While the rest of us are now caught up in a chaotic carnival of shopping, light-stringing, and holiday party preparation, there's a portion of our population that seems unfazed by the season.

Christmas in the Amish community isn't the materialistic affair that it is in the rest of the country. Walk into most Amish homes and you won't see a Christmas tree, no lights, no wreaths, no pine-scented garland strung above the mantle. Adhering to their bedrock beliefs to following a simple sacrament, the Amish keep Christmas "plain." The only hint in Elizabeth's home that the holiday is near are the colorful Christmas cards sent by well-wishers which she keeps on a shelf above one of her rocking chairs in the living room.

That's not to say that the Amish don't mark Christmas. Indeed, there are gifts to buy and presents to wrap, but it's all a much more low-key event.

On a recent visit to Elizabeth's, she was lamenting about what gifts to get for her over 30 grandchildren. That dilemma pales in comparison to what her grandparents must have faced every Christmas: getting gifts for over 100 grandchildren. Once again, though, simplicity saves the day. Elizabeth's grandparents would give each of their 100 grandchildren a small plastic bag filled with colorful candy. Also in each bag would be a small dish or handkerchief. These small tokens have become priceless treasures over time as the grandchildren grew into adults. Elizabeth is contemplating something similar for her own brood of grandchildren.

And, of course, there's holiday baking which wins out over shopping most Amish homes. You'll find few fancy fruitcakes or flaming rum punches among the Pennsylvania Dutch. The food served during holiday gatherings is simple, but with a hint of elegance. Most families have one big gathering during the season. For Elizabeth and her family, that day has always been New Year's Day.

The children will arrive at dawn in their horse-drawn buggies for a full-course breakfast: perhaps a ham and cheese casserole, home-baked cinnamon rolls, and Elizabeth's home-made biscuits and gravy. Additional folding tables are set up in Elizabeth's dining room to accommodate her whole family at once. A noon lunch and dinner will be served with sauerkraut, homemade stew, and from-scratch bread. Lots of singing and yodeling takes place during the day, and the grandchildren add energy and love to the occasion.

In some ways, the Amish way of celebrating Christmas makes much more sense.

For a selection of Elizabeth's Christmas recipes, CLICK HERE to go to the Recipe of the Week.

Kevin Williams
Executive Editor
Oasis Newsfeatures


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