Both December 23rd and Christmas Eve were mild days, not bright with sunshine, but not clouded with gloom.
Our neighbors, Joe and Delila Yoder, invited us to attend the Amish School Christmas party held on the evening of the 23rd. . Their two older children, Elizabeth and Caroline are students at the school.
We picked up Joe, Delila and the little boys about 6:15. The schoolhouse is only a few miles away located on a side road. On arriving we wished we had thought to bring flashlights as the only illumination in the school yard was the yellow glow which spilled from the windows. The school room was lit by two lanterns of the type which have mantles and a pump device. We stumbled up steep wooden steps into a dark entry and then into the warmth of the school room. The space was very warm with heat radiating from a large wood stove. Rough wooden benches were ranged on both sides of the room---one side for the children, who were separated by sex as well as age. The Amish women took seats in the front rows of benches reserved for the "audience", the men filed into the back rows. Small children and babies were held by mothers and older sisters; occasionally one was passed back to be dandled by father.
The teacher, a young Amish girl of 15 or 16, sat nearly out of sight at a large desk burdened with wrapped packages.
A table in the corner held a large insulated carafe of coffee and a stack of styrofoam cups. We noted that several of the men entered the school carrying mugs of coffee.
After a certain amount of noise, scuffling in the entry, jostling for seats, the program suddenly began.
Children popped up and came to the front of the room for recitations. Without exception these were delivered in a monotone, scarcely above a whisper, while the performer gazed steadfastly at the floor.
There was unaccompanied singing of familiar carols and secular holiday songs. The songs were pitched quite low and while not untuneful, were sung with a strange sliding effect between notes. The last several words of each line were completely swallowed.
We were surprised to note that throughout the program, the men helped themselves to more coffee, consumed "black," and continually smoked the thin short cigars which seem to be their preference.
J. and I were seated in the back row but one, surrounded by a haze of smoke.
The children had drawn names for gift giving and when the songs and recitations were finished, apparently at some quiet signal from the teacher, one by one the children collected the gift they had brought and proudly presented it to the recipient. When the last gift had been handed out, pandimonium ensued. Paper was torn off, boxes wrenched open, treasures displayed. At this moment, the women produced huge trays of homemade sweets and buckets of popcorn which were passed up and down the rows of children and guests. There were no plates so the sugary treats were held in our warm hands.
And warm it was by then! Two of the windows were pushed open, but the warmth of wood stove and jostling bodies was intense. [It also became evident in the heat that the Amish sense of personal hygiene doesn't include the use of deodorant!]
The sweets circulated again and again, children slid through the debris of paper, the men smoked, babies began to fuss. I picked my way to the door where it was cooler.
Delila sailing by said to me, "Will you want to do this again?"
Perhaps we will--only another time I will take a flashlight and I will not wear layers of wooly tights and sweaters!
Looking to the east from the carport on December 24.
Willis the kitten helps to get in wood.
I had been outside to give the kittens a treat at about 8 p.m. All was quiet, a small wind sighing through bare branches.
At 9:30 I turned on the light outside the dining room glass door and called J. to come and see the snowfall.
This is the "burning bush" snow-covered and glowing in the light.
The nandina bends under its burden of snow.
Taken from the front window--an Amish buggy carries a family through the falling snow to a neighbor's house.
Birds at the feeder.
The juncos are appealing, plump and tidy in their charcoal grey and white suits.
The tiny red berries of the burning bush lure them close to the glass door.
Their presence provides day long interest for the pampered house cats.