Wanda E. Brunstetter on Holiday Traditions & Family
The holidays are a time for celebrating tried and true family traditions — and creating new ones. One way that Wanda E. Brunstetter has shared the family traditions of her husband Richard's Mennonite relatives through writing. Though Wanda and her husband do not personally belong to the Mennonite faith, she enjoys a unique insight to the Amish community and she shares this with readers through her books. This year, Wanda's daughter-in-law Jean and granddaughter Richelle have joined her to pen the collection of holiday-themed short stories, The Beloved Christmas Quilt. We'll leave it to Wanda to tell you more ...
Ever since I met my husband Richard’s Mennonite relatives I’ve had an interest in the Plain People. When I got to know my in-laws, and visited their church for the first time, everyone was welcoming, and I felt a sense of peace—as if I belonged. All the women at the Mennonite church were dressed in plain dresses with white head coverings. They wore no makeup or jewelry.
Richard and I met our first Amish couple in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania through one of his Mennonite friends, who worked with the Amish man. Since that time we have become close friends with several Amish families from various communities in Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and also some smaller communities.
Family ties and my heritage are important to me. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that the history I learned about my father’s family dates back to 1750, with my great-great-great-great grandparents, Jacob and Mary Landess. Jacob and Mary had thirteen children, and one of their grandsons was John Landess, my great-great-grandfather. The Landess family were members of a Plain group called The Dutch Quakers. They had a strong connection to the Dunkard church, which was part of the Anabaptist movement, to which the Amish and Mennonite also belong. (see photo below of my great-great-grandparents, John and Rachel Landess.) I’ve often thought how wonderful it would have been if I could have met my Anabaptist relatives in person.
While I don’t know what any of my Anabaptist relatives’ Christmas traditions were, my own family have several traditions we’ve adhered to over the years. Early on in our marriage my husband and I began making open-faced sandwiches to serve to our family on Christmas Eve. More recently, we’ve alternated that with making home-made hoagies. Another thing we do as a family on Christmas Eve is attend our church’s candlelight service. We also enjoy getting together to watch Christmas-themed movies on TV, while we enjoy eating snacks and beverages. One of our favorite treats is popcorn with cold or hot apple cider. A new tradition we started a few years ago is getting together with several people from our church who enjoy singing and playing musical instruments. We open our home for this event and spend the evening eating, visiting, and singing Christmas Carols.
Writing a three-story novella collection, The Beloved Christmas Quilt, with my daughter-in-law, Jean, and granddaughter, Richelle, was enjoyable and created a special bond between three generations. Although we each had our own stories to write for the Christmas-themed book, we needed to know each other’s characters that would be mentioned throughout the stories. We also discussed the Amish communities in Lancaster and Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, where our stories take place. My husband and I have been to both of those places many times and have several Amish friends living there, which helps with accurate research. Since the beginning of my writing career I’ve felt the need to do thorough research for each of my novels.
I’m pleased that I had the opportunity to mentor and write with Jean and Richelle. It strengthened the bond of our relationship through plotting and working together on a book that, through one beloved quilt, binds three generations of Pennsylvania Amish women at Christmastime. (See photo above of Jean, Richelle and I.)
The Beloved Christmas Quilt is available in digital and print now. You can find copies here: Amazon | B&N | Google Play | iBooks | Kobo. And if more inspirational reads is what you're looking for, be sure to stop by our Everything Inspirational page!
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