Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Communication and relationships create vignettes of thankfulness

farm lane, farm field

Long lane.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I learned long ago if you want to celebrate you have to relate and communicate.

The designated time to do all three in the Unites States is upon us. Thanksgiving Day is a time to reflect on moments and people for which you are thankful, and to affectionately share that gratitude.

When a situation goes awry, or a snafu in a bond develops, it’s important that we communicate our feelings to maintain positive relationships. It just might help untangle the problem and any hurt feelings.

This Thanksgiving season I thought it appropriate to share some personal experiences I had this year that required communication to keep relationships strong. I call them vignettes of thankfulness.

“I’ll see you in six months,” the doctor told my friend Leroy. A few months earlier, Leroy had been diagnosed with a type of incurable cancer.

Amish farmstead

Amish homestead.

Leroy had decided to accept his fate, and forgo any treatments, which would only extend his life a couple of months. Instead, he relied on doctor approved vitamin supplements and his faith to carry him forward.

I could hear Leroy’s voice quiver when he called me with a medical update. He was ever so grateful for this good news of extended life. I teared up too. I was honored to have received Leroy’s good news call.

The call about a cement wall of all things had a similar ending. While I was away, a township resident had had a concrete wall poured for his new house. The problem was it was on the township right of way. As a township trustee, I was charged with getting the problem corrected.

I hated to tell Bert, a man I knew well, to move the wall. But move it he did, both efficiently and creatively.

crane, moving a cement wall

Relocating the wall.

My friend Bert used his foresight and imagination to recycle the wall. A craftsman sawed it into two pieces. A giant crane hoisted them into a new location, where they became a retaining wall. Bert seemed even more pleased than me.

“We don’t often get second chances in life,” he said. I heartily agreed. I expressed my thankfulness for Bert’s willingness to correct the mistake and giving the wall a new life. The error did not become a wall that would interfere with our good relationship.

My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our extended time in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley helping out our daughter as she coached her university’s women’s volleyball team. To those who know my wife, it was no surprise Neva worked night and day completing every day, necessary chores in our daughter’s household.

granddaughter, homework

Homework help.

While I was available, I helped our kindergartener granddaughter with her homework by listening to her pronounce letters and count numbers in both English and Spanish. For me, those were precious moments.

With our travels, Neva and I made a hard decision. We needed to sell the cute cottage my folks had built 40 years ago on a fishing lake in southeast Ohio. We asked around, but no one in the family indicated an interest in taking over the cottage.

After showing the property to some prospective buyers, our son called to say he had changed his mind. He wanted to purchase the cabin.

Neva and I were thrilled. It was the first item on our downsizing list, and our son would be the new owner. I’m pretty certain I saw my folks smiling down from heaven the day the property transferred.

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate, communicate and relate the moments and emotions for which we are grateful. These are a few of mine. What are yours?

cottage, family cottage

Our cottage.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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November’s arrival brings mixed emotions

autumn, Amish farm, Ohio's Amish country

October’s golden glow.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I always have mixed emotions whenever November rolls around. Like you, I know what it means.

After the excellent weather of October, I hate to think of what November might bring. I hope November doesn’t take offense.

I so enjoyed the string of amazing days we had during the height of the leaf looking season here in Ohio’s Amish country. Given the traffic jams I encountered, I wasn’t alone.

I cruised the back roads for calendar-worthy snapshots of the naturally painted landscapes. With the predominance of rolling hills and gentle dales, a Currier and Ives setting arose around nearly every corner. In some spots, I merely rotated to take multiple scenic photos.

The truth is I only had to step out my front door for a lovely sunrise photo. In the evening, it was the reverse. I have four seasons of brilliant sunset shots behind my Amish neighbor’s farmstead.

Once the leaves began to color this year, red, yellow, orange, gold and crimson rainbows basked in the sun for all to absorb. Stunning doesn’t begin to describe the landscapes.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Those inspiring scenes changed much too quickly for my liking, though. The colorful leaves have mostly fallen, and the dormant season is upon us. Welcome to November.

The Canada Geese fly from farm pond to harvested grain field where they glean to their gullets’ delight or some hungry hunter scares the flock to flying and honking with blasts of his 12-gauge. Given their numbers, I think the geese always win that war.

While the geese stick around, other waterfowl species wing it south. Pintails and Sandhill Cranes often lead the way. It’s a ritual that makes me smile and sad simultaneously. They’re a joy to watch, but it’s a sure sign of what weather is ahead.

I marvel at the majestic flights of all species avian. To have a Pine Siskin make a brief pit stop at your feeder brings momentary elation.

On the other hand, finding the first White-crowned Sparrow of the season checking the same feeder tells me I’d better get ready for another winter. Perhaps that is November’s ultimate purpose.

November’s fickle weather pattern is familiar by now. Its early days seem more like an October extension. A few deciduous holdouts flash the last of the lushest leaves before they drop overnight leaving only the burnished oaks to rustle in the wind.

By the month’s end, the world can suddenly change with the passing of one strong cold front. The silvery down of the milkweed seeds sail through graying skies only to be replaced the next day by the season’s first snowfall.

corn shocks, Amish farm

November’s look.

We’ve returned to standard time, accentuating November’s shorter days. It’s nature’s way of prepping us for colder, darker days to come.

In North America, we have concocted a dodgy purpose for the eleventh month. November ushers in the holiday season here in the United States. Commercially translated, it’s time to shop as if you needed a reminder.

Near month’s end, Thanksgiving rings in the festive mode and the glitzy commercials. Christmas then isn’t far behind.

October’s golden days are gone. The best we can hope for now is a late Indian summer. We’ll take it even if only lasts a day or two.

Ohio’s pleasant weather has melted away like a stick of butter on a hot griddle. It’s time to stack the firewood, put in the storm doors and enjoy a warm cup of mulled cider.

We have to face the truth. November is upon us.

November snows, Ohio

November snows in Ohio are not uncommon.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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Being grateful extends far beyond a Thanksgiving meal

prostate cancer support group, Bluemen

The Bluemen’s Group and spouses. © Martha Stutzman

By Bruce Stambaugh

The five of us men sat around the breakfast table enjoying the tasty food and each other’s company. As much as I cherished knowing these friends, and the nutritious breakfast, it was the conversation that captured my attention.

Half way through the hour-long gathering, I realized I was smiling, grateful to be included in this forthright discussion about what really matters in life. The hard, direct questions about life and death enthralled me. The frank, honest, heartfelt answers fueled the no-frills banter.

fall sunset, landscape photography, Bruce Stambaugh

November sunset. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

This was a Thursday morning, the usual bi-weekly get-together of our cancer support group, affectionately known as the Bluemen. Blue is the color for prostate cancer, and that was a common denominator of the group, save for one member.

Our host, normally a reserved, contemplative man, was passionately engaged in the meaningful discussion. By early Monday morning, he had died.

When I learned of his death, I wasn’t shocked. Deeply saddened yes, but not surprised given that intense interaction I had witnessed regarding life and preparing to die.

That precious morning, I sat and listened mostly, participating only when absolutely necessary. I was too absorbed to interrupt the flow of the dialogue’s stream.

Our friend, Bill, had joined our cancer support group for just that kind of interaction. This diminutive but gentile giant of a man wanted our companionship in his journey with prostate cancer. We gladly welcomed him.

fall colors, red tree, Bruce Stambaugh

Red tree. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

Bill immediately felt at home with us. One of the most humble individuals I had ever met, Bill easily joined in the group’s chitchat. He, like the rest of us, shared intimate details that only those with prostate cancer unashamedly reveal, even over breakfast.

At times, this quiet, simple man talked our ears off. Once he even tried to introduce politics, a violation of our unwritten protocol. We all laughed.

Though not a prostate cancer victim, Kurt joined our group because there are no living members to offer comfort for his kind of cancer. Just like Bill, Kurt held nothing back either.

Our table talk revolved around what it’s like to die, are we afraid to die, what will we miss, what will we look forward to in the afterlife? And so it went, at first monthly, then every other week when Bill had a set back a few months ago.

Bill wanted to continue to meet, so this affable man and his amazing wife invited us into their home. We ate, talked, and laughed some more. Sometimes we even shed a few tears.

barn in snow, Holmes County Ohio, Bruce Stambaugh, landscape photography

Barn in snow. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

Besides cancer, the group members were bound as one by two other mutual traits. Our common faith, and our gratitude for the life opportunities we had had, and would have made us brothers.

We had no idea of what was about to play out with Bill following that marvelous Thursday morning gathering. I was glad for the multitude of thanks expressed then for all that had come our way in life. The good far outweighed the bad, even including cancer.

Each in our close-knit group was appreciative of life, to live, to love, to be loved. That was enough, more than any of us could ever have desired.

The turkey and all the trimmings of Thanksgiving are nice. Our group’s regular sharing affirmed that being grateful means so much more than a holiday spread. The Bluemen were most thankful for the immeasurable joy, love and fellowship of devoted families and friends.

Isn’t that what Thanksgiving is really all about?

snow, black and white photo, snowy woods

Snowy woods. © Bruce Stambaaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Finding gratitude from on high

fromjeffersonrockbybrucestambaugh

The view from Jefferson Rock of the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers.

By Bruce Stambaugh

There are times when a life experience far exceeds our expectations.

I had just such an encounter recently on a junket my wife and I made to Harpers Ferry National Historic Park in extreme eastern West Virginia. This tiny, old town had played a small but important part in our country’s big history.

On a precipice 800 feet above the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, more flowed together for me than two charming waterways. I had previously seen scenic shots of historic Harpers Ferry from this vantage point in Maryland, and had fancied a few of my own. I departed with more than picturesque photos.

The beauty of the bright morning itself was stunning. I basked in the warmth of the morning sunshine looking down on history. The strengthening sun drenched the charming village in a golden wash. It was a map come alive where famous Americans had all made important imprints on our country’s checkered history.

confluencebybrucestambaugh

A Great Blue Heron preened in the morning light at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers.

The three-mile hike from Harpers Ferry to the overlook was exhilarating. A hint of haze hung above the surface of the churning rivers on the cool morning.

My goal was to arrive at the scenic overlook opposite the town as the day’s sun rose above the Appalachian foothills. I crossed the footbridge, a part of the Appalachian Trail, which paralleled the bridge of the railroad tracks. The tracks split at the town and followed the two majestic rivers, one south, the other west.

Once across the Potomac, its melodious rapids singing all the while, the Appalachian Trail followed the river and the old C & O Canal east. I walked west along the towpath to the trailhead that led up the rocky, forested hillside.

I couldn’t imagine how soldiers, Confederate and Union alike, had muscled heavy artillery up these steep slopes. Massive rock outcroppings protruded everywhere beneath the hardwood forest. The rich greens of mountain laurel and cedars complemented the coloring leaves of the mixed deciduous trees.

I arrived at the overlook in less than an hour. The view, as Thomas Jefferson once declared, “was perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in Nature.”

As I sat on the cool rocks I looked down on the spot where John Brown had made his ill-fated raid in 1859. I envisioned Jefferson, George Washington, Robert E. Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and all the others who had made their lasting marks there striding along the slanting, narrow streets.

Harpers Ferry was a strategic town in the Civil War since it housed the federal arsenal. Both armies occupied the town intermittently during the war. It was the sight of the largest surrender of United States troops in the Civil War.

Behind me birds of the forest searched for breakfast amid golden, backlit leaves. Carolina Wrens, chickadees, cardinals, robins, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches and Brown Creepers scavenged the forest floor and trees.

A Black Vulture sailed west above the Potomac just off of the cliff. A Red-shouldered Hawk, its black and white striped tail fanned out, glided east. Beneath me a freight train rumbled through the tunnel, across the bridge and whistled past the old station.

I had gone up to the sheer cliff for some pictures. I came down with a renewed spirit of gratitude for all that has transpired and will transpire in my life, in our lives.

Together we have a lot for which to be grateful this Thanksgiving.

harpersferrywvbybrucestambaugh

Harpers Ferry, WV from the Maryland Heights overlook.

© Bruce Stambaugh

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A Thanksgiving tradition comes to an end

Home by Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

For years, the extended Stambaugh family gathered as one at Thanksgiving. Not this year.

When I was a youngster, we had a rip roaring good time on Thanksgiving Day. Usually we celebrated with our cousins, the offspring of my mother and her two sisters. We would assemble at the old farmhouse of Uncle Kenny and Aunt Vivian, who we affectionately called Auntie Bibbles.

It was like Christmas before Christmas. With 17 cousins ranging from teenagers to toddlers, we relished the day together. We would play games inside and out, if the weather cooperated. I’m sure the adults privately prayed that it would.

Marvelous fragrances filled the old farmhouse from the array of good food cooking. The adults chatted while they prepared the savory meal. The family matriarch, Grandma Frith, oversaw all the action in her reserved but proud southern hospitable manner.

We occasionally had to wait on my father to arrive before we ate. Much to my mothers chagrin, Dad loved to hunt rabbits and pheasants on Thanksgiving morning. It wasn’t the hunting so much as being habitually late that drew Mom’s ire. Of course Dad has his tales to tell.

Once the meal was over and the kitchen and dishes cleaned, the adults joined in the merriment. If I remember correctly, they often raised more clamor than the kids. That’s because they were all good sports and lovingly embraced each other’s company.

Maren and Daryl by Bruce StambaughAs the families grew, the Thanksgiving tradition underwent a logical metamorphosis. Each of the three families began to celebrate the blessed day on their own. Most of the cousins were no longer children, but adults with spouses or significant others of their own. The rambunctious cousins were beginning to bear rambunctious children of their own, too.

My family would gather at the home where we were raised. Somehow we all managed to squeeze in the little brick bungalow. Realizing their place was a bit tight for the growing family, Mom and Dad added on to make more space for holiday gatherings.

Each family chipped in with their specialty dishes to make the feast complete. Roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, candied sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and, of course, pumpkin pie filled the table of plenty.

After the meal, Dad always had to turn on the Thanksgiving Day football game on the TV. No matter what else the assembled masses wanted to do, the game was part of the ritual.

Family gathering by Bruce Stambaugh

Over the years the grandchildren, as they tend to do, grew into teenagers themselves. Today, they are all mature adults, productively contributing to society, using their various skills. Some with children of their own, they are scattered geographically from New York City to Atlanta, Ga. to Chicago, Ill. to Wooster, Ohio and places in between.

For our family, for the first time for as long as I can remember, there will be no collective Thanksgiving gathering for the Stambaugh side. Our mother died last April, and Dad has been gone since Christmas 2009. I think we all made every effort to meet for them as much as for the meal. Now that need is gone.

Thanksgiving 09 by Bruce Stambaugh

This Thanksgiving the families of my four siblings and mine will each do their own things. We are all right with that. We will embrace this new transition in our lives and be thankful for the day, the memories of the past and those to come.

It just may be our new Thanksgiving tradition.

This column was published in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

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Amish show their thanks through service to community

Amish harvest by Bruce Stambaugh

During harvest, the Amish literally pitch in to help one another.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Once the floodwaters of the historic July 1969 flood had receded, the residents of Killbuck, Ohio were in shock. Homes and businesses were either destroyed or severely damaged by the record high water levels. Townspeople were ready to give up, the cleanup looked so daunting.

Then something amazing and unexpected happened. Scores of Amish and Mennonites arrived from the eastern section of the county, home to the world’s largest Amish population, to help. No one had asked them to come. They just showed up.

The volunteers waded in and did the absolute hardest, dirtiest jobs, clearing out mud and muck with no complaints. They did it all out of a basic foundation of thankfulness.

Helping in times of need affords the Amish a method of connecting with the community. It is their personal and active way of expressing their appreciation for community and country, and the cherished ability to worship freely.

Church buggies by Bruce Stambaugh

Gathering the buggies before church at an Amish home in Holmes Co., Ohio.


Amish do not normally participate in organized governmental positions. They do not take oaths, which such positions often require. Consequently, when opportunities to assist others arise, the Amish respond.

The Amish do not always wait for disaster to strike either. They are proactive in helping the less fortunate.

Donating blood is one of those opportunities. It’s not unusual for a local blood drive to collect 100 or more units every 56 days.

The Amish also show their thankfulness by helping with numerous annual benefit auctions that are held locally. A short list would include The Rainbow of Hope auction, The Ohio Mennonite Relief Sale, the Holmes County Home and the Holmes County Training Center.

Hitching rail by Bruce Stambaugh

The hitching rail at the Mt. Hope, Ohio, Auction is lined with horses and buggies on sale day.


Supporting such causes is borne of a two-fold purpose for the Amish. They recognize the importance to help those who have particular needs, and they also accept that they could possibly be in that situation themselves. They are grateful for whatever happens.

To briefly identify the purpose of the aforementioned benefits helps to understand the depth and breadth of the Amish aid. Funds from the Rainbow of Hope auction assist children with major medical bills. The Relief Sale raises funds for worldwide projects under the direction of Mennonite Central Committee.

MDS house by Bruce Stambaugh

A home damaged by Hurrican Katrina in Boothville, LA was repaired under the direction of Mennonite Disaster Service.


Amish even travel far from their geographic area to put their faith into action. After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, scores of Amish assisted in the Gulf States cleanup and reconstruction. So many helped, in fact, that Mennonite Disaster Service set up an Amish only camp where the volunteers could live according to their normal lives without the influence of distractions like television and the Internet.

Locally, the auctions for the county home and the Training Center raise operating funds. The county home has some Amish residents, and Amish make up a good percentage of the population at the Training Center, which works with developmentally challenged students and adults.

Another way of contributing to the common good for some Amish is to join the local volunteer fire department. Several area departments have Amish on their rosters as firefighters and emergency medical technicians.

True to their desire for modesty, the Amish want no recognition or publicity for their kind efforts. Their satisfaction comes from the simple act and ability to help others.

Amish help by Bruce Stambaugh

Amish quickly helped their neighbors have a severe thunderstorm hit near Charm, Ohio in July.


Of course, the iconic images of Amish helping at a barn raising are conjured up as the ideal way to help their neighbor. But their generous participation in the community and world at large clearly shows that the Amish think and act out of thankfulness far beyond their own immediate area.

To be sure, most Amish families embrace Thanksgiving as a day of joyous celebration of community, bountifulness and life itself. Even then many Amish approach the day piously, fasting in the morning prior to the feast that includes all the traditional trimmings.

The Amish mark Thanksgiving Day as a pinnacle to a lifestyle of serving. Fittingly, they would be too modest to acknowledge that fact.

Amish farm fall by Bruce Stambaugh

A typical Amish farm in the fall in Holmes County, Ohio.


This article appears in the November 2011 edition of Ohio’s Amish Country magazine.

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Thanking the people who matter

Thanksgiving by Bruce Stambaugh

Around the Thanksgiving table.


By Bruce Stambaugh

The school superintendent called him his million-dollar man. To illustrate his point, the school leader even had mock million dollar bills printed with the person’s face front and center.

The scenario played out at the beginning of this school year in the school district where I had grown up. Along with hundreds of others, I had been invited to attend the opening rally as a guest. As people entered the stadium where the ceremonies were held, each person was handed the play money.

During the 90-minute ceremony, the superintendent recognized many people in the district for their outstanding efforts. He also announced that the district had achieved the top academic awards in the state.

The summit, however, was this one man who had worked so tirelessly to reduce costs for the financially strapped district. The superintendent had calculated that this one individual had saved the district a million dollars through cost saving changes, including the installation of energy saving light bulbs. That’s what earned him the extra special notoriety.

Friends by Bruce Stambaugh

Friends.


I was duly impressed and honored to have witnessed this celebrative opening to another school year. Though I had not been a part of the district for years, I felt connected and inspired by what had transpired.

The proceedings were a reminder to me to thank those who have made a difference in my life. Of course, I realized I wouldn’t have to have play money printed up to do so. A simple word of thanks, a personalized note card, a hardy hug, would send the proper and immediate message.

Believe me, I have much for which to be thankful this year. This hasn’t exactly been the healthiest year of my life, and yet, here I am at Thanksgiving, alive and well, and forever grateful.
Neva and me by Bruce Stambaugh
A good place to start would be with my wife, who has been by my side through thick and thin. She has gone far beyond the second mile for me.

I have nothing but praise for the good doctor who removed the cancer from my body. My recovery continues. Overall, I feel great, and best of all I am cancer free.

At the same time, I can tick off person after person that I either know personally or have heard of who have not had the same results. Their illnesses or injuries remind me to be humble in my elation yet determined in my prayers for them and their families.

Window cross by Bruce StambaughStill, as the thoughtful and expressive superintendent modeled, we must not hold back in our praise of others when they accomplish great things for themselves or for the good of the community. It truly is better to give than receive.

As we approach this national holiday of thanks with its abundance of savory food and gathered family, I plan on thanking people who have made a difference in my life. I’ll tell them how much they have meant to me and how appreciative I am for their contribution to my life.

How about you? Who have been the million dollar people in your lives?

As part of celebrating this Thanksgiving, consider offering a few words of thanks to those who have helped you along your life’s path. You don’t have to print up hundreds of fake million dollar bills to show your appreciation. But you can if you want.
Fall lane by Bruce Stambaugh

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How Amish celebrate the holidays

Amish church by Bruce Stambaugh

Amish on their way to church near Mt. Hope, Ohio. Church was held in a member's home.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The Amish enjoy celebrating the holidays just as much as anyone else. They simply go about it a bit differently.

Defining how the Amish celebrate America’s most time-honored holidays deserves an introductory explanation. The Amish are divided into church groups, usually about 100 persons per church. And by church, they mean fellowship, since they hold church in their homes, shops or barns.

There are actually many different types or orders of Amish. The Swartzentruber Amish are considered to be the lowest order, with the New Order Amish the highest, since they hold Sunday school on the alternate worship Sundays.

Using the terms “lowest” and “highest” is not intended to be derogatory or even hierarchical. It simply is the way it is with the Amish. Those in between are the Old Order, by far the most numerous in among the Amish population. The orders are simply determined by rules of the church leaders.

Clearly, defining the Amish is a lot harder than their simple lifestyles might let on. Nevertheless, they all celebrate the holidays one way or another.

The key to understanding how the Amish do so lies in this understanding. You can’t generalize about the Amish. Their holiday traditions and rituals vary from family to family, church-to-church and sect-to-sect, not much different that any other culture or ethnic group.

Modesty is a major principle in the values of the Amish. That fact can be seen in exactly how the Amish keep the holidays. In living out their faith beliefs, they do so joyously surrounded by food, family and friends.

Here then is an overview of how any given Amish family, save those in the Swartzentruber order, might celebrate the holidays.

Thanksgiving

Most Amish take advantage of this national holiday just the way the rest of the country would. They gather with family, extended family and friends and enjoy turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, a vegetable and of course dessert, usually homemade pie.

However, instead of breakfast, many of the Amish fast prior to the large noon meal. Fasting is a physical sign of purification in preparation for the celebration.

The lower order Amish, however, have a different take on Thanksgiving. They see it as an opportunity to prepare for the winter months ahead. For them, Thanksgiving is the big hog-butchering day. They’ll save their substantial meal for another later.

Christmas

From the Amish perspective, anyone not Amish is considered “English.” The Amish recognize and respect the “English” demarcation of Christmas on December 25. For them, Christmas is a sacred day in honor of the birth of God’s only son, Jesus Christ. And here again, many, though not all, will fast prior to their family gathering.

Amish actually celebrate Christmas twice, once on the standard date of December 25, and again on January 6, commonly referred to as Old Christmas. In higher religions, that day is known as Epiphany.

Unlike the rest of society that celebrates Christmas, the Amish do not have Christmas trees or decorations. They will, however, burn Christmas candles in honor of the day.

After the usual Christmas meal of turkey or ham and all the trimmings, the Amish will spend the afternoon and evening away playing table games, board games and cards. None of the card games would involve using face cards.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without gifts and the Amish carry out this tradition of gift giving as well. The gifts will be wrapped, but usually nothing elaborate. Children will receive toys.

Since not all of Amish Country is Amish, the usual holiday decorations and activities occur like in the rest of Christendom. Millersburg, the Holmes County, Ohio seat,  holds a Christmas parade, Santa included, and on December 10 will initiate its first candlelight church walk from 6 to 8 p.m.

Berlin, Ohio, the hub of Amish Country, has a luminary ceremony. Even little Mt. Hope, where mostly Amish live, has a Christmas parade and a live nativity scene. Santa, however, is nowhere to be found.

Old Christmas

Old Christmas harkens back to the change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar during the latter stages of the Reformation when Pope Gregory XIII switched Christmas to December 25. Out of tradition and reverence for their forefathers, the Amish have continued to honor Christ’s birth on January 6.

Unlike the more jovial December 25 celebrations, Old Christmas is more solemn. It begins with fasting, followed by another typical Christmas meal and some more gift giving. However, the emphasis is on reflecting and visiting as apposed to reveling.

No matter which holiday is being celebrated, family is always an important element in any get-together for the Amish. And that is true for any Amish order.

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A practical way to give thanks

By Bruce Stambaugh

It was only appropriate that for a full week after the first snow of the year that we experienced a perfect Indian summer here in Ohio.

The extended summer-like days, which seemed to actually improve chronologically until the rains came, served as a picturesque bridge between a superb fall and an inexplicit winter yet to come.

We can only wonder what winter will be like. Will it be as harsh and record breaking as the last? We hope not. Clearly we have no say in the matter.

Snowfall in Ohio's Amish country by Bruce Stambaugh

Snowfall in Ohio's Amish country totaled three feet in February 2010.

Every fall the National Weather Service issues a long-term guesstimation of what winter will bring. But even the scientists hedge their prognostications on percentages, casino like.

In the end, we have no choice but to take what we get. Hushed by the holiday clamor, a certain question lingers unspoken. Will we appreciate what we receive? In truth, that question can and should be applied far beyond the realm of weather.

I remember well the winter of 2004-2005 when the infamous ice storm nailed our area. The accumulating ice snapped giant trees, brought down power lines, halted commerce, interrupted communications, and thinned traffic to emergency purposes only for days.

Those of us who were on the electrical grid were hit hard. Fortunately, an Amish friend saved my family and me with the use of a generator to at least keep the gas hot water heat on. Without the generator’s assistance, the pipes in our home would have frozen and burst, causing extensive damage. Thankfully that did not happen, due to the unconditional generosity of my friend.

All the while, with our communication to the outside world cut, thousands upon thousands of people were caught in the wake of a horrific earthquake and subsequent tidal waves that killed scores of people.

In sorting through an overflowing basket of mishmash the other day, I came upon some handwritten notes I had made about the catastrophe. Apparently, I did so while listening to a battery-operated radio. In reviewing my scribbling, I was reminded that the inconvenience of living without electricity for five days paled in comparison to the plight of millions of fellow human beings halfway around the world.

A sampling of my jottings, dated Dec. 26, 2004, relived the calamity: Banda Ache, 60-foot wave, two miles inland, 30 mph, eight-12 feet deep flood; deaths, 200,000 in Indonesia alone, 400,000 injured; no system to alert people in Indian Ocean rim; 9.3 magnitude earthquake, the world’s deadliest tsunami. Unfortunately, those initial notations proved accurate.

Once power was restored the horrible scenes unfolded on television. I was appalled for the victims, thankful for my family that we had only lost power and a few trees in the yard. Compared to the widespread wreckage and unbelievable totals of death and injuries of so many innocents, we had been fortunate.

Tracks in the snow by Bruce Stambaugh

Horses made serpentine tracks in the heavy snow last Feb. in Holmes County.

Since then, infinite natural and man-made disasters, including the sluggish global economy, have occurred. Others will likely continue to develop as time progresses. Nevertheless, as we begin this holiday season in North America, we still have so much for which we can be thankful no matter our personal situation.

This Thanksgiving perhaps we can express our gratitude by simply helping the less fortunate. We may not have to look clear to the Indian Ocean rim for those opportunities either.

Maybe, just maybe, a proactive generosity can be an Indian summer bridge to brighten someone else’s rainy day life. That would be a practical, productive and prudent Thanksgiving.

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