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.
I’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!
Amish Pork and Sauerkraut (serves 8-10)
1 pork shoulder (10-15 pounds)
4 pounds of sauerkraut
Salt and pepper
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.