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A Simple Christmas Is the Biggest Holiday For the Amish

Updated on December 13, 2016
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has 30 years of successful experience in medicine, psychology, STEM courses, and aerospace education (CAP).

Amish children singing Christmas carols for their non-Amish neighbors. They gave the photographer special permission to take their picture.
Amish children singing Christmas carols for their non-Amish neighbors. They gave the photographer special permission to take their picture. | Source

What Is An Amish Christmas?

The Amish heritage is one of splitting from the Catholic Church in the 1600s to follow one Joseph Ammann to America in a simpler way of life. Related to that split, the turmoil, strife, financial outlay, and other negatives of both the secular and religious Christmas celebrations in America are left to the "English" - those that are not Amish. Above all, an Amish Christmas is emotionally warm, glad, and peaceful. It is a community sharing an annual tribute to Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Savior sent by God.

If the animals of the Christmas legend actually ever do talk on Christmas Eve, it would be in an Amish barn. The simplicity and depth of belief and celebration among the Amish is miraculous.

Largest Amish Community in the World

A markerHolmes County, Ohio -
Holmes, OH, USA
get directions

Amish Communities and Celebrations

Ohio supports the largest community of Amish residents in the world in Holmes County, where over 40% of residents are Amish. An hour's drive from the state capital, Holmes County is a disorienting sight to first time visitors when they see horses and buggies sharing a large portion of roads and city streets with automobiles.

Other states with large Amish populations are Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Of note is the fact that Ohio State University researchers discovered and published the fact that among the Old Order Amish in July 2012 that an additional, new Amish community is founded in the USA every 3.5 weeks. The overall Amish population is growing in the 2010s, promoting the simple lifestyle among a greater number of people.

The Amish Are Increasing

The US Census finds in 2015 that 251,000+ Amish live in the United States and Ontario, Canada in 456 settlements or communities. The number is growing because of the size of large families among the Amish and because of increases in numbers of baptisms in the faith.

42% of Holmes County is Amish


Amish Growth

A new Amish community is founded in the United States every 3.5 weeks.

  • According to the US Census, the Amish population in Ohio was 43,200 in 1992, increasing to 49,750 in just eight years and increasing markedly to 72,495 by 2016 (the largest Amish population in the world).
  • During Summer 2012, Ohio had the most Amish community members of any settlement in the world, a total of 60,233 Ohio Amish.
  • Pennsylvania supported 59,078 Amish in 2012 and 70, 890 in 2016.
  • Michigan had somewhat over 11,000 Amish residents in 2012 and 14,495 in 2016.

The Faith is Growing

Family and Faith are cornerstones of value in the Amish family.
Family and Faith are cornerstones of value in the Amish family. | Source

Fastest Growing Faiths In America

The Amish are one of the fastest growing religious segments of American society and others that want to simply their Christmas Celebrations can look to the traditions of the Amish in order to do so.

Generally, the Amish of America eschew the traditions of decorative lights, Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and mountains of presents. The Amish stick with candles in their windows, an array of freshly made baked goods to scent the air and tempt the palate, judiciously placed evergreen boughs, large Christmas caroling groups, visits to friends, and enjoyment of snowy sleigh rides in a horse and buggy.

Some homes display Christmas cards as a from of decoration as a centerpiece or a string of cards along a stair railings. Presents are a few high quality handcrafted items that last a long time. Family, friends, and faith in the Amish religious traditions are the backbone of Christmas for these communities.

Traditional Barn Raising in Walnut Creek OH

Other parts of America may observe the Twelve Days of Christmas with parties and parades, but the Amish have their own gatherings, without so much of the glitz and expense. A little Christmas shopping is done here and there and some Amish communities are big on board games.

When you drive through snow covered areas of Amish Ohio in winter, you won't see plastic Santa figures on an Amish front lawn, but you will likely see a family of snowmen dressed in Amish clothing, along with a handcrafted nativity. Children help build the wooden structures and figures, while they learn the biblical Christmas Story from the adults.

Amish Christmas Food

My favorite Amish restaurant finally closed when the couple that owned it retired, so I looked around for others. I will miss the Yoders, however, as they always made the round of the dining tables and sat with their customers to talk. They hired Amish and Mennonite youth to work in their restaurant alongside adults of all ages. All of these workers were gracious and friendly. The small store at the front of the establishment kept a daily supply of fresh bakery items and homemade jams and jellies that are still unforgettable. I wish the Yoders well as they live on and est from their hard work, probably in special grandparent quarters on the family farm.

All of the food made at Yoder's in Newark, Ohio was made from scratch with fresh ingredients. About 50 miles to the west in Plain City, Ohio the Der Dutchman complex of restaurant, cafe/coffee shop bakery, and gift shop offer similar fare on a larger scale. Many of the delightful dishes at Yoders and Der Dutchman are enjoyed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the Amish household, their preparations begun early in the midnight morning.

Amish Christmas food is the same as that of the Eastern Ohio farms of my great grandparents and grandparents in the 1800s. Fresh bread and cinnamon buns or bread-braids, yeast rolls and biscuits, bread puddings, cakes, and pies. Apple butter and homemade jam and jellies are stars on the table as well. Homemade noodles with mashed potatoes and either chicken or beef on top, covered with gravy, is a favorite meal.

Cookies from family recipes are big at Christmas among the Amish. As a boy, my father would receive a Christmas stocking filled with an apple, an orange, some walnuts, and a few candies; but the Amish receive more than that. Besides a huge meal on Christmas Day, Amish children have new board games or a few new toys from commercial stores, well-made handcrafted new clothing, but no electronics. Computers and iPods would be distracting from better things in life and cause strife. My father, of course, never had an iPod or a television, but he did build crystal radio sets as a boy.

Christmas Apples


Johnny Appleseed's Influence

Apples are a major food item on Amish farms, because Johnny Appleseed provided them to the states of Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana as he planted seed and grew orchards that he gave away to good caretakers.

My grandmother made apple butter as many Amish have done - in a large iron kettle over a backyard fire. They have all preserved produce as well, in pickles, relishes, chutneys, jams and jellies, and pie fillings as well as glass-jarred, canned vegetables. Christmas brings out all of the best dishes.

Dutch Oven No-Knead Bread - Use Glass or Iron Dutch Oven

Three Christmas Traditions

Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Second Christmas

The Amish often celebrate three days of Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, the local one-room school house hosts a Christmas pageant. The Nativity and the Christmas Story are central to this presentation, with the children reciting poetry and other performances. Music is important and the children, in grades one through eight, may sing carols and perform skits. After the show, homemade desserts and treats are offered as refreshments.

On Christmas Day, Amish families celebrate with a large meal and a little gift-giving, ending perhaps with a horse and buggy ride through the snow in the evening. Bible readings and reflection on the life and story of Christ are prominent on this day. Some homes decorate with handmade baskets in the shape of the Star of Bethlehem and with handcrafted angels.

On Second Christmas (Boxing Day in UK and Canada), Amish families often gather with friends, neighbors, and more distant relatives for fun. gift-giving might be part of this as well. Sleigh rides and ice skating may be part of the day. As seen in the top photo, the Amish children enjoy visiting non-Amish neighbors and friends and caroling for them on this day. The Amish may take their buggies past the homes of people that decorate their properties with lights and lawn displays for secular and religious Christmas. They enjoy the lights, but do not dwell on the commercial aspect of the season.

Eliminating some of the expense and hectic nature of the Christmas Season might be right for many of us as well.

An Amish community home and land.
An Amish community home and land. | Source

Christmas in Holmes County

Visit the Holmes County Area for Christmas

show route and directions
A markerMillersburg OH -
Millersburg, OH 44654, USA
get directions

B markerBerlin OH -
Berlin, OH 44654, USA
get directions

The Amish in Ontario

The Amish In Canada

An Ontario Amish Community

A markerAylmer Ontario -
Aylmer, ON, Canada
get directions

© 2012 Patty Inglish


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 17 months ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      @Happymommy2520 - And they are likely much less aggravated by political news that they do not see or hear!

    • Happymommy2520 profile image

      Amy 17 months ago from East Coast

      I am becoming more and more interested in the Amish. This was a great article. I am sure they are just as happy as us or even more so.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 3 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      There is too much to do on too many days and too much information available everywhere. Some simplicity now and then is nice. Thanks for commenting!

    • profile image

      Heather 3 years ago

      I have only just found this post. I do feel the Amish live the way so many of us could benefit and enrich our lives. There's far too much distraction which detracts far too much from our lives. Thank you for writing such an interesting and informative piece. HM

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks for your comment, grandmapearl; this type of Christmas can be very happy I think. The Finger Lakes Region of New York is gorgeous; how wonderful for you to me able to enjoy it close by!

    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Beautifully simple Christmas ideas that I can definitely wrap my head around! This reminds me of the kind of Christmas portrayed in the book "Little Women", simple and heartfelt...the best kind. There is an Amish community not very far from here in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Their food and crafts are second to none, especially the quilts. Voted this very informative article Up, Interesting, Useful and Beautiful, also pinned.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I totally agree and will probably go up at Christmas time - only about an hour and a bit more away.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 5 years ago

      Love this hub. Berlin Ohio is beautiful and the Amish are so interesting to visit.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Yes, I have seen that as well, tamron. I also like something quieter, as you do.

    • tamron profile image

      tamron 5 years ago

      I think we all would be better off living like the Amish. I hate to say it but Xmas is not my favorite time of year. X mas just something else that stresses people out.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      That's something I forgot - I've never seen a mirror in an Amish home. I've seen some with some power machinery at harvest time, rented I think. Odd to see no electric outlets in the homes, though, but kerosene lamps are nice.

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Lovely hub, Patty! I enjoyed reading about the Amish traditions and watching some of the videos. Several families of Mennonites have moved into the small town out in the country I grew up in (Arkansas), even buying my dad's house. They are very productive and helpful people, helping build things, baking wonderful foods. Although they don't have pictures or mirrors in their homes, or TV, they do have cell phones and drive cars. Interesting. Enjoyed your hub.