Do the Amish Celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas?

Thanksgiving and Christmas is a special time for Christians and is usually anticipated with great excitement. Since we know how most Christians celebrate these holidays, I thought I’d share what some of my Old Order Amish friends have told me about their traditions.

Thanksgiving is a simple time and primarily an excuse for families to gather together and share a large meal, which sometimes includes a turkey, but not always. Because Amish families are often very large, it is not unusual for one family to hold multiple Thanksgiving meals spread out through the holiday season.

When it comes to celebrating Christmas, I’m sure it won’t surprise you when I say that the Amish use almost no decorations. Most Amish consider such “trappings” a distraction from the story of Christ’s birth.

But for many decades they’ve enjoyed making or buying Christmas cards, and they look forward to sending and receiving them. They often hang up the cards throughout their homes as a form of simple holiday trimming. Also, many Amish have traditionally put candles in the window and light them after dark, giving the house a warm, homey feel during Christmastime.

Most Amish are comfortable putting candles surrounded by wreaths on surfaces throughout the house. But you won’t find a Christmas tree or stockings hanging inside an Amish home. Based on the second commandment, which says not to make any graven image, you won’t find a nativity scene or angel figurines, and definitely no traces of Santa.

On Christmas Day, most Old Order Amish decorate their kitchen tables for the family’s Christmas dinner, adorning it with candles and greenery. That adds a special festive feel to the day.

Although their homes may be devoid of most Christmas decorations, the Amish enjoy celebrating the season and cherish their own special traditions with their families.

The Amish look forward to exchanging gifts with their loved ones on Christmas Day. Many will wrap their Christmas presents in beautiful, shiny paper and set them in a special place, like near the hearth, while waiting for Christmas to arrive.

As Christmas Day approaches, the Amish go caroling throughout their own community and the surrounding area.

Amish schoolchildren have a Christmas program each year in their one-room schoolhouse. The program usually includes a play of the Christmas story, and the parents, grandparents, and siblings are invited. Students also exchange names, give one another gifts, and participate in acts of charity.

Tasty Christmas goodies are another staple of an Amish Christmas. The women bake many Christmas cookies and homemade candies for their families. These treats are also shared when caroling or at the local school’s Christmas production.

Since the Amish only have a church service every other Sunday and have a day of rest on the off-Sunday, Christmas church services are not a yearly occurrence. When a service is held, it is usually much like a regular service held during the rest of the year, except that the attendees sing Christmas carols similar to the ones we sing and some German Christmas songs set to tunes we would probably recognize.

The Amish also have what they call Zwedde Grischtdaag, which means Second Christmas. Second Christmas is usually celebrated the day after Christmas. Both days are holidays for the Amish. Unlike in our public or private schools, Amish children don’t get even a whole week off, let alone two weeks. The teacher may dismiss them after a half day of school on Christmas Eve, or she/he may not. But they always get Christmas Day and Second Christmas off before school resumes. So both days are times of rest for the whole family (except for the women, who still have to cook!). Since it is difficult to gather such large families together at the same time, often one side of the family will visit on Christmas Day and the other side on Second Christmas.


What do you think of the idea of a second Christmas? What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions that your family does each year?



In The Dawn of Christmas, Sadie makes many kinds of crafts to sell, and soaps is one of her favorites. So while writing that story, I connected with a reader friend on Facebook who also makes soaps, and because of her generosity, I have a very special giveaway for you! Kristin Lail not only provided the recipe for homemade soap in the back Christmas in Apple Ridge, but she has also very graciously offered a few of her soaps for a giveaway! (And thank you, Kristin, for giving me a bar of soap too!!)

I will choose three winners, and each winner will receive an autographed copy of Christmas in Apple Ridge and a bar of Kristin’s homemade soap.

To enter, simply leave a comment at the bottom of this post on my website. If you are reading this anywhere other than my website, such as on Facebook, in an email, or on Goodreads, please hop on over to my website and leave a comment at the bottom of my post to enter the giveaway.

Only comments left on my website will be entered into the giveaway. (It’s just too hard to track down all the comments left in various places, and that means it’s too easy to miss some of the comments.)

The deadline for this contest is Monday, December 3, 2012, at noon. The winner will be chosen using and will be contacted privately, as well as announced on next week’s post.

If you are interested in learning more about Kristin or would like to purchase some of her homemade soaps, please visit her website at Or you can “Like” her on Facebook by clicking here. Thank you, Kristin!


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