Home for the Holidays

15 comments Posted on November 8, 2013

by Vannetta Chapman

I love the holidays, love seeing family members, and adore celebrating—fall festivals, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and of course New Years! There’s good food and my favorite people. What’s not to love?

Oh, yeah. There’s the stress of an overbooked calendar, the exhaustion from trying to do everything, and the strain on my budget for expenses I didn’t anticipate. So what is a girl to do? Become a recluse? Stumble my way through for one more year and hope that next year will be calmer? Put the dates on slips of paper, stick them into a box, and only choose one? I suppose any of these things might help some. Maybe there’s an easier way though. Maybe there’s a simpler way.

Over the course of writing my last 8 Amish books, I’ve had the chance to meet quite a few Amish folk—to share a cup of coffee, visit their homes, even enjoy a meal together. Theirs is not a perfect life. Yes, I know. It seems that way in some of the books we read and some of the television shows we watch. But in truth, they struggle with many of the same problems we have. However, I’ve yet to meet an Amish person who experienced the kind of holiday stress that many of us endure.

ChristmasQuiltIn my newest release, The Christmas Quilt, I once again returned to Pennsylvania and the holiday season. I put my characters in very traumatic situations—both physically and financially, but when I listened to that still small voice—the voice of experience and research, I found that their reaction was different than mine. Why? And how? And can I learn from it? I think so. Here’s a few things I learned while writing this story.

1.    The Amish holiday centers around their faith and their family. This is easy to say, but a bit harder to do. Those Friday-after-Thanksgiving sales are so tempting! We could try pulling back a little though. If an activity is not centered around the people you love, or the faith you profess, just say no. I’m sure they are good activities, but there is only so much of you to go around—so save yourself for the things that matter most.

2.    Ease up on the gift-giving. We give gifts for two reasons—because we love people and because we feel like we should. Put those reasons together and you have Pressure. How about we take that pressure off? The Amish do give gifts—each person receives one or two, and they are usually practical things: a new tool belt for the construction worker, fabric for the quilter, a tablet and drawing pencils for the teenager. We can’t possibly find the perfect gift for every person, but we can give from the heart and keep it simple.

3.    What about those meals? The Amish are well known for their barn-raisings, their work-ins, their willingness to come together as a community. There’s always a lot of food too, but what you won’t find is one person attempting to create the perfect meal. I spoke with a sweet woman in Shipshewana, Indiana. She had 42 grandchildren, and they all come over for lunch every Sunday. I asked her how she cooked for so many, and she laughed and said, “I don’t. Everyone brings something and we eat casseroles, cold ham, fresh bread, etc.” Smart! I don’t where this idea of the perfect meal came from—perhaps Norman Rockwell—but it’s time to realize the important thing is being with those we love, not what we set out on the table to eat.

4.    The Christ-child. I firmly believe the Amish are more able to focus on the true meaning of Christmas because they do not have all of the distractions that we have. No television. No computer. No iPhone. (Okay, some of the teens have phones, but they’re kept in the barn … where they do not constantly interrupt with their text or call or message.) The reason the Amish don’t have these distractions is because they’ve made the choice not to have them. We can do the same—even if it’s only for an afternoon or a Christmas morning. We don’t have to have the constant blare of the television and it’s okay if we don’t post on Facebook for one day. Perhaps if we choose to say no to these things occasionally, we could better appreciate the Child who was born in Bethlehem.

5.    Allow yourself some down-time during the holidays. In The Christmas Quilt, Annie and Leah are sent to a hospital in Philadelphia. They are sent to wait the birth of Leah’s children. During that time they quilt, and they focus on the blessings of their lives. It’s not the holiday they planned, but it’s the one they have—and so they make the best of it. Allow yourself time to rest and reflect and thank the Lord for the things you have this holiday season.

I love the holidays, and I love being at home. Our children are now grown, and when they come to visit it’s a special time. I forget about the deadlines, turn off the television and spend time with them. We play board games or take a walk with the grand-dog. We might order a pizza instead of cooking a fancy dinner. Home for the holidays … it’s something I look forward to all year. I hope yours is filed with blessings, peace and the love of our Father.

Vannetta Chapman is the author of several novels, including A Promise for Miriam and Falling to Pieces. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace in Albion, Pennsylvania. Vannetta is a 2012 Carol award winner and a multi-award-winning member of Romance Writers of America. She was a teacher for 15 years and currently resides in the Texas Hill country. For more information, visit her at www.VannettaChapman.com.

Discussion…

  • 11/09/2013
    Sandy Rutkowski said:

    Beautifully written, Vannetta. Simplifying the Holidays is what we all need to do. Thank you for the reminder.

  • 11/09/2013
    Patrick E. Craig said:

    Vannetta,
    When I was a child, Christmas meant family. Our focus was being with the ones we loved. My mother used to put on a Christmas eve party where each child got to invite one special friend. Then at midnight my aunt would take us to the Episcopal church for Christmas Eve service. I remember the crunch of my shoes in the new-fallen snow and the lights shining through the stained glass windows. On Christmas day we would have our tree and then in the afternoon we would load in the car and go to my aunt’s for Christmas dinner. When I think back over my life, those times were the simplest and most memorable. I think that’s the one thing that draws people to Amish stories – the simplicity, the caring and the focus on home, family and God.

  • 11/09/2013
    Carolyn Jefferson said:

    The hoildays are fun, meals, gifts, family,but JESUS is the Reason for the Season.

  • 11/09/2013
    chris granville said:

    Simplify is absolutely great
    Wonderful article you wrote
    If you get a chance please read this blog too
    God bless you
    Chris Granville
    kathleenlmaher.blogspot.com

  • 11/09/2013
    Sandi Ansell said:

    There were eight children in our family. My dad was a coal miner and a minister on Sundays. We didn’t have much, but I grew up thinking we were the wealthiest people in the world. We had something money couldn’t buy–a sense of love and the knowledge that Jesus was the most important presence in our home. Many times on Christmas Eve we’d pack into the car and go to the County Home where we’d sing and Dad would dress up like Santa and hand out candy canes. I love the memories of Christmas’ past and I truly enjoy creating those kinds of memories for my grandchildren. I am in awe of what Christmas truly is and rejoice in the chance to celebrate it each year.

  • 11/09/2013
    Donita Corman said:

    Christmas is less stressful each year due in part to not having much family left living.The most stressful for me is getting Christmas cards out.I really miss the Christmas’s of yesteryear when my parents were living and somewhat healthy. My mom would bake and bake and then on Christmas eve the family and neighbors would come over for punch and goodies.It was a fun time had by all.Now on Christmas eve we attend church service and maybe exchange a gift or two depending on sons work schedule.Jesus is the Reason and simplify is the way to go because its all about him..

  • 11/09/2013
    Regina Turner said:

    Well written, Vanessa. I have developed the tradition of children passing the gifts and so they do learn that it is sharing. One Christmas we were sitting around the tree and said, that’s it. Time to eat. We do not turn the TV on during the time we are unwrapping gifts.Music plays, we share we are happy to be there. Plan a big dinner, but breakfast is juice and donuts for me. The girls always have it for me. But we thank each person for their present and take pictures, thus memories shared later for those not present.

  • 11/09/2013
    Connie R. said:

    Very nice, Vannetta. And a great reminder for us to focus our attention, time, and resources on the important things.

  • 11/09/2013
    Karla Hanns said:

    Great article!! Vannetta , you hit it right on!! We need to simplify our lives to enjoy the season for what it is. Celebrate the REASON FOR THE SEASON!

  • 11/09/2013
    Judy B said:

    Christmas is not stressful for me anymore since there is just the two of us. In fact, I don’t even cook a Christmas dinner for us; we go out for Chinese and a movie afterwards.

    I enjoyed your article, you were spot on!

    For those who have not read Vannetta’s book, The Christmas Quilt be sure to grab a copy. I found this book to be a great read especially when it comes to stirring your emotions. I loved it!

  • 11/09/2013
    Nancee Marchinowski said:

    I’ve read “A Christmas Quilt” and can honestly say it made quite an impact on me. I’m not going to give out any spoilers for those who may not have read the book yet. I’ve been cutting way back and “simplifying” our Christmas celebration for the past few years. I simply can’t do it all anymore, and the overwhelming anxiety and stress is not worth it. Gifts are simple and useful. Dinner is a shared experience. My daughters all bring a dish to pass, and “Mom” doesn’t get all bent out of shape! We still love to make Christmas a fun time for the little ones, but everyone else is happy to have the time relaxing together celebrating “Christ”mas! In the evening we usually end up playing games, and what is Christmas without watching “A Christmas Story” at least a dozen times!

  • 11/10/2013
    Lorri said:

    Great article V. Most often times people put material things above whet is really important and end up totally stressed. Personally, I’m trying to put things away that are minor and focus on the more important things.

  • 11/10/2013
    Vera Godley said:

    Vannetta, as usual you have written beautifully and addressed a much needed subject – the holidays. As for the grand meal, yes our family and my mothers all expected and got a grand meal all prepared by chief cook – Mom. But now, we share the responsiblity and love to see what each brings.

  • 11/10/2013
    Linda McFarland said:

    Well written piece Vannetta. It deserves a big AMEN! I think keeping things simpler does make the holiday more meaningful. Less is more! Our family gathering is small but we enjoy just being together. Loved The Christmas Quilt! Keep up the good work & have a blessed Christmas!

  • 11/11/2013
    Vannetta Chapman said:

    Thank you all of your comments. What wonderful memories you have shared! May we pass these special moments on to our children and grandchildren …

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