Christmas season — a time of blessings, business, and, of course, a time of celebration. For some of you it may even be a time of heartache who have gone through a pain-filled separation from a loved one.
In contemplating Christmas I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if only I could step back 2,000 years and take a peek inside that barn in ancient Bethlehem. What did Jesus look like, laying in a crude little manger? It was probably lined with hay or straw instead of baby blue blankets that smell like fabric softener. What did that barn smell like anyway? If the innkeeper told them he doesn’t have any room for them obviously the occupants donkeys or camels had to be in the barn. Even though I have always loved animal and farms I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have a barn as a birthing room. Undoubtedly the glory of God was in their midst on that night over 2,000 years ago giving them grace for every need.
Imagine the lullabies being the bleating of sheep, the cooing of doves, or the noisy hee-haws of donkeys. As a little girl I loved playing in the barn where we kept our pony, milk goats, and buggy horse (when they weren’t in the pasture). We’d spend hours out there playing with our baby kittens or romping in the hay. My brothers and I once got this brainstorm of sleeping out there but then when it came down to actually doing it, it never actually happened.
As you’re probably familiar with, we don’t have Christmas lights, trees, or Santa as a part of our Christmas celebration. We have our own way of observing the holiday. Some Amish exchange gifts while others do not. Mom’s side of the family exchanges some gifts, while dad’s side exchanges gifts only on birthdays. I liked the idea my cousin recently shared with me. Instead of exchanging gifts they began filling shoeboxes with toys and hygiene products for children all over the world who are less fortunate. They then send it to an organization called Samaritan’s Purse which distributes the shoeboxes.
Christmas Day is always a highlight around here. We enjoy a good square meal or what we call an “Amish meal” of mashed potatoes, gravy, some kind of meat such as chicken or meatballs, noodles, salad and Jell-O, pie and ice cream, shared with family and friends and followed by visiting, playing games, singing Christmas songs and simply having a day of celebration together. As a child I always liked it when adults joined us for a game of Probe, Uno or Rummikub.
This year Christmas happens to be on a Sunday so we’ll celebrate the day together as a church. After church services we’ll have a carry-in lunch where each of us ladies furnish a dish. The afternoon is what I look forward to the most, which is when we’ll have a time of singing Christmas songs together.
The youth, most who range in age from 16 to 25, will share a short program of poems and songs. The school children will take their turn doing the same. A time of talking and listening will also be held for anyone who may have an inspiration to share.
Finger foods, snacks, and candies will be served afterwards. Julia and I will probably make our butterscotch cracker candy to serve. I fondly remember my mother making this candy when I was a little girl at home. We children could hardly wait until it was cooled and ready to eat. Candy making and Christmas go hand in hand for many of us. Daniel’s family especially enjoyed making candy during this season. In fact, he recalls his dad and sister Mary being the ones who initiated candy making on Christmas Day.
GLORIA’S GRAHAM CRACKER CANDY
Layer a rimmed 11 by 17 cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Put a single layer of saltine or graham crackers side by side (with four sides touching one another) on parchment paper. Bring the following mixture to a rolling boil:
1 cup butter (for crunchier crackers, use only half cup)
1 cup brown sugar
Spread mixture on top of crackers.
Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and sprinkle with 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips. Let set a few minutes and then spread melted chips with a butter knife. Cool and break into sized pieces of your choice. Enjoy and have a Merry Christmas.
Readers with culinary or cultural questions or stories can write Gloria directly at Gloria Yoder, 10568 E. 350th Ave., Flat Rock, IL 62427-2019. To see more on the Amish go to www.amish365.com.