Quaker Practice

Simplicity at Christmas

Many who visit Friends Meetings wonder if Quakers celebrate Christmas. It’s a good question: because we worship in silence, without a traditional worship program, there’s no structured role for the Christmas story or hymns and carols.

In the old days, early Quakers refused to celebrate Christmas and Easter because they felt such rituals distracted from true religious experience. They considered every day a holy day and, to emphasize substance rather than form, gathered to worship simply in silence. To this day Friends in unprogrammed Meetings such as Reno Friends worship without outward sacraments.

But that is not to say that Quakers don’t gather in the dark midwinter to share fellowship and music. Today, Quaker groups generally do not testify against their members observing Christmas, and many Friends Meetings have some holiday traditions.

Friends often try to reflect the Quaker simplicity testimony in their observances, marking the season with special concern for the poor and needy rather than decorating their Meeting Houses with Christmas greens. When my children were little, their First Day School spent weeks collecting donations of toiletries and gifts, then packed them in shoe boxes wrapped in bright paper and delivered the boxes to shelters for the homeless.  Many Friends serve in soup kitchens, and some Meetings collect non-violent toys to give to charities, seeing the season as an opportunity to witness to the Peace Testimony.  This year (2014), Reno Friends will hold a Winter Sock Drive for those in need.

So, in the spirit of holiday fellowship, Reno Friends invite you to join us on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2014, from 7 to 9 p.m. at our Meeting House for a special Silent Worship, followed by carols and cookies. And if you have some gently-used woolen socks you no longer need, bring them and toss them in our Sock Box. We hope to see you there!

In the Light,

Wendy Swallow, Clerk of Reno Friends Meeting

 email: wswallow54 (at)

The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting.