Yearly Archives: 2013

Do the Amish celebrate Christmas?

Yes, the Amish celebrate Christmas!

They observe Christmas as a sacred holiday with simplicity and tradition. While some are influenced by the traditions of their English friends, many do not get caught up in the modern-day commercialism as we experience it. Most don’t include Santa Claus, electric lights, flashy tinsel, fancy wrapping paper, or Christmas trees. Rather, they focus on the reason for the holiday– Jesus’ birth.

Because Christmas is so important in the Amish community, it is celebrated for two days. On December 25, they fast, meditate, and read Scripture; on December 26, or “Second Christmas,” they celebrate with family and friends with festive gatherings, great feasts, and gift-giving.

Because the Pennsylvania Amish have been greatly influenced by German Christmas traditions, they often decorate by lighting candles and hanging stars, angels, greenery, and holiday cards. Most families exchange gifts and usually pick names out of a hat so each person receives one gift each year. Gifts are not always of the old-fashioned handmade variety. Sometimes they give gifts such as Barbie dolls (dressed Amish), board games, and toy tractors. In addition, homemade cookies, candy, and stamped Christmas cards are very popular. Often Amish owned stores sell these homemade items.

At the Amish schoolhouse, a Christmas program is usually planned and is one of the most anticipated events of the year. The Amish community enjoys watching the children sing, read poems, and perform Christmas plays.

And, when it happens to snow, the children enjoy playing outside. They race down the hills on their sleds, ice skate, play ice hockey, and of course, have snowball fights and snowman building competitions.

While we, the English, enjoy our traditions at Christmas, the Amish, too, will be enjoying their holiday traditions, but always with Jesus at the center of their celebration.

To learn more about how the Amish celebrate Christmas, listen to Ada’s story.

Get in the holiday spirit with American Music Theatre

The first time I visited American Music Theatre (AMT), it was love at first sight. I was so impressed with the gorgeous lobby, the elegant bathrooms (yes, the bathrooms are really elegant), and the staff in tuxedos, I told myself I had to work there. Five months later, I was fortunate enough to land a position as a member of their management team.

I had the privilege of working at this world-class theater for over two years, during which time I discovered AMT is much more than just a “pretty face.” In addition to the beauty and comfort of this state-of-the-art, 1600-seat theater, the shows they produce are of unparalleled quality. Besides hosting celebrity concerts such as Frankie Valli, Vince Gill, Foreigner, and more, they also write, choreograph and produce their own Original Shows, the most popular of which is the annual Christmas Show.

The 2013 show theme was “The First Noel.” While every year the show has a different storyline, they all have several things in common: top-calibre vocalists and musicians, talented dancers, and beautiful set designs and costumes. The show features both secular and sacred music, and is ideal for guests of all ages, from families with young children to seniors.

This year’s show did not disappoint and had the perfect blend of singing, dancing, and light-hearted moments. The vocals were fantastic, as was the AMT Orchestra. The set resembled a perfect family fireside, and everything from the lobby to the theater was decked out in lively red & green seasonal decor.

AMT’s annual Christmas Show rivals any holiday show you’ll find in a major market. They hire outstanding talent from all of the country (sometimes all over the world), and the scenery, lighting and costumes are some of the best I’ve ever seen.

Attending this production is a wonderful way to get into the holiday spirit and spend a quality afternoon or evening with your family or significant other. There are so many restaurants nearby that it’s easy to make a night of it and eat out before you attend. But just in case you don’t have time, AMT does have a fully-stocked snack bar (as well as a gift shop with a wide variety of merchandise for last-minute holiday shopping).

Visit for more information on upcoming shows.

Christmas in Lancaster

My husband and I have an annual Black Friday tradition. Instead of shopping for gifts at crowded stores, we shop for the perfect Christmas tree at our favorite little tree farm. We love to enjoy Christmas decorations for as long as possible; so the day after Thanksgiving, the tree must go up, and all the decorations must come out.

This year we decided to start another tradition. Since our daughter is now a preschooler, we thought that having an activity-based Advent Calendar would be fun. As we thought through ideas, we knew that caroling, making cookies, watching classic Christmas movies, seeing Santa at Park City, reading about the birth of Jesus, and driving through neighborhoods to see Christmas lights were non-negotiable. We also wanted to include fun and unique adventures. After some brainstorming, we came up with some great ideas like going to see a Christmas show at the Fulton Theatre, taking a trip to the National Christmas Center, enjoying Christmas-themed rides and activities at Dutch Wonderland’s Winter Wonderland, ice-skating at the Lancaster Ice Rink, going for a ride on Santa’s Paradise Express at the Strasburg Rail Road, and strolling through the Country Christmas Village at Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before we had more than 25 ideas. The hard part was narrowing down the list—there are so many fun Christmas events and activities to choose from.

While my husband and I enjoy all the buzz and excitement that the Christmas season brings, it’s most important to us as a family to create our own traditions and memories. Because of that, we love living in Lancaster County where Christmas feels warm, sentimental and genuine.

Whatever your plans are for this month, plan some time to slow down, reflect on your blessings, and spend time with family and friends. And, when you have a chance, come visit us. We look forward to having you!

Buy your favorite Lancaster items without leaving home

I’ve made my gift list and checked it twice. Now I’m ready for the busiest shopping days of the year. Though I love the festive atmosphere of the local stores, all the driving and walking in the cold weather sometimes gets to be too much.

Thankfully my best friend absolutely loves visiting Lancaster County and sampling all it has to offer. This year I’m going to be shopping for her from the warmth of my favorite chair in my living room by visiting Dutch Baskets, an online gift company featuring only products made in Lancaster County.

If you visit the Dutch Baskets website you can see all the beautiful baskets they offer filled with tasty goodies from companies like Wilbur Chocolate, Stoltzfus Meats & Deli, and more. Not only do they feature foods from Dutch Country, they also have candles from the Old Candle Barn and art from local artists.

I honestly had no idea they offered so many different gifts, not just for the holidays, but all-year round. They have a large variety of baskets in different sizes and themes. Their special Holiday Basket is made just for this festive time of year and includes a set of locally made sleigh bells.

I also have a friend who has always wanted to visit Lancaster but hasn’t quite made it yet – for her the Lancaster Countian Basket would be a good fit, letting her sample both a whoopie pie and a shoo-fly pie. Or maybe I should get her the huge Dutch Feast to share with her entire family on Christmas. That basket has everything including Amish dolls, a straw hat, and local honey!

For my husband who can’t go a day without candy, there is the Chocolate Lover’s Basket featuring delicious Wilbur chocolates. For my in-laws who like to snack, there is the Meat and Cheese Basket with bologna from Stoltzfus Meats & Deli, horseradish mustard, and artisanal cheeses.

And for my best friend? She loves to bake, so the Premium Bakers Basket would be great. It includes a cookbook, baking supplies and mixes, and an Amish basket large enough to hold a 9×13 pan for her famous brownies.

Not only did I find great gift baskets at Dutch Baskets, but they offer items for individual sale as well, so I can add a few things to the baskets I’m making at home and tuck a little Lancaster County into someone’s stocking on Christmas Eve.

So if you can’t make it to Lancaster County before the holidays, don’t fret. A trip to the Dutch Baskets website from the comfort of your own home will help you find great gifts for everyone – without needing a scarf. Happy Holidays everyone!

To learn more about Shawn Marie, read “The Bloggers” page.

Brighten your holiday shopping

From the flickering lanterns on the porch to the scents of pine and peppermint greeting you at the door, The Old Candle Barn is the perfect place to get into the holiday spirit.  It’s located in the town of Intercourse which makes it so easy to stop by while visiting some of the other great shops in the area like Kitchen Kettle Village, Zooks Fabrics, and Dutch Haven.

I visited on a Saturday and the atmosphere was festive inside with the signs of the season everywhere from Santas to stockings.  Though I had primarily come to look at their candles, I fell in love with the primitive and folk art displays set up in every possible corner of the shop.

In one section of the store, I searched through endless choices of home textiles – rugs, placemats, and other necessities of a well-dressed holiday home.  I was delighted with their selection of potpourri in many scents and sizes since that is an integral part of my holiday gift baskets.  It was so hard to choose which ones to include this year.

Then, tucked away in a corner, I found a line of lotions and soaps with scents so enticing I just had to try a few. The lotion was so beautifully silky and the light scent stuck with me for quite some time that I decided to get a little something for my own stocking. What a treat!

But on to the real reason for my visit, candles.

The Old Candle Barn carries nearly 500 different candle scents to try out so make sure your nose is ready and you have enough time to try them all!  They have scents like Christmas Essence, Banana Nut, Green Tea, Sugar Cookie, Roasted Chestnuts, Red McIntosh, Toasted Coconut, and Winter Wishes.

If you are only used to seeing votives and jar candles at other candle stores, then you will be enchanted with the large variety of candle shapes and sizes from small hand-dipped tapers to large candle blocks.  I was especially fond of the unusual lumpy candles that are so different from a plain barrel candle.

Once you choose your candles, then you can look for the perfect holders.  The selection of black iron holders is wonderful, but there are glass holders as well for a more modern look.

We have several family members with respiratory ailments, so our first choice in candles is always soy.  They are not easy to find in a wide variety of scents.  Thankfully, the Old Candle Barn stocks a full line of their scented candles in soy and palm oil versions for families like mine. They also offer unscented candles if you have people on your gift list who are unable to tolerate the scented ones.

I was surprised to find out that the Old Candle Barn offers many lighting options other than candles as well. You’ll want to check out the selection of Coleman and Dietz products.  With the increasing amount of severe weather in our area, I’m definitely interested in finding other lighting options for my home in times of emergency.  We have small children, so candles are not always the best option in our home.

I had such a great time shopping at the Old Candle Barn for gifts for my family.  Next time you are in Intercourse, Lancaster County, drop on in and try out a few new candle scents for yourself.  Just be sure to allow enough time to shop the entire store, you’ll be amazed at all you will find.

DogStar Books… books for the Sirius reader

Sarah, our Director of Marketing, and I both have kiddos that love books. If they could, they would go to the library every day and stay for hours. So we decided to take the kids to DogStar Books & Gallery to buy some new reading material. Sarah and I are enchanted by this bookstore for many reasons—it’s the epitome of quaintness, it’s located in a residential neighborhood in historic Lancaster City, and it has a welcoming play area equipped with puzzles, a train table, and, of course, books for the children to occupy their little fingers and imaginations.

We may have gone to the store for children’s books, but their endless selection is impressive. There’s something for everyone and the prices are stellar. They have mastered selling minimally used books at affordable prices (music to our ears) while creating an atmosphere that is personal, eclectic, and curious. In addition, the owner, Brian, is super knowledgeable about the books in the store and about books in general. If you are looking for a specific book or series, he’s your guy!

After a while, it was time to leave. Of course, the kids would have stayed longer. We bought handful of books as planned and even started planning our next visit. (One can never have too many books, right? Besides, the kids love this place!)

The next time you’re in Lancaster, remember DogStar Book & Gallery. It’s a great place to find the book you need, the gift you want to give and entertainment essential on a cold or rainy day. Trust me, this place will meet your expectations.

Lancaster out & about adventures

Last week, 14 staff members from the Lancaster Visitors Bureau, including myself, enjoyed a day of team-building. During our road trip through the County in the most beautiful fall weather imaginable, we visited a handful of delightful places.

First we stopped at Kitchen Kettle Village for a blind taste test of their delicious salas, relishes, and jams followed by a scarecrow-making contest (yes, we built two scarecrows from head to foot, including the stuffing in between). Kitchen Kettle Village is a quaint attraction that houses over 40 country shops and several restaurants—all of which are built around their nationally celebrated Jam & Relish Kitchen. They also have fun and interactive festivals throughout the year, like their Tailgate Festival which was in full swing during our visit. Afterward we walked through the quaint village of Intercourse to the Intercourse Pretzel Company for taste-testing, pretzel twisting demonstrations, and a speed competition. Talk about experts! The folks there know how to make a yummy snack—whether hard, soft, sweet, savory, big or bite size.

Before lunch we headed to Cherry Crest Adventure Farm to tackle the Amazing Maize Maze and a couple of their other fun onsite farm-related activities. This is an awesome place that the whole family will enjoy for an entire day  (I can’t wait to take my 3 year old!).

By this time our tummies were growling, so it was off to The Strasburg Country Store & Creamery for lunch and homemade ice cream. The ice cream is to die for (Sweet Cream & Nuts is my favorite). In addition to homemade ice cream, they also have homemade fudge, candy, nut butters, and honey that is simply wonderful (I ate more free samples than I care to admit).

After lunch we headed to Village Greens Miniature Golf and Snack Shoppe for 9 challenging holes of mini golf. Village Greens has two spacious miniature golf courses in a unique garden setting along with a snack shoppe and outside patio. The weather was perfect for our after lunch activity.

Our day wrapped up at Clearview Lanes Bowling Center for drinks, appetizers, and thoroughly entertaining games of bowling. From gutter balls to Turkeys, we laughed until our sides hurt. Clearview Lanes is a great place to have fun with your friends without breaking the bank.

We may have been divided into teams or pairs for some of the competitions throughout the day, but we all walked away feeling a renewed excitement. We love where we live and where we work; but most importantly, we love working with each other.

It was an awesome day!

Fall in love with Lancaster

Fall in Lancaster County is beautiful!

For some of us, this time of year makes us feel nostalgic. Our childhood experiences – the sight of leaves changing color, the anticipation of jumping into a pile of fallen leaves, the feeling of cold days and warm sweaters, and the taste of hot cocoa — often flood our memories. For others, this season evokes feelings of romance. The cool weather brings thoughts of huddling by a cozy fire, cuddling under a warm blanket, and taking a romantic walk hand-in-hand.

No matter how you identify with the season, experience it with zest. Drink warm pumpkin lattes and hot apple cider. Pick your own pumpkin for decorating. Journey through a corn maze. See community members join together at their local fair. Dare to encounter scary Halloween attractions.

Lancaster County welcomes you to enjoy our Autumn – it’s everything you want.


Great eats and sweet treats

I took a mini culinary tour of Lancaster County (I know, I know; this is a tough part of my job), and sampled two types of fare: traditional PA Dutch cooking and delicious candies.

My first stop was at Good ‘N Plenty Restaurant in Smoketown, where we held our board meeting.  Good ‘N Plenty has been around since 1969 and features both family-style dining and a-la-carte offerings.  They’ve been voted best local PA Dutch restaurant for 17 years, so if you’re craving authentic PA Dutch favorites, Good ‘N Plenty is the place to go.

I sampled my regular favorites:  roast turkey, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and whoopie pies, which were all delicious.  But I also decided to expand my horizons and try two PA Dutch food items I had never sampled – brown buttered noodles and cracker pudding.

I’ve been told brown buttered noodles are a popular PA Dutch specialty but always wondered what all the hype was about.  They’re just noodles cooked with butter, right?  Well, they’re also made with a mix of seasonings that make them unbelievably tasty.  I tried some and they melted in my mouth – I can see why they are a favorite of visitors and locals alike.

Then I was asked to try rice pudding, to which I reflexively replied “Yuck.”  But Glenn Lapp, the owner of Good ‘N Plenty, coaxed me into trying a small dish.  The pudding was cool and refreshing, and tasted like a cross between tapioca and coconut cream pie.  It was so yummy, I went back for seconds.

The food at Good ‘N Plenty was delicious, and the service was friendly and fast.  They also have a bakery and a large gift shop.

I ended my week with a visit to the grand opening of Miesse Candies’ newest location, on Water Street in Downtown Lancaster (they have a total of three locations).  Attendees included a Who’s Who of Lancaster, so it was definitely the place to be on a beautiful Friday afternoon.

Miesse Candies has been in business since 1875 and features some of the best candy you will ever taste, made with all-natural ingredients.  Sea salt caramels, coconut creams, and chocolate-covered pretzels were just a few of the delectable treats I was fortunate enough to sample.  If you love candy, this is a must see (and taste!) for you.

Miesse Candies offers informative factory tours at their Water Street location for a nominal cost, and they will also package and mail your candy for you.  They are great gift ideas – I have given them as gifts on several occasions and have come out as quite the hero.

Add a stop at Miesse Candies’ new downtown store to your next visit and you won’t be disappointed.

Savor the tastes of Lancaster

Lancaster County is home to a large number of great restaurants – everything from fine dining to Amish cooking to ethnic cuisine to fabulous casual fare.  Over the past week as part of several lunch meetings, I’ve been fortunate to enjoy the delicious offerings of three different venues.

To celebrate our new executive assistant’s first day, we headed to the Iron Hill Brewery.  We sat outside and enjoyed this gorgeous fall weather while we watched college students from Franklin & Marshall College come and go to their campus across the street.  I had a wonderful chopped salad, and a delicious goat cheese and spinach pizza with chicken.  The food was fresh and tasty, the service was fast and friendly, and the atmosphere was perfect.  Had we chosen to dine inside, we would have been equally impressed, as the inside of the restaurant is beautiful.

The next day, I met with Rick Stammel, GM of Dutch Wonderland, over a fine dining experience at the Stockyard Inn, a beautiful venue built in 1750 and once owned by James Buchanan.  Even though the Stockyard is famous for its steaks and crab cakes, I decided to sample some of their lighter fare.  I had calamari for an appetizer, which was crunchy and delicious, and a wonderful salmon Caesar salad for my entrée.  They certainly pay attention to the details – our food was served on classic plates and the presentation was excellent.  They also have outdoor dining options available on the wrap-around porch.

This is just a small sample of the wide variety of restaurants and delicious cuisine available in Lancaster County.  For more information on these restaurants and other dining options, please visit the “Places to Eat” section of our website.  Bon appétit!

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