In March, I was in Tallahassee, Florida to babysit four of my grandchildren so my daughter and her husband could take a much-needed vacation.
One thing my grandchildren looked forward to every day was taking a trip to the mailbox. It was always an adventure to cross the street and peek into the mailbox to see if anyone had sent something exciting. There are some charming mailboxes in my daughter’s neighborhood, so I had my seven-year-old grandson take some pictures. (Everyone’s a pro with an iPhone.)
In The Amish Christmas Letters, by me, Sarah Price, and Patricia Davids, three cousins participate in a circle letter. In a circle letter, each writer adds her own letter to a growing collection of letters as the circle letter travels on from person to person. Three cousins scattered across the country share their blessings—and reveal news of romantic surprises. Each resourceful young woman has a holiday to write home about.
Very few people write actual letters anymore. When I was a teenager, I had a penpal. As a young woman, I wrote letters home to my parents when I lived in Africa. Calling was too expensive, and the phone service was unreliable. I loved getting letters from my friends who lived in other parts of the country, and as a young mother, I called home a lot, but I also wrote letters home, knowing they would make my mom so happy.
I remember the day I realized something had changed when my then-teenage daughter asked me where to put a stamp on an envelope. She didn’t know where to put the stamp!
Now, I won’t say this change was a bad thing. I use email almost exclusively, and it saves me all sorts of time. But I have a certain nostalgia for those days of writing down your history in the form of letters. Now the only things that seem to come in the mail are bills.
The Amish don’t use a lot of technology, so they are apt to do much more letter writing than the rest of us. When I first started writing Amish romance, I corresponded with an Amish woman in Pennsylvania, only to find it was hard to wait two weeks for her letters with answers to my questions. I started calling her parents’ quilt shop, leaving a message, and waiting for her to call me back. Then there were a few glorious months where she got a cell phone (that’s another story), and I could call anytime I wanted.
One Amish letter-writing tradition that I love is the card/get well letter shower. A family member or other close friend will send a “shower” request to an Amish newspaper like Die Botschaft or The Budget, asking people to send cards, letters, get-well wishes, or money to their loved one. Some requests are for simple cards and letters to brighten someone’s day. Other requests are for money. Since the Amish don’t believe in insurance, they are responsible to pay their own medical bills, and sometimes the costs can be significant. Their local congregations help out with some of the bills, but they usually need extra help. That’s when they request a “money” shower to help with their bills. Amish people from all over the country will send money to help someone out. Usually they only send a few dollars, but small amounts from a lot of people add up and can be a real blessing to someone struggling to make ends meet.
Here are just a few examples from an Amish newspaper.
Ps… The mass market edition of The Amish Christmas Letters was released yesterday!
Jennifer Beckstrand is the award winning Amish romance author of The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series and The Honeybee Sisters series for Kensington Books. Huckleberry Summer was nominated for the RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Award and the 2015 RITA® Award, and Huckleberry Hill won the 2014 LIME Award for Inspirational fiction. Both Huckleberry Hill and Huckleberry Christmas appeared in Examiner.com list of top ten inspirational books for 2014. Visit JenniferBeckstrand.com for recipes, upcoming events, and news about books and giveaways.