A few days ago I had the privilege of being invited to a Christmas program at an Amish school. It wasn't my first, but it was my first one at East Yoder School. My young friend Melinda invited me to attend.
There are over 100 Amish schools in our area, but East Yoder is larger than most; there are two classrooms instead of the usual one. Each classroom has a curtain down the middle, and two teachers staff it. In this case, three of the teachers split up the eight grades evenly between them, and the fourth teacher has a smaller group of “special education” students.
One of the classrooms had been emptied of desks and set up with benches for the program. (See my post on bench wagons.) There was an elevated stage with a curtain at one end of the room. The room was lit by gaslights in the ceiling and windows all around. (The Amish are very good at making use of natural sunlight!)
The men sat on one side of the room and the women on the other. I would estimate that there were ten or twelve benches on each side, with room for about seven or eight people on each bench. I think there were about 100 people in attendance that morning, so we snuck over to one of the empty men’s benches for a better view! There would be another program that evening, which typically would be “standing room only,” so Melinda’s grandparents and I came to the 9:30 a.m. presentation instead. I’m pretty sure I was the only “Englisher” there, although I did see a conservative Mennonite or two.
As always, the front bench on either side was reserved for the small children, so that they could have a good view. The schoolchildren “waited in the wings” in the hallway with their teachers (two men and two women) for their first cue.
There were about 45 or 50 children in the program, standing in four rows for the group songs. The program consisted of large group songs and also presentations by individual grades and groups. Two of the items were short humorous plays, and the kids who performed in them did a stellar job! There were also songs and poems, and a live nativity scene. One Christmas hymn, “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” was sung by everyone in attendance. Another one, in German, was sung by everyone but me!
As always at these programs (in my experience anyway), the children were well-rehearsed, had been taught to project their voices, and did very well. I got to talk to some old and new friends there, and we went out to eat at a nearby diner afterwards. All in all, a good morning that really put me in the Christmas spirit!
More info and memories from an Amish Christmas past here...