Amish Christmas

Often I read sweeping generalizations about the Amish Christmas. Remember, there are many different Orders - or flavors as Noah says - so one story cannot apply to all Amish. True, a few orders celebrate Christmas similar to us outsiders.

There are variations between each order and diversity among the settlements within an order. Confusing, eh? Outsiders get mixed up when learning about this 400-year-old culture. This blog has and always will apply to the strictest orders within the Amish discipline spectrum - Old and Swartzentruber.

old-christmas.gifIn my experience with our guys and gals who've left these two orders, here are some things I've learned about their Christmas customs:
  • No decorations inside/outside the home
  • No Christmas tree
  • No Santa Clause stories
  • No gifts are exchanged (Sarah's parents put candy in her shoes) but, this is changing within some settlements
  • Christmas morning is a fasting time
  • "Scholars" - school kids - are off for a brief break (varies by settlement)
  • Family comes together for a sumptuous, home cooked meal ending with pies and desserts, enjoy a day at home, kids play in the barn or outdoors
  • Because of many farm responsibilities and animal care, chores must continue
  • They also recognize Olde Christmas, January 6
  • The Swartzentruber Ordnung (rules) prohibits sex between married couples on Christmas and Olde Christmas, January 6th (I'll blog about Olde Christmas in January). Click to Tweet that
christmas tree buttonIf you enjoy fiction and learning about higher, more progressive orders - most typical to readers - then read about my pal Vannetta Chapman's new book on her October 12 blog Merry Christmas!

Many countries and cultures vary in how they celebrate Christmas. Do you have a particular or a peculiar tradition? Leave your comments below. Thanks for reading and have a meaningful, blessed season!

(c) Copyright 2013, Brenda Nixon.


  1. Growing up in several midwest Amish communities (we moved several times) my experience is quite similar to this. Christmas was often a day when we had large feasts with extended family. Don't remember it being a fast day. And then there was the second day of Christmas; often another day when we went to the other side of the family or something and had another large feast. School was off for at least two days, for Christmas and the day after, the second day of Christmas. I am not talking about January 6th or Old Christmas which was another day of feasting, usually; no school; no more than ordinary chores. Growing up Amish on a dairy farm every day was work day in a way but we did no more than just that which had to be done.

    We had gifts; my school had gift exchanges and programs for the parents where we sang songs for them. We had a lot of Santa Claus songs but I know some communities don't. I think that is becoming more widespread in the midwest from when I was younger. I never heard about the sex prohibition, but that was the Swartzentruber Amish, apparently.

    You mention desserts. Oh yes, no wonder so many of us are overweight. It wasn't just a dessert after a meal like we might have now. It was desserts with an s! After the main course there came the puddings, often more than one kind; like date pudding. Then there were cakes and fruit, like sliced peaches (canned) and we would pig out on all of that. Then the pies would come around and it would be more than just one kind. If you hadn't already totally made a glutton of yourself, well you could do it now,.

    Although I did enjoy the meals, I am glad we don't have to put up with this kind of food being thrown at you!

    And yes, no trees, no decorations. At school we did put up chain made from colored pieces of paper cut into strips and glued into links and pictures that we colored, but that was just about it.

    Good job, Brenda!

    1. Thank you Lester. For our readers, I'll explain that Lester was an Amish preacher when he left. Yes, the sex prohibition is accurate within the Swartzentruber Order as I vetted 2 men who were both church members. One was in PA and one is here in OH. The Ohio Amish man has 5 children and he confirmed this "insider" rule, which even those who aren't members yet don't know!

  2. One year, my Amish friends invited my children and me to the school for the Christmas program. All 22 kids- ages 6-14 got up and either recited a poem, Bible verse (totally blew me away at that), songs, or quick-paced group recitations. It was really neat. Afterwards, the women brought out food and drinks and we sat on the no-back benches and fellowshipped for hours. The kids all went out to play in the snow and we parents sat there and talked, laughed, ate, and enjoyed each others company until it was dark. The men suggested that we end our fun because there were chores to be done at home.

    It is a very special memory in my heart.

    1. Added: these are Old Order Amish, by the way

    2. Always good to hear your perspective. I'm sure this is a cherished memory for you. You prove my point that Amish differ among the orders and nobody can say, "All Amish do this" or "All Amish do that." Thanks for faithfully reading my blog. Merry Christmas.

    3. Are there any amish who won't observe christmas at all?

    4. Hi Anonymous, each Amish order celebrates Christmas differently. Lower (stricter) orders recognize Christmas in a sacred and solemn way without decorations or gift-exchanges. It's a day off work and usually some special family foods after a morning of fasting. The higher (more progressive) orders may have Christmas school programs, exchange gifts with friends and family, and enjoy a special family mean, yet forgo the decorations.

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  4. Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for a Happy New Year!
    Bring you Good wishes of happiness.

    Sorry for greeting you earlier,, just don't want miss saying this.
    By the way, I'm clotee. It's my first time visiting your blog. I am blogger too, and now try my best luck to open an e-store. Nice to know you.


  5. My in-loves are Swartzentruber. My husband left at the age of 18. We eat a Christmas lunch with them but there aren't usually gifts. Last year the kids all chipped in to get a new sink for their mom. (Dry sink). This year my husband and 2 of his brothers had a hog butchered for them. They do not fast or have sex restrictions, but I'm sure thats not common. I love learning about the different communities!

    1. Aww, I like the way you put that "my in-loves." Our son-in-law left when he was 17. I'm going to guess that because your husband hadn't joined the Church that he's not shunned. But what a privileged to eat lunch with your extended family as our SIL's parents are pretty aloof with him and never initiate a get-together.
      Glad you stopped by and left your comments. Come back again as I love hearing readers' perspective or feedback.