Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Balancing the Meaning of Christmas


     Simplicity and Christmas seem to be nonexistent to most of us 'English' folks (what the Amish call the non-Amish.)
      After all, unlike the "Plain folk,' we spend lots of time and money on gifts. Santa Claus tends to overshadow the Christ Child. Children tend to expect more elaborate and costly presents these days...iPads, computer games, sneakers that glow in the dark, Kindles, iPhones, etc. The media touts such items as ones we can't do without. Our society has gradually become dependent on a good Christmas buying season to stabilize the economy. We see Christmas decorations and gifts appear in stores as early as Ootober along with Halloween candy.

       We might not be able to change much of the gift giving craze and commercialism of Christmas, but we can look beyond that and become mindful of what the many Amish already know and practice. CHRISTmas is about CHRIST. Not gifts, the clothes we wear that day, the parties we attend, the decorations and twinkling lights on our trees, or even the food.
       While all of that adds to the merriment of the season and is part of a tradition for many, we can, like the Amish, incorporate more of Jesus into it all.
        Sure, an electric train is nice under the Christmas Tree, but so is a Nativity set. Note: Amish do not have Christmas trees.
   
    Gift cards are rampart, although practical for lots of us.  But for those closest to us, it would be special if we made something with a personal touch. A scrapbook, a birdhouse, cookies, or whatever we do best.
        And we can certainly take a lesson from the Amish when it comes to the importance of balancing Christmas devotions with fun and festivities. They
have First Christmas on the 25th and Second Christmas on the 26th. The 25th is for focusing on the birth of Jesus and it is a solemn day of prayer and reflection. Some even fast on Christmas morning. Second Christmas is for a grand meal, exchanging practical and/or handmade gifts, and having fun with friends and family. No big bucks on wrapping paper and adornments on packages for the Amish. Simple brown paper will do.
     The Children's school Christmas program is another favorite. Every Amish child is taught that Christmas is about the birth of Christ, and their activities are focused on that fact, even in the gaiety of it all.
      Some Amish don't decorate at all, while the more liberal sects add some greenery to the home and candles in the windows (to welcome the Christ child.)
      We can simplify Christmas more to what it's really about, than what it's grown to be nowadays. As well as balance our activities so that the true meaning of Christmas remains the focal point of our celebration. Each of us can incorporate 'Christ' into Christmas in our own way...such as the aforementioned Nativity set. Story books and/or coloring books about the birth of Jesus for the children. Attending a Christmas church service. Saying a Christmas prayer before our festive dinner. Having a grab bag for gifts and then each person makes something for the person they pick.Choosing Christmas cards that convey the meaning of Christmas, rather than 'Holiday Wishes.'
       While food is one of the highlights of most Christmas celebrations, it is the same with the Amish. They usually have baked chickens or turkey, lots of sides dishes and great desserts. Here are a few recipes you might like to add to your Christmas table...

Amish Slaw
     8 servings 
1 medium head of cabbage, cored and shredded
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 carrot shredded (optional)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. prepared mustard
3/4 cup vegetable oil

In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage, onion, and 1 cup sugar. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, salt, celery seed, 1 teaspoon white sugar, mustard and oil. Bring to a boil, and cook for 3 minutes. Cool completely, then pour over cabbage mixture, and toss to coat. Refrigerate overnight for best flavor.

 

Baked Chicken



1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons paprika                              
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
3 teaspoons salt
3 pounds cut-up broiler or young chicken
1/4 pound butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix the dry ingredients well in a plastic bag, then coat the cut up chicken parts with the mixture.

Melt the butter in a 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Place the chicken parts in the pan, but do not crowd them. Bake the chicken for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until done. Turn chicken once or twice during baking.

Good Reads for Christmas Time: 











 And of course: 
  Luke 2:1-20
 
Whatever you cook, however you celebrate, some of the Amish traditions of balancing the meaning of Christmas with the festivities might prove to be truly special.

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