Amish Christmas Traditions – Step Inside an Amish Household

Guest Post by Lovina Eicher; with Sour Cream Cut-Out Cookies Recipe

We are delighted to share these reflections by Lovina Eicher, popular columnist and cookbook author, who has been writing Lovina’s Amish Kitchen syndicated newspaper column for us since July, 2014. Enjoy! And a blessed, peaceful, and simpler Christmas from your friends at MennoMedia.

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Christmas Day is only days away. Daughter Lovina, 10, and son, Kevin, 9, are keeping track of exactly how many days. Every morning they mark off another day on the calendar. Oh, to be so young and carefree, with only worries such as how many days there are until Christmas!

Lovina and Kevin will both be in the elementary school Christmas program on Thursday evening. Next year Lovina will be a fifth grader and in middle school. This is her last Christmas program and Kevin has only next year—unbelievable! My husband Joe and I used to sit in the audience with the little ones while our older children were in the program. Now the six oldest children are back in the audience sitting with us, and our two youngest children are in the program.

On Friday the school will only have a half day of school. Lovina and Kevin’s classes are having a gift exchange. Kevin is so worried that he doesn’t have his gift wrapped yet. I want to make snacks for their party, and he reminds me every evening not to forget.

We were disappointed to hear that our children’s bus driver, Rich, has quit driving the bus route. He was a great bus driver to our children for almost eleven years. Daughter Loretta, 14, with her handicap needs more time to walk out to the bus and to get up the steps. Rich was always very patient and caring. So far they have had only a substitute driver, but the children are hoping the next bus driver will be like Rich was. We wish Rich well at his new job.

Joe will have his forty-sixth birthday on Monday, December 22. I want to have a birthday supper in his honor but am undecided yet which night to have it.

On Sunday the women in our church all decided what each one of us would bring to the annual Christmas potluck. I plan to take a large roaster with a pasta casserole. The potluck will be after our next church services, which will be on Dec. 28.

Joe and I will have our family Christmas on Christmas Day. The children usually want to open their presents before they eat, so we usually end up having a brunch. May we always remember the true meaning of Christmas. Jesus is the reason for the season!

I wish all of you readers a joyous Christmas that brings blessings of peace and hope now and through the coming year 2015. May each of you stay healthy and enjoy being with family and friends through the holiday season. And most importantly, let us thank our Heavenly Father for bringing Jesus our Savior into the world so that our sins can be forgiven. Blessed wishes to all!

Here is a favorite recipe for sour cream cut-out cookies. We like this recipe to make Christmas cookies.

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Sour Cream Cut-Out Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons vanilla
3 1/2–4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

Frosting:

1/3 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar, divided
1/2 cup milk
food coloring (optional)
colored sprinkles (optional)
chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Stir in the eggs, sour cream and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and baking soda in a medium bowl, and stir with a whisk to blend. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and stir until it forms soft but firm dough. Roll the dough out to a 1/2-inch thickness on a floured surface. Use your favorite cookie cutters to cut out the dough. Place the shapes on the prepared pan.

Bake until golden brown around the edges, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan for 5 minutes. Then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

To make the frosting: Cream the shortening, vanilla and 1 cup powdered sugar. Gradually add the milk and the rest of the powdered sugar, beating constantly. More powdered sugar can be added to make a thicker icing. Food coloring can also be added. Spread the frosting on the cooled cookies. Decorate with colored sprinkles or chocolate chips if desired.

Lovina Eicher is an Old Order Amish writer, cook, wife and mother of eight. Formerly writing as The Amish Cook, Eicher inherited that column from her mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, who wrote from 1991 to 2002. Readers can contact Eicher at PO Box 1689, South Holland, IL 60473 (please include a self-addressed stamped envelope for a reply) or at LovinasAmishKitchen@MennoMedia.org.

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If you know of a newspaper who might enjoy Lovina’s weekly recipes and slice of life from inside an Amish home, let us know!
 Contact editor@lovinasamishkitchen.com

SnowFort

A show fort Lovina’s children made!

Lovina’s Amish Kitchen Facebook Page Hits 1000 Likes & More

Several months ago Amy Gingerich, our editorial director, told you about Lovina’s Amish Kitchen–our new venture syndicating newspaper columnist Lovina Eicher. (She had previously written for 12 years as The Amish Cook, handled by a different syndicate.)

So in a step of faith, we launched her new column in July, started a website for it, and began a Facebook page and Twitter account. It is so curious and fascinating to personally use some of the newest media and technologies available while working alongside a writer who writes by gaslight and pen and paper. (I know, there are things lots newer than Twitter, but we’re running as fast as we can to keep up!)

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We’ve been buoyed and excited to see the growth of Lovina’s Facebook page for the column. Some of her friends with access to technology keep her a bit in the loop, so even though she does not engage directly through these electronic media, she knows what’s going on, responds to letters sent to her with a self-addressed stamped envelope, and is deeply grateful for the outpouring of support.

This past Monday the Facebook page for Lovina’s Amish Kitchen passed 1000 likes, which is a nice big marker. When Amy sent word to Lovina to let her know about the 1000 likes, she was extremely gladdened as well. It is amazing because we have not done anything special to promote the Facebook page: we have not purchased ads, have not run contests, have not begged people to like it (other than when it first launched, a few staff sent the typical “suggested likes” to some friends). It has grown organically, one “like” at a time.

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Can you spot the dog? Izzy, the Eicher family pet, celebrates 1000 FB likes in the autumn leaves.

Curious, we posted a little poll on Facebook. Some 46 people responded to this question:

We love that this Facebook page is growing very fast and are curious as to how you find it. Comment please? 1. From a newspaper where you now read Lovina’s column 2. From the website for Lovina’s Amish Kitchen 3. Just from being a longtime reader/fan 4. When a friend of yours likes the page or shares it 5. Random — you don’t know

Here is how people responded:

  1. From a newspaper where you now read Lovina’s column – 6 2. From the website for Lovina’s Amish Kitchen – 7 3. Just from being a longtime reader/fan – 11 4. When a friend of yours likes the page or shares it – 7 5. Random — you don’t know – 2

Of course some of these “stock” answers did not fit all situations so there were these additional categories that I grouped together.

  1. Searching online – 4 7. Came up on Facebook – 11 8. All of the above – 1 9. Other – 1

The fact that many are longtime fans (and some listed multiple numbers for their response) did not surprise me. Many had previously followed Lovina’s mother’s column. (Before Lovina wrote as The Amish Cook, her mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, was the author of that column.) What did surprise me was that her page came up as a suggestion on Facebook. Like I said, we did not buy ads or sponsor the suggestions, so apparently the algorithms connected to people already liking other Amish-related Facebook pages caused the suggested “like” to show up.

To read the actual comments from fans, you can like Lovina’s Amish Kitchen Facebook page and go to October 24. You’ll find some fun and interesting comments, including from friends, relatives, neighbors. My favorite was a comment from Cherie Kreutziger:

“Always used to see her column on another Amish site … used to race home from work to read her letter and see the recipe. When I didn’t see it, I was rather upset. LOVE it … thank you for getting her on the net and sharing on Facebook. Now I can visit her website each and every day and reread maybe what I didn’t see the 1st time. Thanks again. God bless.”

While we run two other Facebook pages with over 1000 likes (this morning MennoMedia has 1768 and Third Way has 1123), Lovina’s has grown the fastest and we hope and trust the trend will only continue. (If you’ve joined Facebook, we appreciate you liking these pages as well. It’s one small free thing you can do to help support this ministry!)

Why go on about this? What does the popularity of this column and Facebook page say about our culture’s fascination with the simple and hardworking life of our cousins in the Anabaptist faith tradition? Is it our yearning for simplicity, faith, values, family? All of the above? What do you detect?

At MennoMedia and our book imprint Herald Press, we don’t see ourselves jumping on a recent bandwagon. Over the years, we have published dozens of titles relating to Amish, plain, and conservative Anabaptist groups, helping people understand and interpret this precious and Christian heritage. Just last week one of our editors, Valerie Weaver-Zercher, wrote about our newest book series, Plainspoken, but before that there were many other titles. Below is just a sampling of them.

Novels:

Children’s books:

Cookbooks:

  • Amish Cooking (no longer in print)

Nonfiction and memoir:

Lovina’s columns really function as a letter from home. In our society, that’s almost a relic. Will your children have letters from you? Lovina’s columns all end with a recipe—the promise of a good home-cooked dish or treat. Will your children have memories of home-cooked dishes you served?

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Lovina’s column hits on two basics of our stock in trade: faith and food. I wouldn’t want to live without either. Would you?

P1050565Melodie Davis, author of Whatever Happened to Dinner?, editor, columnist

Amish Reality

I recently came across a book cover—albeit a spoof—for Amish vampire kittens in outer space.

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While it may seem farfetched, there are an awful lot of crazy Amish tie-ins these days. It seems that everyone wants to tell the reality-TV, sci-fi, or romance-novel version of the Amish story.

But at MennoMedia we have been offered the opportunity to help Amish writers tell their own stories for a change. Through conversation prompted by one such published Amish writer, we were eager to begin syndicating a weekly newspaper column called Lovina’s Amish Kitchen.

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Lovina Eicher, author of a long-running and well-loved column about her Amish life, is working with us to start a new column syndicated by MennoMedia, Lovina’s Amish Kitchen.

Lovina is an Old Order Amish writer, cook, wife, and mother of eight. Formerly writing as The Amish Cook, Lovina inherited that column from her mother, Elizabeth Coblentz, who wrote from 1991 to 2002.

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Through Lovina’s Amish Kitchen, Lovina will continue to connect weekly with her huge base of readers and fans. And she will continue the tradition of reaching readers with dispatches and recipes from her Amish home.

Lovina’s winning combination of tasty family recipes and writings about her daily life and faith as an Amish mother, wife, and cook have earned her a loyal audience with thousands of readers across the United States.

Each weekly column opens with about a 600-word reflection on the events of her household, community, and church district, and concludes with a favorite family recipe. She will follow this format weekly. Total column length is between 700-750 words. The rate for the column depends on a newspaper’s circulation, and we are open to hearing from any newspapers in your area who might be interested in such a column! This is not our first venture into syndicating a newspaper column. Perhaps you already read the long-running Another Way newspaper column by our staff member Melodie Davis, which has been syndicated since 1987.

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We at MennoMedia are honored to work with Lovina in bringing her authentic Amish voice to both her loyal readers, and also readers who have not yet discovered her work. We are confident that Lovina’s Amish Kitchen, with its homespun Amish wisdom and hearty recipes, will greatly appeal to readers and give people a glimpse into authentic Amish living.

Lovina’s Amish Kitchen just launched July 1, and a new column will be posted online every Friday afternoon (after running earlier in the week in newspapers). Here is the recipe for sugar cookies in her first column:

Sugar Cookies

  • 4 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups lard (or use 1 cup margarine, softened, and 1 cup lard)
  • 3 cups buttermilk or sour milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 9–10 cups flour (just enough that you can handle dough)

Mix all ingredients except flour. Gradually add flour, mixing well. Chill dough for a few hours or overnight. Drop by teaspoon on a greased cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes or until bottom is golden. When cool, frost if desired.

You can read more about Lovina and her new column at her website, or find her on Facebook or Twitter! You may be interested to know that she writes her columns with pen and paper and mails them to us. We then get them ready for electronic publishing. She is happy to correspond with readers who write to her at the Post Office box given at the website and elsewhere.

Amy Gingerich

Amy Gingerich, editorial director