Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ask Aunt Tillie: Do Amish Celebrate Christmas?

Blogger's Note: Since this blog is somewhat Amishcentric, I get questions from time to time from readers about Amish life and culture, which I refer to my Aunt Tillie, an opinionated, but humble Amish woman. Here is a recent question and answer. Please leave a comment or email me if you have questions you want me to refer to her in the future.

Dear Aunt Tillie:

The readers of your nephew's blog haven't read much about you lately, and I was just wondering how you're doing? Did you have a Merry Christmas? Do Amish even celebrate Christmas?

(signed) A Friend

Dear Friend:

I had a very nice Christmas; thanks for asking. All 14 of the children and 57 of the grandchildren were at our house for dinner on Christmas Day. I would say we "observe" Christmas more than "celebrate" it. From what I've read and heard from neighbors, our Christmas observances are quite a bit different from the way the English celebrate Christmas.
For one thing, we don't have Christmas lights, since we don't have electricity and it wouldn't make much sense to string lights around that don't light up. Actually, we don't put up Christmas decorations at all and we don't have Christmas trees and don't try to fool our children into believing they get presents from Santa Claus. When I hear people talk about having an "old-fashioned" Christmas, I have to laugh because in the olden days even the English didn't put as much time and trouble into celebrating Christmas as they do now days.
But we are not too Scrooge-like. We give presents to the younger children, although the idea of children making lists and demanding that we give them what's on the lists is unheard of among our people. We don't give presents to our married children, but when we had children at home, we might give the boys each a pair of gloves and the girls a scarf or something pretty, like a scriptural saying to hang on their wall. Abner will usually give a half dollar to each of the grandchildren, although the way inflation is going, I keep telling him he should get silver dollars to hand out. (I don't know if you can even get silver dollars anymore, that tells you how often I get to town.)
From what I've read, Christmas really doesn't have much to do with Jesus's birth, which no one even knows when it happened. Christmas started as a pagan celebration of the winter solstice, which the Catholics appropriated into a Christian celebration. It has pretty much returned to its pagan roots, from what I hear, with just a big buying and charging binge that the stores have promoted in order to sell more. I hear there are people on television and radio trying to get people stirred up about the "assault on Christmas," claiming that the ACLU is trying to ruin this country by making it illegal to say, "Merry Christmas." I like Christmas but I don't get too pushed out of shape about what someone might be trying to do or not do about saying "Merry Christmas." I figure that Christians who want to celebrate Jesus's birth are going to be able to do it without worrying too much about whether someone at the store said, "Merry Christmas," to them.
I hope, Friend, that you have a Happy New Year, and before you ask, no, I'm not planning on staying up until midnight; I don't have a television so I won't be watching the big ball come down at Times Square and I won't be drinking any champagne. If our throats feel scratchy, (or might be getting ready to feel scratchy,) Abner and I might just have a little nip of Kentucky bourbon before we go off to bed on New Year's Eve, but one nip is it. You don't want to be in bed with a drunken Amishman at my age, believe you me!

(Signed) Aunt Tillie


Lauren said...

And a Happy New Year to you, Aunt Tillie, you old dear.

gerry rosser said...

Happy new year.

Rodger said...

Does your Aunt Tillie really have any idea about winter solstice and pagan rites? I don't think so. Six grades of education and limited reading in English? I doubt the approved reading list includes "The Battle For Christmas." Of course she might be quoting some lost Jehovah's Witnesses that wandered onto the farm. They seem rather informed about the pagan quality of Christian holidays.

Happy Solstice and a safe and enjoyable interregnum.

Amishlaw said...

appy New Year, Lauren and Gerry.
Rodger, Aunt Tillie isn't as dumb as she looks. For one thing, she graduated from the eighth grade, not sixth. What makes you think she doesn't read much in English? She reads the daily newspaper every day, plus The Farm Journal, Prairie Farmer, Capper's Weekly and The Reader's Digest. And she reads books that she and Abner pick up at farm and estate sales. Granted she is not as cosmopolitan as you are, but she's been around the block a few times, despite being a humble amish woman.

East of Oregon said...

Kentucky bourbon - eh, that's an idea.