Amish Christmas: An Inside Look

Christmas is a special time of year for most Americans, and this is especially true for those living in Amish country.


An Amish Christmas is quite unique from holiday festivities in other parts of the country, however, as I’ve observed over many years working closely with their communities in Ohio and Pennsylvania.


First and foremost, the Amish honor the true meaning of Christmas, and their entire celebration revolves around the birth of Christ. Popular secular images, such as Santa Claus, have no place in their festivities, and decorations are kept at a minimum.


Christmas mornings in Amish communities typically begin with a scripture reading of the famous story of Jesus’ birth. The entire family gathers round for this important occasion, and the verses are then read aloud from a large family Bible.


Despite the absence of bright lights, reindeer and elves, Christmas is undoubtedly a joyous occasion for the Amish. From the young children to the elderly, the holiday is enjoyed by all throughout the household, as well as by many other visiting family members and close friends.


Amish families are commonly quite large, and they’re often spread out over several states. A good number of relatives therefore have to travel long distances for Christmas, and they arrive at the host household at different times. As a result, the celebration usually extends a day or two past December 25th, which, of course, is not a problem for the children in the house.


After their morning scripture reading, the Amish continue their celebration with a full day of activities. The children play games outside, while the youth partake in physical activities such as sled-riding and sports. Meanwhile, the adults visit and enjoy one another’s good company.


Presents are exchanged between friends and family members. The Amish put great thought and effort into these gifts, which, for the most part, are practical items and are usually given according to the need of the recipient.


As you might expect, the celebration is highlighted with an extravagant feast. The Amish work long days preparing this meal, and it includes a wide variety of savory meats, delicious mashed potatoes, tasty dinner rolls, fruits and vegetables, and of course, gravy! There’s also no shortage of delightful cakes, cookies and pies.


As I mentioned earlier, the true meaning of Christmas is always at the forefront of the festivities for the Amish. An important aspect of their celebration is known as “Old Christmas.”


This tradition, which is not well known or celebrated among the English, is recognized by the Amish as the day on which the three wise men presented gifts to the baby Jesus. Precisely 12 days after the birth of Christ, it is observed on January 6th.   Amish businesses are not open on this day, and other than a few daily chores, hardly any work is done at all. The day normally begins with fasting, and gifts are not exchanged. Later that evening, however, family members and friends will sit down to a large meal, not unlike the Christmas day feast.


As you might expect, Christmas is a very busy time of year for the Amish. This rings particularly true for furniture makers, who typically work longer hours during this season. In fact, the weeks leading up to Christmas are the busiest time of year for those in the furniture-making industry. Amish woodworkers are steadily churning out their widely renowned hand-crafted pieces, such as those you can find on our site at


After putting in some exceedingly long work days during this busy time, it’s quite common for Amish wood shops to close their doors for a week, or possibly two, after Christmas. This much needed break allows shop owners and their employees to enjoy some well-deserved family time.


Like most of their English contemporaries, Christmas is a joyous occasion for the Amish people. The elimination of secular images from their celebration sets them apart, however, and the birth of Jesus is forever the focal point of this most special of holidays.


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