Category Archives: Amish

How do the Amish Celebrate Christmas?

Visitors are typically curious about the differences between the Amish way of living and ours – things like not using electricity or traveling by horse & buggy or scooter rather than cars. This time of year, that curiosity turns to the Christmas holidays, and wondering how the Amish celebrate Christmas. Do they give each other presents? Do they have a big holiday meal?

To help you understand how the Amish celebrate Christmas, we talked to a local culture expert, Brad Igou of the Amish Experience.

Let’s start off with the obvious one. Do the Amish celebrate Christmas?

Yes, they do, although their customs are much simpler than our “English” customs. They are oriented toward the family and the religious meaning of the holiday.

What do you mean by English customs?

“English” is the term that the Amish use for non-Amish.

Do the Amish put up a Christmas tree, or lights around the house?

There are no lavishly decorated trees or lights around in the house, and the Amish children do not visit Santa Claus to have their picture taken, or tell him their wish list. They do share the making of special Christmas cookies and candies with us though, and they might decorate with greens and candles.

Do the Amish exchange gifts?

School children often pick names and exchange small gifts, such as writing paper or needlepoint kits. Families also exchange some small gifts – and some send Christmas cards, often to their “English” friends. Christmas card making is a very popular tradition – adults & children make handmade “stamped” Christmas cards – some of them are now even sold in Amish stores.

Interesting – if we wanted to pick some up, could we find them at the Amish Experience?

Absolutely, and at the Gordonville Bookstore has an entire “hand-stamping section.”

Do they have Christmas Eve & Christmas Day church services, and sing carols or traditional hymns?

The Christmas church service may or may not be held on December 25, but both Christmas and the following day, sometimes called “second Christmas,” are holidays for the Amish. The second day is usually one to relax or visit others.

Amish children put on a Christmas program each year in their one-room schoolhouse – this is probably the only time you’ll see Amish children on a “stage.” During their Christmas program, the children sing songs, perform skits and recite poems. This is not something that visitors would get to see. Typically just family will attend, and occasionally, they’ll invite their “English” neighbors or friends to come as well.

Okay, last question – do the Amish eat a special Christmas dinner?

Christmas dinners are absolutely a big part of the holiday for the Amish. They are usually large meals, not unlike those served at weddings, and various groups besides the family will hold get-togethers, such as single women, teachers, and others of like interest. These gatherings may continue into January and February of the new year.

Any last comments or tidbits of information for us?

I think that, although we all share our own holiday traditions, what any holiday is about is enjoying cherished memories and traditions with family and friends, as well as remembering those less fortunate than ourselves.

Rainy day things to do in Lancaster County

Whether you come in the bright sunshine or come to a rainy Lancaster County, we’ve got tons of great things to do! Rain is a good thing for Lancaster, as it helps us to provide the freshest produce and ripest, juiciest fruit at our numerous farm markets and roadside stands.

So, if you find yourself here in Lancaster, looking for something to do on a rainy day, here are some suggestions for you:

Learn about the Amish
Lancaster County has a number of Amish homesteads, tours, and farms, where you can learn about the lifestyle of the modern Amish, see a farmhouse, and travel the backroads and country lanes where the Amish live. You can also take a buggy ride if it’s not raining too hard – you’ll be covered by the buggy, and you can experience riding through farmland the way the Amish do!

– Amish Farm and House
– Aaron & Jessica’s Buggy Rides
– Amish Village Backroads Bus Tour
– Old Order Amish Tours
– The Amish Experience

All aboard
Head to Strasburg to learn everything you can about locomotives! From elaborate model train displays and historic exhibits to a ride on a historic railway, Strasburg’s attractions will all paint a picture of the colorful past of Pennsylvania’s railroad industry.

– The Choo Choo Barn
– Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
– National Toy Train Museum
– Strasburg Rail Road

Watch it being made, or make it yourself
Want to see how things are made in Lancaster? A rainy day is the perfect time to head indoors to see things being created from start to finish, and even create some things yourself! Twist your own pretzel at America’s oldest commercial pretzel bakery or create your own ice cream flavor in the Turkey Hill Taste Lab. For an adults-only trip, take a peek into the distilling or beer brewing process, and enjoy the delicious end product.

– Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery
– Turkey Hill Experience
– Kitchen Kettle Village
– Thistle Finch Distillery & Wacker Brewing Company
– Lancaster Brewing Company

A museum for every interest
I know what you’re thinking – I don’t want to spend a whole day in museums. You’ve obviously never been to our museums on a rainy day in Lancaster! For little ones, we have museums boasting hands-on learning, and where imaginations can soar. Lancaster is also home to tons of art museums, galleries, and specialty museums, exhibiting everything from clocks to cars.

– Lancaster Science Factory
– North Museum of Nature and Science
– Hands-on House, Children’s Museum
– National Watch and Clock Museum
– Demuth Museum
– AACA Museum

Catch a show
What better to do on a rainy evening than head to the theatre! Stages across the county are coming to life with broadway-caliber shows, concerts, stories from the bible, and so much more.  So pick a theatre, and prepare to be swept away!

– Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre
– Rainbow’s Comedy Playhouse
– Fulton Theatre
– Sight & Sound Theatre
– American Music Theatre

Shopping til you drop
We’ve got tons of shopping opportunities, from antiques to artisans, farmer’s markets to furniture, and local shops to sweets & treats, as well as great outlet shopping. You’ll be sure to find whatever it is you’re looking for, or even things you’re not looking for, as souvenirs to remember your trip to Lancaster County.

– Tanger Outlets
– Ten Thousand Villages
– Antiques Capital
– Lancaster Central Market
– Green Dragon Farmers Market
– Zum Anker Alley Gallery

Bounce, Climb, Race
For the active visitor, Lancaster is home to many indoor attractions where you can get your extra energy out. Laser tag, jumping on trampolines, and rock climbing will get your heart rate up, and keep the kids entertained for hours!

– Spooky Nook Sports
– Sky Zone Trampoline Park
– Go ‘N Bananas
– Laserdome
– Rocky Springs Entertainment Center

There are tons of other things to do on a rainy day, so just check out our website for a complete list. Don’t let a little rain keep you in your hotel!

Things to Do in February

The winter chill is still in the air, but that doesn’t stop the fun in Lancaster! From two exciting festivals to the first Mud Sale of the season, you’re sure to find something unique to make your trip one to remember.

Festive Festivals

Lititz presents their Fire & Ice Festival over President’s Day Weekend (February 17-20) featuring ice sculptures, great food, live entertainment and activities throughout the weekend. To contrast the frosty ice sculptures, a Chili Cook Off is held on Saturday alongside the Winter Wonderland Carnival and Vendor Fair.

The sweet, sweet sounds of roots and blues music will fill the air of Downtown Lancaster during the three day Lancaster Roots & Blues Festival, February 24-26. The 2017 lineup includes over 50 artists performing at 8 venues throughout the city. A variety of ticket options are available, from one to three day tickets along with VIP and Under 21 options.

Dinner with Your Sweetheart

To celebrate the day of love, join the Vineyard at Grandview for a five course wine pairing Valentine Dinner that will infuse your holiday with romance. Delicious dishes are paired with the vineyard’s wines made on location. Mark your calendars for February 10 and reserve your seats today.

For the craft beer lovers, the General Sutter Inn presents a Beer & Food Tasting dinner featuring Founders Brewing Company on February 27. For $38 per person, you’ll enjoy courses paired with brews that will have your tasty buds buzzing. With the popularity of this event, reservations are required.

If PA Dutch style cooking is what you’re craving, Bird-in-Hand Fire Company is hosting their first Chicken Pot Pie Dinner of 2017. They are serving up all-you-can-eat chicken pot pie, peas, pepper cabbage, rolls, desserts, and more from 10:30 AM to 6:30 PM (or until they sell out) on February 25. It’s the perfect PA Dutch meal to fill your belly on cold day.

Bring Your Boots

Mud Sale season kicks off on Saturday, February 25 with the Strasburg Mud Sale. Whether you’re looking for great bargains on antiques, crafts, furniture and quilts or spectating and enjoying the wonderful food, be sure to remember your boots. These events are classically muddy as they are held as the ground begins to thaw.

Gimme Some Sugar

So sweet – it’s time for Maple Sugaring at Lancaster County Park. On-going demonstrations in the sugar bush of the park will be held on Saturday, February 25 and Sunday, February 26. Learn about the process from tree tapping to boiling to making the sweet product into candy. Maple products will be on sale for you to take tasty treats home to share.

Arts & History  

Browse Charles Demuth-inspired art at the Demuth Museum’s annual exhibition featuring Lancaster area artists. “Valentines for Demuth” invites Lancaster area artists to create works inspired by his work, 1896 Valentine. Works will be on display from February 4 to 26.

Rock Ford Plantation invites children ages 4 and up and their parents to celebrate the first President of the United States, George Washington. Enjoy cake and ice cream with Mr. Washington, enjoy crafts and games, and learn why we continue to celebrate his birthday. Reservations are required for this February 26th event.

For a complete list of events in February and beyond, click here

Recipes to Inspire Your Holiday Baking

It’s the holiday season, and whether you’re baking cookies for a cookie swap or for your family to enjoy, we’re sharing some Amish and Mennonite-inspired cookie recipes to add to your recipe box.

From the seasonal favorite, sand tarts, to the unique Amish cookies, we hope that you’ll find a tasty treat or even a new Christmas tradition!

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Recipes from: Good, Phyllis Pellman, and Rachel T. Pellman. From Amish and Mennonite Kitchens. Intercourse, PA: Good, 1984. Print.

Make a Friend in Lancaster, PA

Make-A-Friend Workshop allows kids of all ages to create a one-of-a-kind memento of their trip to Lancaster County. From wooden toys to Amish dolls, your child will enjoy this hands-on activity, and will love showing off their creation with pride.

The friend-making process begins by choosing a doll, either male or female, with a variety of hair colors to choose from. Then, clothes are chosen for the doll. The Amish-style dresses and shirts come in a variety of colors, from dark to light. Each piece is sewn with care and features snaps, much like real Amish clothes. Lastly, children get to pick a name card for their doll. The names, many traditional Amish names, are listed along with their meanings. The children can sign and date their card, remembering when they made their new friend.

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The doll with a dress or shirt and pants along with the name card is $25, and accessories like bonnets, aprons, hats and vests, are available to add to the doll, ranging from $8 to $12.

For the little carpenter, wooden toys like trains, barns and airplanes, can be built using hammers, nails, and wooden pieces. Kids will love making their very own wooden toy, which range from $17 to $25.

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Make-a-Friend Workshop also carried doll cribs, and rocking chairs and Amish-style dress for children, all unique mementos from Lancaster County.

You’ll find Make-a-Friend Workshop next to the petting zoo and playground in Kitchen Kettle Village. Through September and October, they’re open Saturdays from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM, as well as on Columbus Day.

Visit MakeAFriendWorkshop.net for more information.

When in Amish Country…

Driving along the country roads in Lancaster County, you are bound to see and share the road with plenty of horse and buggies, but have you ever thought about what it’s like to travel in one? Growing up in Lancaster County, I’ve wondered what this alternative form of transportation is like. I finally got the chance to find out with a buggy ride at Aaron & Jessica’s Buggy Rides, located just outside of Bird-in-Hand.

My daughter, who has been fascinated with horse and buggies since she could look out the car windows, came along on this adventure with me. The weather the morning of our ride was absolutely perfect, with abundant blue sky and even a refreshing breeze. Aaron & Jessica’s was quite easy to find, as it’s located right off of Old Philadelphia Pike, neighboring Plain & Fancy Farm Restaurant and Amish Experience Theater (a convenient stop for after your buggy ride to learn more information on the Amish or a home-style meal).

We met our driver, Ben, as we climbed up into the buggy and took a seat on the benches that are along the windows of the buggy. It was certainly cozy, but with the open windows it was quite comfortable.

As we hit the open road, Ben told us more about his family and Amish background, and introduced our horse, Al, who walked and trotted along the country road. As we passed fruit trees and fields of alfalfa wheat and corn, Ben talked more about the farming customs here in Lancaster County. He was happy to answer questions that we had along the way, and was enjoyable to talk to. My daughter was taking in the sites, looking out the windows as we rode down the driveway towards the farm we were stopping at.

Upon pulling up to the farm, we were greeted by a young Amish girl who told us about the homemade cookies, honey mustard pretzels, root beer and fresh squeezed lemonade they had available for sale that day. To satisfy our sweet tooth, we chose a bag of fresh chocolate chip cookies and a root beer. The cookies looked delicious, and we couldn’t wait to take a bite.

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While on the farm, Ben told us about Amish farms, houses and little more about family life. Even though I have lived here the majority of my life, I learned so much about the Amish community from Ben, and was so thankful he was willing to share his stories.

We headed back to the roads, chatting, learning and enjoying a cookie along the way. The farm looked beautiful from the road, especially with the clear skies and green fields. At 8 to 10 miles per hour, traveling by horse and buggy is significantly slower than traveling by car, but it was far less bumpy than I anticipated. Nature provided us with refreshing “air-conditioning” as Al trotted along the road.

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The buggy ride was a unique experience, and a must do if you’re looking to learn more about life on the farm. We went on a 30-minute ride which was an ideal amount of time for a young child, but Aaron & Jessica’s does offer longer rides that include a tour of the farm. Reservations aren’t required for regular rides, but they must be made for private tours.

Learn more about Aaron & Jessica’s Buggy Rides and stop by for a buggy ride next time you’re in Lancaster!

What Exactly is Chow-Chow?

Chow-Chow, not to be confused with the breed of dog hailing from China, is a sweet and sour mix of pickled vegetables often served as a side dish next to PA Dutch classic cuisine.

Not only is chow-chow delicious, it’s also a resourceful use of odd amounts of vegetables left at the end of harvest, giving it the nickname “end of season relish.” Left-over carrots, onions, cauliflower, cucumbers, celery, corn, peppers, beans, etc. are canned together with a sweet and sour pickling liquid.

While the origin of the name isn’t officially known, there are a few theories. Some believe it comes from the French word for cabbage, Chou. Others say it comes from the Indian squash, chayote, which is also known as chow-chow.

Regional flavors and variations do exist, including the less-sweet southern version and varieties that are chopped and shredded.

Pick up a jar of the Pennsylvania Dutch version and try it for yourself! Find chow-chow along with many other jams, sauces and pickles at Intercourse Canning Company.

Thank you to Intercourse Canning Company assisting with the chow-chow facts.

Take a Step Back in Time this Holiday Season

Terry w Triunial jpegI am addicted to technology, especially my phone – I will never go anywhere without it. This weekend, I took a step back to a time where there were no phones, televisions or even cars. The Magic Lantern Show, run by the Amish Experience, at Plain and Fancy Farm, let me escape from modern times and enjoy entertainment of the past.

Contrary to the name, a magic lantern is not what you would expect. This lantern is a brass lantern with three lenses to project hand painted illustrations on a projection screen. The magic lantern was developed in the 1850’s and was a precursor to movies. When first developed, the lantern used a candle to project and later, kerosene light.

The theatre is completely transformed to feel as though you are sitting in a barn. Before the show began, the showman, who was the host and storyteller, made sure the entire audience was in the Christmas spirit with a game of Christmas trivia. After we were in the holiday spirit, our showman began the show which consisted of classic Christmas stories, such as a Christmas Carol. My favorite part was the new Christmas stories, including a story about a giant snowball causing havoc on a town! All of the stories were narrated by the showman and accompanied by handmade illustrations and music.

The show lasted approximately an hour. During that time, I completely forgot about my phone and became immersed in a time less complicated. After the show I went to the local town, Bird-in-Hand, for homemade Amish foods and handcrafted goods. This show was a great way to experience a different form of entertainment and get into the Christmas spirit. The magic lantern show will definitely be a new holiday tradition!

Covered Bridges of Lancaster County

Covered bridges are an iconic symbol that bring to mind a more simple time, a more simple way of life. Pennsylvania has approximately 219 covered bridges that have withstood the test of time, more than any other state. Lancaster boasts over 25 of those bridges, each with its own unique story.

The purpose of the covering is to protect the wooden structural members from the weather. Uncovered wooden bridges have a life span of only 10-15 years because of the effects of rain and sun. Thanks to the covering, we have many bridges that have been around a long time.

The longest covered bridge at 5,960 feet once spanned the Susquehanna River from Columbia to neighboring Wrightsville in York County. Built in 1814, it was unfortunately destroyed by high water and ice in 1832. But, many others remain, ready for you to discover and enjoy.

We’ve developed five driving tours of covered bridges in Lancaster County. For a PDF version, click here. If you prefer to use our Google Map tours, click here and choose the tour that most interests you. To learn more about our covered bridges, be sure to stop the Discover Lancaster Visitors Center to purchase the book, Covered Bridges of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

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Amish Farm and House

If you’re looking for fun and education in one great location, check out the Amish Farm and House on Lincoln Highway. Although you might pause when you arrive – because it shares a parking lot with a Target store and shopping plaza – once you step onto the property you’re transported from the hustle and bustle of today to another time… a time when life was simple. The juxtaposition helps you appreciate what Lancaster County once was (and portions still are), and how times have changed. This destination is great for all ages, and features all aspects of Amish life, including guided tours through a staged Amish home, school house, wood shop, blacksmith shop, pump house, and barnyard. You can try your skills on an Amish scooter, or take a buggy ride through the property and over a covered bridge. In the fall, there is a corn maze. You can also go the “extra mile” and take a bus tour through the local farm land.

Being an animal lover, and having two small children, I frequent this destination just to see the farmyard. Playful goats leap and bound through their play place, ducks and chickens roam freely, sheep, goats, donkeys, pigs, peacocks, and other livestock provide constant entertainment for youngsters and young-at-heart alike. Ironically, my son’s favorite place is the herb and vegetable garden, for no other reason than it’s paved with white rocks…. and at 1 ½ years old, white rocks are the Best. Thing. EVER. Don’t worry – I don’t let him take them home with us, but making him part with his handful of rocks is typically cause for a highly theatrical and slightly embarrassing baby meltdown. Luckily, the rocks are soon forgotten when we see the baby sheep just down the path.

In the wood shop, you can see a local wood carver making unique crafts. The smell of the wood shavings is earthy and inviting. Be sure to ask him about the giant sling shot he has attached to the top of his minivan! Maybe you’ll even get lucky and he’ll launch a water balloon over the farm for you. (He’s a local celebrity)

If you choose to participate in all the activities provided by the Amish Farm and house, you could spend several hours there… or, if you’re like me… you can enjoy a pleasant stroll around the barnyard in about 45 minutes, stop for a few “selfies” with the lamas, and still make it home for snacks and nap time. Whether you live near or far, this is a great destination and I highly recommend it.

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