Amish Holidays: What Do They Celebrate?
The Amish are famous for their isolated and community-based lifestyle that emphasizes work as the way to keep a body, mind, and soul pure.
As a result, there are few days throughout the year that the Amish consider to be so holy that they decide to stop working.
However, there are some holidays that the Amish observe and / or celebrate.
In this blog, we'll discuss these major holidays and how they're observed. We'll also talk about the other holidays that the Amish don't observe and why.
First, let's start with the most important holiday in the Amish calendar.
Christmas is considered the highest holiday in Christianity, and in America, it's also taken on a large secular following.
For the Amish, they revere Christmas as the most important holiday, celebrating the birth of Christ with togetherness, feasting, and leisure.
Amish Christmas also includes the practice of gift-giving, along with religious observations like storytelling, prayer, and singing.
Many Amish communities also hold some form of church service on Christmas, some of which can be brief affairs of a few hours and others that could be all-day get-togethers with the community.
Regardless of how it's observed, Christmas is the most important holiday on the Amish calendar.
It's important to note that Christmas is so important to the Amish that many homes have two kitchens in them. This is because most Amish homes don't have electricity or modern stoves, so they require two kitchens to accommodate the demand for food on feast days like Christmas.
Despite the fact that the Amish don't observe many feast days (you can count them all on one hand), they play such an important role in Amish life that many households go dramatically out of their way to accommodate guests and feasting.
Easter — the Christian holiday celebrating the resuyrrection of Christ — is another important holiday in the Amish calendar.
Easter is celebrated in a variety of different ways. Most often, there's some form of church or community service dedicated to the Amish faith.
There may also be activities or games that Amish children can do together, including volleyball or colioring eggs.
However, concepts such as the Easter Bunny don't exist in the Amish culture.
Easter is fixed as a religious holiday, and aside from coloring eggs, it is almost entirely based in faith and community.
In addition to celebrating Easter Sunday, some Amish communities will also observe Easter Monday. On this day, nothing in particular has happened that's special — but it's observed as a day of rest following a day of celebration.
On Easter Monday, an observing Amish person wouldn't work in the same way that they don't work on the Sabbath.
They may not observe their Monday as they would a Sunday, but they'll take the time to relax to be with family or, again, community.
3. Ascension Day
Ascension Day is another Christian holiday that celebrates Jesus' physical ascension into Heaven. It's observed 40 days after Easter, which the Bible says is the time that Jesus spent on Earth after his crucifixion.
Ascension Day, in contrast to Easter, is a major feast day. Along with that comes the ubiquitous religious observation of Christ and the stories that go along with Christ.
In addition, some Amish families may observe the holiday as Catholic or other dnominations do, namely that this is the day said to be when Christ ultimately triumphed over Satan and, by extension, all evil.
Ascension Day may be one of the days that an Amish household needs to use its second kitchen, similar to Christmas, but the day itself may also be reserved for smaller families or communities that otherwise don't need the extra food for their feast.
4. New Year's Eve / Day
New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are celebrated by the Amish across the board. Commonly, celebration includes a church service with hymns to sing in the new year.
New Year's Day is a fairly minor feast day on which the Amish enjoy a dish that is uniquely theirs in the United States — pork and sauerkraut.
Pork is something that's easy to keep for a long time without refrigeration. Salted pork can be harvested during the autumn and successfully kept (or even aged) throughout the winter.
Sauerkraut is the same way. Sauerkraut is the name for pickled cabbage, which, because of the pickling process, can be preserved for months on end.
As a result, the Amish enjoy pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day because there's nothing to harvest fresh. Instead, they enjoy what they've stored away for the winter until it becomes planting season again.
Pork and sauerkraut is now considered a ubiquitous food for many areas that have an Amish population, including Lancaster, PA. Even the non-Amish of the region could enjoy pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day because it's an area tradition.
Interestingly, this makes pork and sauerkraut a cultural gift that's come from the Amish to the rest of the country. While pork and sauerkraut are both eaten in Europe, it's not a common dish in the United States.
This is why you tend to only find it in areas with an Amish population.
While other American cultures (including the mainstream) change over time, the Amish are so resolutely dedicated to tradition that they've saved the dish of pork and sauerkraut from their time in Germany, France, and Switzerland centuries ago.
Despite the fact that the Amish primarily celebrate religious holidays, there's one major secular holiday that they've adopted — Thanksgiving.
Amish Thanksgiving is celebrated in the same way as secular Americans celebrate it. There's a big feast, time with family, and a day off of work.
While "a day off" may not sound like a lot for modern America, it's an enormous deal to the Amish who typically work six days each week. An extra day off is a welcome mini-vacation, during which time the Amish can enjoy the company of one another without concerns about things that have to be done.
Instead, they can cook a large meal and enjoy their communities.
Thanksgiving, like Christmas, is also a day that may require a second kitchen for some Amish households. On this day, the homeowners would make use of both the first and second kitchen to ensure that the food is prepped and hot for Thanksgiving dinner, including turkey, potatoes, gravy, and other classic inclusions.
Do the Amish Celebrate "Saint" Days?
It's a near-100% safe bet that no Amish celebrate "Saint" holidays.
By "Saint" holidays, we're referring to days like Saint Michaels Day, All Saints Day, and others.
The reason Amish don't celebrate these days is that they're not Catholic. The Amish don't have saints, and they're ideologically removed from Catholicism in many ways.
So while the Catholic Church may have days to observe saints, the Amish do not.
It's also unlikely that any Amish individual would make the choice to observe any "Saint" holiday because they don't believe in saints as a concept.
In the Amish view, purity of soul comes through work and penance before God. It does not include concepts like miracles or public proof of the divine.
Instead, the Amish focus on themselves as individuals, congregations, families, and community — always with faith at the center of their celebrations.
Do the Amish Celebrate Secular Holidays?
Aside from Thanksgiving, no. The Amish generally take their holidays directly from the Bible (or their interpretation of it) as opposed to anything celebrating a country or heroic cultural figure.
However, as the Amish begin to mesh a little bit more with non-Amish in areas like Lancaster, PA, this is starting to change.
It's now fairly common to see Amish individuals attending public or community festivals dedicated to holidays like the Fourth of July.
Commonly, the Amish don't observe Memorial Day or Veterans' Day because of its association with the military. The Amish are pacifists and non-violent, so they don't endorse any level of military service culturally (though there are individual exceptions). This belief is so profound that the Amish don't grow mustaches because German officers used to grow them as a sign of office hundreds of years ago.
Minor secular holidays, like Arbor Day, may be known in some Amish communities, but they're not celebrated with any level of cultural reverence. Typically, they're not even observed.
Finally, commemorative holidays or "for-fun" holidays are non-existent in most Amish communities. These include some of the goofier or office-oriented holidays, like Kiss a Ginger Day, Science Fiction Day, and National Maple Syrup Day.
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