Christmas in Amana: Judith Miller

Well, here we are with the days of December barreling by at breakneck speed. In the spirit of the holiday, and since my last two book series have been set in the Amana Colonies, I thought I’d give you a little taste of Christmas in Amana. For those of you who might not know, the seven villages that comprise the Amana Colonies are located in Iowa, about fifteen miles south of Cedar Rapids. Visiting Amana is always fun, but going during any of their festivals is very special.

Because Christmas is such a wondrous time of year, I think visiting during the Prelude for Christmas festival is the very best time. It’s an opportunity to walk candle-lit streets and turn back the pages of time. An added bonus is a chance to attend A Glimpse of Amana Past, where descendants of the early settlers dress in authentic Amana attire and present stories of Christmas celebrations from years ago. The people of Amana were very frugal and, in days gone by, thought it wasteful to cut down a tree for Christmas display. Some families used a Christmas pyramid that was carved by Vater or Opa. The pyramid on display at the museum, pictured below, is about two feet high. When the candles on the pyramid are lit, the heat causes the blades at the top to turn. Small figures, including nativity scenes, were placed inside the pyramid.

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

You might even experience a visit from Pelznickle, the “Amana-German” version of St. Nicolas. He’s a bit scary, but if you’ve been good, he’ll give you some candy instead of a bundle of sticks. Christmas carols are sung in German, so brush up on your German if you care to join in with the group.

Be sure to take a tour of the Tannebaum Forest in the Festhalle, where you’ll see lots of huge, decorated trees; go on the cookie walk; and take the Christmas Haus Tour, where you can visit with homeowners and gain insight into the history of their homes that are decorated for the holidays. Then return to the Amana Arts Guild for cider and cookies and take a look at the many handmade gifts you can purchase for family and friends! And, of course, leave time to visit the many wonderful stores throughout the village.

The Amana colonists were a people of deep faith—they came to this country to escape religious persecution. They attended meeting (church) eleven times a week, so the birth of Christ has always been the centerfold of their Christmas celebrations. In addition to hand-carved or ceramic nativities, another thing you would find in their homes during Christmas holidays was a cardboard crèche that would sit beneath the tree or near the pyramid. These crèches were always available at the general stores in the villages during the holidays. If you look closely, you can see it beside the Christmas tree in the picture below.

Miller 2

If I whetted your appetite for a visit to the Colonies, Prelude to Christmas will be held beginning Friday, December 6 through Sunday, December 8. And if you go, please be sure to let me know!

May your Christmas be filled with the love and joy of Christ.

Is there a place (local or otherwise) that you and your family like to visit around Christmas time?

Connect with Judith on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.

Nathan Ham Photography|

Most Recent Release: A Simple Change

Simple Change

When unforeseen circumstances drive Jancey Rhoder to move to the Amana Colonies, she’ll be forced to reconsider everything she wanted out of life—and love.

7 thoughts on “Christmas in Amana: Judith Miller

  1. Ah, memories! We used to live in a mountain town in the Los Padres National Forest (Southern California). The community Christmas party was tons of fun, with the arrival of Santa Claus on a fire engine–lights flashing and siren blaring. Good times! Amana sounds like Christmas at its best, a perfect blend of old and new.

  2. My husband go driving around town looking at all the pretty Christmas lights. Some have music to go with the lights and they are wonderful to sit and watch how the lights change with the music.

  3. Sounds like a wonderful place to be at Christmastime, Judith! Our favorite place to visit around this time of year is Leavenworth, Washington–a darling little Bavarian town in the Cascade Mountains, complete with gingerbread storefronts, accordion music, and Bratwurst! The annual Lighting of the Christmas Tree is a huge event that draws visitors from all over the Pacific Northwest.

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