Tag 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!

Top 25 Things To Do this Spring

It’s time to shake off cabin fever and explore all that Lancaster, PA has to offer during the spring. Whether you prefer the great outdoors, al fresco dining, or themed festivals, there’s something for everyone this season.

Check out our list of 25 things to create your spring itinerary:

1] Take a hike or go for a bike ride

2] Bid on bargains at a Mud Sale
Mud Sales are annual auctions held by communities featuring antiques quilts, locally-made crafts and more.

3] Celebrate Easter with family over brunch, dinner, Easter egg hunts, and events

4] Bounce out cabin fever at Sky Zone Lancaster

5] Discover the creative energy of the city during First Friday
Art galleries and boutiques extend their hours for browsing during this monthly event.

6] Take in the tranquil countryside from aboard the Strasburg Rail Road

7] Search for unique treasures and bargains at Lancaster’s eclectic antique shops
Spring Antiques Extravaganza is held in the Antiques Capital region, April 27-30.

8] Head to Lititz for the annual Pretzel Fest
Held on Saturday, May 6.

9] Experience the art scene in Downtown Lancaster with Spring ArtWalk
This self-guided tour takes place Saturday, May 6 and Sunday, May 7.

10] Get a head start on your spring gardening at the Herb & Garden Faire at Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum.
Held on Saturday, May 12 and Sunday, May 13.

Credit: Dutch Wonderland

11] Fill your day with family fun at Dutch Wonderland Family Amusement Park.
Open weekends beginning on April 29-30.

12] Enjoy fruity festivities at Kitchen Kettle Village’s Rhubarb Festival.
Tickle your taste buds Friday, May 19 and Saturday, May 20.

13] Celebrate Spring at Rock Ford Plantation’s May Fair Celebration
Takes place on Sunday, May 21.

14] Catch a Broadway-caliber musical, drama, dinner theater performance or jaw-dropping concert.

15] Explore learning with a twist at a kid-friendly museum.

16] Flock to Lancaster for great birding.

17] Relax with a picnic in the park.

18] Find fun for the thrill seekers at Hersheypark’s Springtime in the Park.
Held on April 8-9 and 14-16.

19] Ride as the Amish do with an authentic buggy ride.

20] Grab a paddle for adventures on the river.

21] Stop by Central Market for local goodies.
Open Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

22] Tour the back roads and covered bridges.

23] Stop to smell the roses at Hershey Garden.

24] Refresh your wardrobe with a trip to the outlets.

25] Saddle up for a horseback ride along the trails at Ironstone Ranch.

To find even more exciting events and happenings, visit our events calendar.

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!

cookies1 cookies2 cookies3

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.

img_3520img_3501

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.

img_3529

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.

FullSizeRender (002)

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.

FullSizeRender

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!

Amish Nicknames

Some visitors unfamiliar with the Amish see their conservative dress and lifestyle and, for some reason, think the Amish are a serious, austere group of people who rarely smile or laugh. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Our Amish friends love to laugh and joke, and their sense of humor is especially exhibited in… nicknames.

One category of nicknames derives from physical or personality traits. Examples are Big Ben, Brownie Eli, Black Sam, Chubby Jonas, Skinny Davie, Porky Dan, Shorty Abner, Toey Steve, and Limpy John. The color of their hair or beard gave the names to Red Elmer, Pinky Eli, Sandy Crist, and Whitey Manuel. I especially like “See More Sam,” whose eyes were set wide apart.

Perhaps more interesting are names based on personality. “Balky John” was stubborn; “Boom Daniel” liked to bellow loudly; “Lummicks Amos” was clumsy; “Coonie Jonathan” liked to hunt; and “Doggie Aaron” loved dogs. An Amish friend informed me that “Coonie’s son married Doggie’s daughter.”

Another set of nicknames comes from funny or memorable incidents associated with a person. “Gravy Dan” earned his nickname because “at a threshing dinner he once poured gravy instead of cream in his coffee.” Another Amishman received the name “Stover” because he once moved a stove from one farm to another, and charged for the service at both ends! “Slinky” got his name from when he played baseball in the schoolyard and scrunched himself down like a slinky when he was at bat. And then there is “Pepper Yonnie,” who got his name when he put some pepper on the heat stove after a hymnsing, and made people sneeze. He apparently cleared the room!

Occupation often figures into a nickname. ”Butter Jake” made and sold butter, “Elevator Ike” invented a farm elevator, “Crusher John” worked in a stone quarry, “Jockey Joe” traded horses, and “Lawyer John” seemed to have skills in legal matters, even though he was not a lawyer.

Then there was “Chicken Elam,” who owned a chicken farm, and “Chickie Dan,” who worked for him. “Cherry John” used to sell cherries, but was known as “Butcher John” when he had that occupation. “Junkie Jake” likes to buy and sell antiques and collectibles. And of course, “Horseradish Sam” gets his name from selling ground horseradish in jars.

The newest name I learned about had to do with an Amishman who milks Dutch Belt cows, which are black cows with a white “belt” running down their middle. Because these cows are black with white in the middle, the farmer has gotten the name of (what else?)… “Oreo Alvin.”

FAQ about the Amish

Below are frequent and interesting questions we, the Visitors Bureau, are asked by visitors to Lancaster County. Have you ever wondered about the answers to these questions?

Q: Do you have electricity?
A: Yes, most of us in Lancaster are not Amish.

Q: Are you Amish?
A: No.

Q: Can I become Amish?
A: Sure, but it’s not easy and it’s less appealing once you know all that’s involved.

Q: Can we drive in Lancaster County?
A: Yes.

Q: What type of clothes do we need to wear when we visit?
A: Your normal, everyday clothes are fine. However, you may want to check the weather report to be sure you’re dressing comfortably.

Q: Are motorcycles allowed?
A: Yes, and we even have places you can rental motorcycles for the day.

Q: Where is Amish Town? What is the fee at the gate to get into Amish Town?
A: There is no such thing as Amish Town. The Amish live throughout Lancaster; they live, work, and play among us.

Q: Do you have hotel or motels in your area? Are we able to stay overnight in the area?
A: Yes, of course! Check out our extensive list.

Q: Can I have an water front room?
A: Only if a small lake counts. We are not near the ocean. The largest body of water in Lancaster is the Susquehanna River.

Q: Can I meet or will I see Lebanon Levi?
A: No. All the Amish reality shows on TV are actually fake. Sorry.

Q: Can you give me an address to find a covered bridge?
A: No. You’ll just have to follow directions or look at a map.

Q: Is there really a town called Intercourse?
A: Yes. Click here to learn its history.

Q: Can an Amish horse and buggy to pick me up at the train station and take me on a tour of Lancaster County?
A: No, but you can take a horse and buggy ride or a guided tour, visit a replica of an Amish Village, and walk through a replica of an Amish home. Click here to see more.

To learn more about the Amish, click here.

What does it mean to be Amish?

One night when an Amish friend and I were talking, I asked this question: “What does it mean to be Amish?” It’s hard for anyone to summarize a lifestyle or beliefs in a few words without much time to think about it, so I asked him to say the first thing that popped into his head.

The first thought that came to him was “security.” It was apparent he was not thinking in terms of “safety.” He described it as a close-knit brotherhood and support. This is manifested in many ways, from the older people being cared for and valued by the younger, to the family’s eating meals together daily, from church services in homes to auctions and barn-raisings for those in need.

Next, he spoke of the slower pace of life, a more relaxed way of living, but a strong work ethic. My friend then wondered what the impact of fewer farmers and more “Amish businessmen” will be, especially if people become “too well off?” He thought “prosperity” was the biggest threat to the Amish way of life, although many Amish would put cellphones (“the world in your pocket”) at the top of the list.

Another part of what it means to be Amish is the importance of a good heritage and faith; he mentioned the Christian Anabaptist martyrs of the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe. Struggles between church and state have continued into contemporary times and often make “headlines” in the media.

He then mentioned plain dress; that Amish clothing was more standardized and economical. “I don’t need to give much thought on what I’m going to wear each morning. Some people say that if the heart is right, it doesn’t matter how you dress. But if the heart is right, shouldn’t you dress accordingly?”

Similarly, he touched on not having a television, radio, computer, internet, etc. It’s not so much electricity that is the problem, as what may come into the home via the media once you have it – perhaps a concern that is not unique to the Amish.

An Amishman was speaking before a group and was asked to explain what it meant to be Amish. He began by first asking these non-Amish how many of them owned a TV. All the hands went up. He then asked, “How many people think it might be better not to have a TV?” All hands up again.  Finally he asked the group, “When you get home today, how many will get rid of your TV?”  No hands went up. “That’s what it means to be Amish!”

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.

Free Lancaster County Travel Planning Guide

Get our free Getaway Guide

View the Guide online or have it mailed to you

Get It

Receive our Email Newsletter

Subscribe to receive the latest news, events, deals & more

Sign Up