!

And as always, thanks for reading!

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Amish Pork and Sauerkraut (serves 8-10)

1 pork shoulder (10-15 pounds)

4 pounds of sauerkraut

Salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Rinse pork and place in a large roasting pan.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cover with 1/3 of the sauerkraut.

Cover pan and place in oven for 90 minutes.

Remove and add another 1/3 of the sauerkraut.

Cover and place back in the oven for another 60 minutes.

Remove and add remaining sauerkraut.

Cover and place back in oven for another 60 minutes.

Remove and enjoy!

Be sure to serve with mashed potatoes and apple sauce.

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69 thoughts on “An Amish Year of Holidays

  1. Knew about all of the holidays and how they were celebrated by most Amish settlements but St. Michael’s was new to me. Thanks for explaining this day to us.
    Really enjoy your blog😊
    I am so looking forward to getting my hands on “Titus Returns”. I really have enjoyed this series!!

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    1. Thanks, Diane! St, Michael’s was new to me as well, until a year or so ago. I’m not sure how many of the settlements celebrate but I know the ones in Lancaster County do. 🙂

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  2. My ways of celebrating the holidays are all most like the Amish just I do Christmas different with A tree . I live all of your books

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  3. Love to read how the Amish celebrates different Holidays. Just as Amish celebrates Holidays with Family and friends….so do I. I guess the only thing different is the food. Since I am Mexican we have tamales for Thanksgiving and Christmas. But, I do throw a Ham on the table with Rice, Mac n Cheese, etc. Great article!! Thanks

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    1. Tamales? I’m coming to your house! LOL The big joke around my house is Christmas tacos. Well, they think I’m joking! I could eat tacos every day of the week! Thanks for reading!

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  4. Thanks for sharing Amy! I have always wondered how the Amish celebrated holidays.The only holiday I already knew about was Christmas.

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    1. Me too! That day was also my grandmother’s birthday. I used to go up to her house (she lived up a small hill from us) and spend the day with her. 🙂 Thanks for reading!!

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  5. I didn’t know much of the amish holidays, it was pretty interesting. My holidays get simpler and less commercial each year, with the focus on family and a good meal.

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  6. I never was much of a reader (except my Bible) until I started reading the Amish stories. I also didn’t know about St. Michael’s Day and am looking forward to reading “Titus Returns”. I have enjoyed this series.

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  7. Very interesting information about the Amish holidays. I enjoy learning about the traditions of the Amish. I really enjoy reading Amish fiction and would love reading your book.

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  8. like hearing about the amish and from one that writes I know you have researched for your books. I want to read some of your work, have read other authors on amish but not yours yet. thanks for sharing.

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  9. My favorite holiday traditions are having certain foods on certain holidays. Just wouldn’t be the same without them. Thanks for the chance to win!

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  10. Enjoyed your blog reading about the holidays, for some reason I was surprised that they hunt eggs 😊 I enjoy the same simplicity of the amish, just being with family my grand babies during the holidays.

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    1. It’s like a game. I actually have an egg hunt in one of my books based off an egg hunt I heard about in Lancaster. Just Plain Sadie, I believe. (No, I can’t remember my own books! Don’t judge! That was 6 books and 4 novellas ago for me! LOL )

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  11. St. Michael’s is an Amish holiday that wasn’t familiar to me. Thanks for sharing your recipe. I always have cooked cabbage on New Year’s Day and this would be a welcome addition.

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    1. They really are all about their families and communities. It reminds me of times past like Little House on the Prairie. They didn’t and don’t have the distractions of television, cellphones (for the most part) and other outside devices to take their time and attention away from the people closest to them!

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  12. Enjoyed reading the traditions of the Amish people.. and thanks for the recipe.. I would like it but hubby doesn’t like kraut.. lol.. I would love to win this book.. Thank you…

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    1. Too bad! I love kraut! when Stacey and I were in Mississippi last we bought kraut from one of the Amish women we visited with. So yummy! Thanks for reading!

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  13. I really enjoyed the breakdown of the holidays. We have been low key a lot the most recent holidays – and it’s been GLORIOUS!!!

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