I'm deeply involved in Christmas preparations right now, as I'm sure you are. Gifts to buy and then wrap, decorations to be put up, cookies and special holiday treats to bake, and Christmas parties and dinners, enough to send an introvert like me into hiding!
We'll have fourteen people around our Christmas dinner table--but that is nothing compared to the numbers when an Amish family gathers for their holiday celebration. Because of the large families and the fact that extended families typically live close to each other, a Christmas family gathering might have sixty or eighty people!
Usually that large family gathering is not held on Christmas Day. Instead, celebrations are spread over a longer period. Some families might have their get-together on Second Christmas, the day after Christmas which is usually reserved for visiting friends and relatives. Other might choose to have a family celebration on New Year's, or some other day that works well for the entire family.
As for that gift list of mine, which sometimes seems to be getting out of hand-- The Amish give gifts to each other during the holidays, but they are typically small items, often something that is handmade for the recipient to treasure. Most Amish schools have a gift exchange, and in areas where home schooling is more popular, the children who are home-schooled might get together and exchange names for a holiday party. And of course, the teacher must receive a gift--again, usually something handmade or baked.
Most Amish do not take their children to see Santa, although some do, depending upon the particular community, and Santa doesn't leave presents under a tree, since there is no tree. But it's common for children to receive small gifts on Christmas morning, followed no doubt by other gifts as they visit, or are visited by, their grandparents.
The fact that they don't put up a tree doesn't mean that there are no signs of Christmas in an Amish household. Here in Pennsylvania, with our strong Pennsylvania Dutch traditions, it's common to see greens and candles in the house as the season approaches. The children may pounce on every Christmas card that arrives, eager to add it to a string or tape it to a door frame so that everyone can enjoy it each time they pass.
The school Christmas program is a huge part of the celebration in Amish communities which have their own schools. The children spend excited weeks preparing for the presentation, which is done in English. Teachers may spend even more time, collecting the poems, readings, and songs which the children will learn! The poems and readings focus on the meaning of the season, often stressing the importance of having an attitude of thankfulness and the joy of doing for others. By the time every scholar's parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, and other relatives file into the one-room school, it's crowded with an uncritical audience ready to enjoy every minute of the program, even the occasional error or forgotten line!
And what would Christmas be without baking? Most families have their special Christmas cookie traditions, and during the days and weeks before the holiday, the house is filled with those special aromas which say Christmas in any language.
Wishing you all the joy and peace of the season,