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Melvin and David Stutzman frolic like puppies on their way home from school on a November afternoon. A chilly wind and heavy gray clouds cannot contain their high spirits as they kick up brown leaves and jump over fallen tree branches along the road.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, and they know that Mom has been busy in the kitchen all day today. They can already smell the cinnamon and nutmeg, and taste the cookies, pies, and fresh bread that they know will be coming out of the oven.
A blast of cold wind meets the warm spicy air of the kitchen as the two boys burst through the back door, trailed by ten-year-old Susan and little brother Myron. Mother Sarah Stutzman smiles at their excitement, but quietly reminds them to close the door, wipe their feet, hang up their coats, and put their lunch pails on the kitchen counter, just as they do every day. Even at holiday time, the children do not escape the daily routine of household discipline.
Fifteen-year-old Linda, having finished her education the year before, has been helping her mother all day with the baking, while also keeping an eye on the two pre-school youngsters. There are already eight loaves of bread, four pumpkin pies and three apple pies cooling on the table, and Sarah is just sliding sheets of cookies out of the big oven.
The children's eyes widen when they see that the trays are filled with Monster Cookies - their favorite holiday treat. Most Amish mothers keep their cookie jars stocked all year long with a variety of cookies - Snickerdoodles, drop sugar cookies, molasses, peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies - but at Thanksgiving and Christmas, Sarah stretches her budget to buy the extra ingredients for Monster Cookies. These giant treats require chocolate chips, nuts, and M&M candies, as well as peanut butter and lots of rolled oats, so they are saved for special occasions.
Linda and little Susan will make up some party mix, combining cereal, pretzels and peanuts with a garlic-flavored coating. The children also enjoy making puppy chow - another snack mix made with cereal, peanut butter, melted chocolate chips and powdered sugar.
After a long day in the kitchen, Sarah will arise early tomorrow morning to stuff four of her finest broiler chickens with bread stuffing and put them in the oven. She will also serve roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, green beans, applesauce, salad, and fresh bread with butter and strawberry jam or apple butter. Of course, the menu will also include pickles and pickled apple rings that Sarah put up earlier in the fall. The children will make up plates of food to take to the neighbors, an elderly English couple who have no relatives living close by.
The Amish observe the Thanksgiving Day holiday, but the children are all back in school the next day, while Dan and oldest son Roy miss very little time in Dans leather shop. Unlike their English neighbors, the Stutzmans do not take a four-day holiday, nor do they crowd the malls on Friday, shopping for Christmas.
The next four weeks will be moderately busy for the Stutzman family. When nineteen-year-old Ruth comes home from teaching at the same one-room school that her brothers and sisters attend, she will work with Linda to create Christmas cards to send to family and friends. The family spends an evening together dipping pretzels and peanuts in chocolate, and making buckeyes and Rice Krispie clusters. The chocolates and more batches of cookies will be arranged on attractive plates to be shared with neighbors, relatives and friends. Ruth will take cookies to school and set them out on her desk to provide snacks for her students.
While the Amish do not put as much emphasis on the holidays as others do, they do exchange simple gifts on Christmas morning, and spend the day visiting family and friends. A sumptuous dinner includes much the same menu as the Thanksgiving Day feast, and food is taken along to the homes they visit, partly to share as gifts, partly to contribute to a buffet dinner. When each couple has eight, twelve, or even fifteen children, a simple family visit quickly becomes a crowd!
Melvin and David Stutzman enjoy their mother's cooking talents all year round, but during the holidays they look forward to some special treats. And they know tomorrow on Thanksgiving, later on Christmas Day, and throughout the year they will be wrapped in the warmth of their mother's kitchen and their family's love.