Christmas With Plain Folk


“What do the Amish do for Christmas?” “How do Mennonites celebrate Christmas?” This is a question we hear over and over again at our Kidron store and often, on our phone lines. You may be surprised to discover that, at bottom, the Amish and Mennonites celebrate just like the rest of us–but maybe a little more quietly.

Celesta, one of our telephone customer service representatives since 2009, shared some details about her family’s Christmas celebrations. In fact, this Christmas is a special one for her, as she and her husband Henry were married in October, and will be celebrating their first Christmas together. “This year, we decorated my first Christmas tree. It was very fun!” she said. A member of the Mennonite Church, Celesta describes her more traditional upbringing and her family’s Christmas activities.

snow buggy“We’re just like everyone else, we like to get to get together, visit, and eat,” she says, laughing. “Our families may be a bit bigger, but we do many of the same things. We go to church, we send Christmas letters and cards to family and friends far away.” Although her parents were raised Amish, they were a bit more liberal than the parents of many of her friends, and so Christmas at their home included Christmas card-making parties, where many of her female relatives would make beautiful cards. “When I was as young as 7, my parents had me start sending Christmas letters to my cousins and far-away family. It’s a way to keep in touch. We did a lot of letter writing, but the Christmas letter was special.”

Although there were no gift exchanges when she was young, all the family that could gathered for Christmas dinner. “We could have 100 to 125 people for Christmas dinner. And we have adult tables and children’s tables, like everyone does.”

Her immediate family had their specific Christmas traditions. “My father would read the Christmas story to us on Christmas morning, every Christmas. We were always together for that.”

Christmas BarnThis Christmas, celebrating with her new in-laws, means that Celesta is part of Christmas tradition that is common to many large families: the name draw! “There could be 25 to 50 of us, and that’s just so many. We all choose one name and find a small gift for the exchange. Some are handmade, and some are purchased.”

“There is one thing I would like people to know,” she said. “Instead of gifts, Christmas is more about family in our homes. If you ask any Amish person what is important, it is about getting together, being with family.”

Orginally published in Country Life on December 18, 2012.