One tradition they have in their schools is a day of Christmas caroling. That was on Thursday. It was raining, but I saw the horse drawn wagon going down the road, filled with school children, covered with a plastic tarp...and I heard the children singing Jingle Bells at the top of their lungs from 1/4 mile away!
Another tradition is their annual school Christmas program. This was on Friday, and Jim and I were invited by our neighbors to the school right up the road from our farm. We were excited to go! Of course we didn't take our camera to the program, but I'll try to describe it...
Rocky Ridge school is full this year...35 students from grades 1-8, taught in this one room school house by a young single woman.
It was a beautiful day, so we walked to the school, less than a mile away. By the time we arrived, the school yard was full of horses and buggies, and we made our way inside. The teacher met us at the door, and we told her that we had been invited by Reuben and Ruth Ann, our neighbors. She shook our hands, and motioned for us to go and sit with them.
The school was packed...every available desk and bench was filled. Entire families were there...fathers took time off from work, and mothers brought all their children, down to the tiniest babies. We sat shoulder to shoulder with our neighbors. And even though we were the only "English" people there, (Jim was the only man without a beard, and I was definitely the only woman with my hair cut short) we felt welcome.
It was really interesting for us...we both know most of the men through farming, but not all of their wives and children. They didn't necessarily sit together, so we figured out who belonged together when a woman would pass her baby back a few rows to her husband.
The program began by a young student welcoming us, and then the entire group sang several songs to start things off. Their singing style is much different from what we are used to...each line of a song is sung followed by a pause, and then someone leads out in the next line, and so on.
The singing was followed by numerous poems, skits and recitations. Some were humorous and some were more serious, and everything was in English except for one skit. That one was in PA Dutch, and it's too bad we couldn't understand it, because there was a lot of laughter, and we missed the punch line! Guess we'd better brush up on our Dutch!
The children did a great job! The entire program lasted two hours...that's a lot of memorizing! Our neighbor Ruth Ann told us that her children began practicing and memorizing their parts around Thanksgiving, and that for the past week or so they spent most of their time in school working on the program.
After they were finished, the children each gave their mother a rose, and we made our way out of the school house. Two students were standing by the door offering cookies. We visited for a few minutes, greeting neighbors, and then made our way back home. The Amish families stayed for a while...visiting and playing games outside in the school yard for the rest of the afternoon.
The children have off school tomorrow yet, for what they call Second Christmas...a day of more visiting with family and friends. Then they'll all head back to school or work on Tuesday. Their Christmas vacation is short, but packed with activity.
It was an honor to be invited to share part of their Christmas celebration! Once again we were reminded of how many wonderful neighbors we have. They're not just neighbors, but a wonderful community of friends!