What better way to get to know a culture than through food? The Amish Farm and House’s annual Amish Christmas Cookie Tour is a delicious way to explore the Amish culture and community in Lancaster PA.
The tour brought us to three Amish women’s homes. At each home, we sampled cookies, chatted with the women and older girls. The women’s children surrounded them, waiting for us to come in (it was an in-service day on the Friday of our tour). There were lemon dollops, peanut butter blossoms, walnut thumbprints, mini whoopie pies, ornament balls and molasses cookies on our tour. (However, your tour may take you to different houses, with different bakers and different cookie choices.) I’m not sure which was my favorite. I thought all the cookies were yummy.
The tour lasted about 2 hours. Our guide shared information as we drove through the countryside in the 14-seat bus.
During the Christmas cookie tour you can expect:
- a guided farmhouse tour at the check-in location, as well as a self-guided tour around the 15-acre farm
- a narrated bus tour
- stops at three Amish homes to sample Christmas cookies
- cookies at to take home from each stop
- recipe cards for each cookie
- opportunities to purchase more baked goods and handmade Christmas gifts
On the Christmas Cookie Tour
It was cool being in their homes. I realized we really aren’t all that different — we have homes which we care about, families which we care about, we make cookies for Christmas.
At our first stop, we met Mima and four of her five children (the youngest, a baby boy of 6 weeks, was napping). There we sampled Mima’s walnut thumprints and mini whoopie pies. We picked up an apple crumb pie for two and some additional cookies to share at work the following Monday. The eldest daughters answered our questions, but the younger children didn’t understand English well enough to answer our questions.
Why? Amish families’ native language is Pennsylvania Dutch, actually a dialect of Palatine German. The children learn fluent English in school, but we noticed that they spoke English with a slight but noticeable German accent.
I was fascinated by the bicycle-looking scooters leaning on the fence in front of the house.
From Mima’s home we traveled across the countryside to Amanda’s home. In the drive way we were surprised to see the church wagon. Church wagons carry all the supplies needed — benches, Bibles, and so forth — to hold Sunday church. Each family in the church district hosts church once a year, either in their homes or more typically in the upstairs floor of their barn. Most Amish homes have at least small barns for their horses and buggies and other equipment.
Amanda offered us lemon dollops and peanut butter blossoms. But I was fascinated by the snitz pies she offered for sale. Of course, we purchased one to share at Christmas dinner. The Amish make snitz pies with either cooked dried apples and spices or a mixture of apple butter and apple sauce. Amanda noted they typically serve snitz pies for church dinners. In fact, she’d been making a lot of them for the upcoming Sunday.
Finally, we headed to Linda’s home. There, we sampled what she called high-fiber balls (although the recipe cards called them ornament balls). Super yum! With Christmas dinner on our minds, we purchased a loaf of sour-dough bread as well as some molasses cookies.
During the house tour, a guide will teach you about Amish history, religion and clothing as you walk through the historic farmhouse. This is a great tour to start with as it will give you a good base knowledge before starting the Christmas cookie tour.
The farmhouse tour introduces you to the Amish way of life and their reasons for living as they do. I’m surely over simplifying it, because I’m not citing the Bible and the scriptural explanations, but their life-style is family-centric. They don’t drive cars because cars would carry them too far away from their families. (That said, they will hire drivers if they have to go somewhere farther than an hour’s ride via horse and buggy.)
A common myth dispelled during the tour was that the Amish don’t use electricity. The Amish community prohibits being connected to the mainstream world by the electrical grid. But they definitely use electric in their homes and businesses. The Amish community has embraced solar power and probably exemplify a sustainable lifestyle.
After the house tour, we explored the grounds of what used to be a several hundred-acre farm, now reduced to just 15 acres. Of course, we checked out the goats. You can never have too many photos of goats.
Know Before You Go
Don’t be THAT tourist, the one who disrespects people or treats the Amish individuals you’ll meet on this tour as animals in a zoo. Does that really happen? Yes, according to our tour guide, who has been leading tours for Amish Farm and House for several years. Don’t take photos of Amish people. All the photos I took for this article were with the permission of the women whose houses we were in, and I ensured I didn’t take any photos of them or their children.
Pro-tip: bring cash so you can purchase additional cookies, bread, sweet breads, pies or crafts. We scraped by with $25.
Getting there: 2395 Covered Bridge Drive, Lancaster PA. (There’s a Target shopping center adjacent to the farm.)
Hours: Tours are usually at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The cookie tours run between mid-November and late December.
Website: Amish Farm and House
Can’t get enough of the holidays? Add these great holiday season activities to your bucket list!