For my husband Keith, the Amana Colonies is Christmas rolled up in a big stocking!
We traveled to the Colonies the first weekend in December and went for the annual Prelude to Christmas Event. This area is unlike any other. It was settled in the 1850’s by a religious group of Germans. According to the Amana paper Wilkomen, their faith is “based on the belief that God may communicate to the faithful through an inspired individual just as he did in Biblical prophets.”
The individual is called a Werzeug (instrument). In the 1850’s many German’s followed the prophet Christian Metz, and settled in the 1850’s in the Amana Villages. Each village had a church, farm, multi-family residence and a communal kitchen. They lived a communal lifestyle that thrived until 1932. Today, the buildings are private residences, shops and businesses. These make up the fascinating combination of the Amana Colonies.
We stayed at the Zuber Homestead Hotel a wonderful and historic hotel located in the settlement of Homestead. We love this hotel where we see many of the same faces year after year. Jo serves us an awesome breakfast each morning before we set out to see the Amana sites.
The Inn began as a stagecoach stop and later expanded to a hotel. In 1890, a fire devastated the upstairs which had to be rebuilt. Serving the Amana Community until 1938 under a variety of inn keepers eventually the inn was sold to Bill and Connie Zuber. The Zubers turned the Inn into Bill Zuber’s Dugout Restaurant.
The hotel website states, “Bill Zuber was a Middle Amana native and Connie was a Homestead native. Bill Zuber had a 19-year long career in baseball playing for the Cleveland Indians, Washington Senators, Boston Red Sox, and the New York Yankees. The Zuber’s operated the restaurant from 1949 – 2006.”
Then, in 2004 the hotel sold and was remodeled. Today the hotel is owned by Brian and Bonnie James. With 15 rooms with private baths, we love this peaceful place for the holidays! You can see remnants of Bill’s baseball career inside the hotel and outside there is a huge carving of a baseball!
Prelude to Christmas
Prelude to Christmas is a celebration of the holiday season that includes a glimpse into Amana’s Christmas past. This event takes place November 30- December 2. The Village shops are open late and the Festhalle barn is filled with Christmas trees decorated for the season.
This year many were also searching the shops for the German Christmas Pickle. The legend has it that it was an old German Christmas custom to hang a pickle ornament on the Christmas tree late on the evening of December 24th and the first child to find the pickle on Christmas morning would receive an extra gift. Names were put in a drawing for a gift card if you found 10 of the pickles in the shops!
This year it was raining a bit so the shops didn’t seem quite as full as usual, but we enjoyed going from shop to shop and seeing the Amana wonders. We spent most of our shopping time in the largest village of Amana. The colonies include Amana, Middle Amana, High Amana, South Amana, West Amana, High Amana and Homestead. On Friday we picked up tickets to the Christmas Haus Tour at the Visitors Center, then went to the fun shops before dining at the Ox Yoke Inn.
In one of the wineries we even spied an ominous looking Grinch!
On Saturday the favorite shopping stop turned out to be Schanz Furniture & Refinishing. There were many other fun stops along the way, but we spent the bulk of our time at the Christmas Haus Tours.
Christmas Haus Tour
This has become a tradition and this year was my favorite. With a stop at six sites, the offerings were quite marvelous! We stopped at the Amana Arts Guild Center, a former Church built in 1858. They hosted the tour. There I found some really cool tops for my nieces and nephews for our family Christmas event. We went on to tour a beautiful home that started life as a bakery. This home was filled with industrial tools that combined to make an eclectic beauty that caught all of our hearts. Another home was a former Amana granary built in 1924. One home was owned by the daughter of Bill Zuber the baseball player that was connected to the inn where we were staying and the stories went on and on. Most of all though were beautiful homes, and great decorations and a lot of fun.
The Noe House at the Amana Heritage Museum was part of the Christmas Haus Tour and we learned a lot of Amana History at this site.
Saturday night we ate at the amazing Ronneburg restaurant. Fun, food friends and wonderful Iowa hospitality! Christmas in the Midwest a prelude of holidays to come. What’s not to love!