The Amish people live a very simple life. From the outside looking in, one may think it is much harder due to their lack of modernization and laborious work days. However, they have extremely strong family and religious ties. But, most people do not much about the Amish, as they are are also a secretive people. Keep reading to find out the secrets and traditions of the Amish people.
Amish Are Pacifists
The Amish have an unwritten code of conduct, called the Ordnung, which stresses humility, simplicity, and obedience. They strongly oppose any violence. Some more specific rules of the Ordnung are separation from the world and worldly pleasures, hard work, a woman’s submission to her husband, and mode of dress. If a member of the community disobeys the Ordnung, he or she will be disciplined by the church and he or she risks being shunned. They will also never serve in the military.
Attend Church At Home
Amish church services happen every other Sunday. However, it is not held in a religious temple, but rather the community members’ homes. If there is a large population in the community, the area is divided into smaller sections and each family will host about one service a year. It is believed this tradition has been happening in the Amish community since the 1500s. This was because Anabaptists, people who believe a person should choose to be baptized, were once persecuted.
Most of the Amish people only attend school until the 8th grade. After schooling, Amish will begin a possible apprenticeship or vocational training for their respective fields: farming, carpentry, masonry, and more. Amish also believe that high education can cause conflicting ideas about Christian values. Most Amish schoolhouses are a one room building. If necessary they will use a curtain to divide the room. The teacher is usually an Amish female and will teach all 8 grades.
Traditional Amish Courtship begins when the boy is 16-years-old and the female is 14 or 15-years-0ld. Most people meet others through various community functions like church. The older children may stay after the service to mingle. After all adults of left, the older children will participate in Sunday night singing. The children will sing traditional songs and socialize during breaks. Once a boy and girl have spent a night speaking, they can decide if they would like to go steady.
The ultra-conservative Amish communities still practice bed courtship, while 2 Amish are “dating.” For this process, a boy will ask a girl if he can take her home. They go to her house and immediately go to bed. However, not in the modern day sense. While in bed, both the boy and girl remain fully clothed and are expected to just talk all night. The parents rely on the church’s teachings to prevent any sexual intimacy.
The Amish are anabaptists. This mean babies are not baptized when they are very young, like main Catholic sects. Anabaptists believe each person should choose if he or she would like to be baptized. Most Amish are baptized between the age of 18 and 22 years old. Once a person has fully committed themselves to the church by being baptized, and a person is then allowed to marry.
Although the Amish are allowed to use cars for certain occasions, they are forbidden from driving or owning a car. They are afraid the owning a car could cause temptation as they can easily connect to the outside world. A car is also considered a worldly possession. However, Amish do accept rides from others and sometimes hire a driver if needed. The Amish community is also very dependent on each other, ownership of a car may lessen that dependence.
Many Amish children’s dolls are faceless. This is for a few reasons. The first is to deter pride and vanity. The second is to promote the idea that everyone is the same in the eyes of god. The dolls’ clothing are also kept very simple, and similar to what most Amish wear. As Amish children do not have a lot of toys, dolls for both boys and girls are prominent in the community.
In order to keep obedience strong, the Amish learn and may experience shunning. Shunning is used as a social exclusion, if the church feels you disobeyed the laws. It is different from being ex-communicated as the people are still allowed to talk to you. However, many may avoid you due to social judgement. However, if you are shunned, members of the church may not eat the same table with you, do business with, ride in a car with you, or receive anything from you.
Most people have commonly been taught that the first born son will receive an inheritance, like many of noble birth. However, with the Amish, it is the youngest son who receive the family’s wealth. In an Amish family, the elder sons are expected to get married and begin their own farms. However, by the time the youngest reaches adulthood, the father of the family will most likely be ready to retire from the farming life. Once the farm is passed down, the parents will move into a secondary house on the farm’s land, and the youngest son will move into his childhood home with his new family.
The Amish speak English, German, and a language known as Pennsylvania Dutch. Pennsylvania Dutch is an Amish person’s native language. They learn English while in school. Pennsylvania Dutch is derived from a German dialect. It was spoken by Dutch settlers in southeastern Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania Dutch is the universal language for all dutch, and is spoken by Amish who don’t live in Pennsylvania. It is used in most forms of daily life: work, family, play and intimacy.
With today’s technology and the explosion of the selfie trend, Amish try to keep themselves separate. They do not like their picture taken, as a photograph is considered a graven image (a carved idol or representation of a god used as an object of worship). Amish also believe photographs accentuate individuality and call attention to one’s self. Amish strive to be remembered by the lives the lived not by their physical appearance.
Strength In Numbers
There are over 300,000 Amish people living scattered across 31 U.S. states, and 3 Canadian provinces. Most of the Amish live in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, with 63% of the population living in those 3 states. Every 20 years, the Amish population roughly doubles. This due to the large rate of children that decide to stay and live in the community. In 2015, the New Order Amish established 2 settlements in South America.
No Instruments Allowed
Many of the Amish church’s songs are found in the “Ausbund.” The Ausbund does not contain sheet music, as tunes are passed down through generations. The Ausbund was first published in 1564. The Ausbund is said to have been written by men awaiting their death sentence for being an Anabaptist. The Amish are also forbidden to learn how to play musical instruments as it could cause a sense of pride and superiority.
Conversion is Hard
It seldom happens, but there are people who try to convert to the Amish faith. In order to do so, a person is placed with a Amish family so they are able to live like a true Amish – abandoning all worldly pleasures. You must demonstrate you are truly dedicated to the church and your new way of life. Next, you have to learn Pennsylvania Dutch. Finally, the church has to vote to allow you in.
Separation Of Church And State
The Amish believe in separation of church and state. However, the Word of God is always more important than the law. This has caused some controversy, as it has been noted that the Church sometimes handles discipline of crimes that are serious offenses of the law. In 2009, Amish in Missouri faced charges after failing to report a child abuse incident. However, this isn’t always the case, and many Amish will report a crime to the authorities.
No Electricity Allowed
Electricity is considered a worldly pleasure and is therefore forbidden by the community. They cook with gas stoves, light the home with gas lamps, and read to entertain themselves. However, recently, communities have started allowing a phone to be shared amongst a few households. The phone is not allowed inside home, and but be kept in a shack outside. To refrigerate things, Amish may use a diesel gas generator.
The Amish are only allowed to marry after they are baptized. Once a couple in engaged, it is kept secret until announced in Church services (normally 4-6 weeks before the wedding). The couple must hand deliver all invitations to potential guests. There is no exchange of rings at the ceremony. The ceremony may also last for up to 4 hours. Amish weddings normally take place during the Fall season, after the harvest is over.
After Wedding Traditions
Once a couple is married, each has sacred duties. The couple’s honeymoon is spent visiting relatives each weekend, which is how they receive most of their gifts. A woman creates her own ceremony wedding dress. Shades of blue or purple are the most commonly chosen colors. This now becomes the dress she wears to church every sunday. A man will begin to grow out his beard after he is married (however, a man may not grow a mustache). It is unlawful to cut your beard.
Unequal Gender Roles
Unfortunately, Amish women are not able to do the same things as Amish men. Women cannot serve as bishops, preachers, or deacons. Woman normally care for the home and family – creating clothes, cooking, and helping the community when needed. Women must also respect their husbands, always obeying their husbands decisions and orders. The husband is considered the religious head of the household. However, a wife helps nurture spirituality amongst the family.
The Amish have strict rules when it comes to fashion. Clothing must be simple and humble, like their lifestyle. Men must wear straight cut suits with no collars or pockets. Pants do not have pleats, cuffs, or belt loops, ss belts are not allowed. Women wear long sleeves with full solid colored skirts, with an apron on top. Some communities may also have rules about the exact length of the skirt. Women must also wear their hair in a braid or bun and have it covered by a bonnet.
Like everyone else, Amish sometimes break the rules. Major offenses must be confessed publicly, in a members meeting, after Church services. Amish believe public confessions diminishes self-will, reminds the value of submission, and keeps control of the disobedience in the community. Once sins are confessed, many will be forgiven, even if the sin is extreme.Those who do not confess their sins are put on a 6-week probation. For those that do not repent with the church risk shunning or excommunication.
The Amish are very reliant on their community. One way in which this is highlighted is through barn raising. Barn raising is a collective action by a community to build a barn. Barns are large and expensive structures to make. By recruiting community members the tasks becomes cheaper and easier to complete. As this is a task that will be needed to done multiple times in the community the act of being helped to build will most certainly be returned to those who helped you.
Men are women are both have requirements about their body hair. Women are not allowed to cut their hair. Men must grow out their beards once they are married, and are not able to trim or cut it. Cutting one’s beard can lead to great shame or shunning. Therefore, members of the community may try and cut others’ beards as an act of revenge or punishment. In 2013, a man named Samuel Mullet and 15 of his followers were convicted of cutting off the hair and beards of rivals in their community. Samuel Mullet was sentenced to 11 years in prison for religious hate crimes and conspiracy.
Horse & Buggy Dangers
As many Amish do not have motorized vehicles, Horse and Buggies and very prominent in the community. Even though it doesn’t have a motor, there are still lots of dangers on a horse and buggy. There are no tests needed, like cars, in order to drive and horse and buggy. In some cases, children as young as 8 can be seen driving them. Ohio and Pennsylvania report a rough average of 60 major crashes involving horses and buggies a year, over the past decade. It is also possible to get a “DWI” charge while operating one.
Simple In Life & Death
When an Amish member has died, the funeral and viewing is held in the home of the deceased. However, the body is taken to a local funeral home first to be embalmed, but no other enhancements are made. The graves are dug by hand, as modern equipment is forbidden. People throughout the community take over the funeral planning as to let the family mourn. The headstones are normally simple and unadorned, and the graves are typically in an All-Amish cemetery.
The Amish forbid most technology, however, they do allow both a phone and a computer (neither are allowed to be kept inside the home). However, the computer has very limited capability. The “Deskmate” is a computer marketed specifically to the Amish. It does not connect to the internet nor does it have games or music. It is made exclusive to just handle business needs – word processing, accounting, and finance spreadsheets.
“Mini-Me” Was Amish
Many people recognize actor Verne Troyer from his role was Mini-Me in the “Austin Powers” franchise. Troyer is only 2’8″ (81 centimeters) tall, and suffers from cartilage-hair hypoplasia. He was originally raised Amish, until his family left the faith when he was still a child. However, Verne still had to participate in laborious work. He is quoted as saying his parents “never treated me any different than my other average sized siblings. I used to have to carry wood, feed the cows and pigs and farm animals.”
The Amish are very good with saving money. They do most of their shopping at either salvage stores or Amish auctions. Due to religious connotations, they don’t believe is buying things that they want, but only things that are necessary for survival. They will use something until it falls apart, and then recycle it, if possible. They also grow a lot of their own food so large bills at the grocery store are not common.
Avoid Credit Cards
Another way the Amish are very good with finances is they avoid credit cards. Although some members are less traditional and do own credit cards, most are terrified of the concept. The average American has 3-4 credit cards and has an average of $16,000 in debt. The Amish hate being in debt to others and always try to trade or pay up front for services. This follows the commandment of “Do Not Steal.” The Amish believe if you do not render pay upon services, you are stealing.
Businesses Are More Likely To Succeed
Many of the Amish are experts in skilled trades, like furniture building and manufacturing. The Amish have created their own brand and are able to sell their goods outside of the Amish community. Their goods are normally very high quality and the customer appreciates their work. In addition, Amish business almost always succeed. Amish businesses have a survival rate of 95%, compared to the average American business of 50%.
Amish On Medicine
Contrary to popular belief, the Amish do utilize modern medicine. However, they do not buy health insurance. Therefore, whenever someone from the community is in need of financial help for medical procedures, everyone chips in. The Amish are not required to purchase healthcare like all other U.S. citizens. It has been reported the Amish have their own form of health insurance which merges church aid, benefit auctions and negotiated discounts with local hospitals.
Where Do Amish Shop?
The Amish grow much of their food, however, they also purchase their food and other products. They frequent salvage stores, Amish run stores, and sometimes even large supermarkets. Amish appreciate the salvage stores as the selections is normally very low priced. Most Amish communities will have at least 1 dry goods store for items like books, candles and writing supplies. Many Amish communities will also hold auctions which simultaneously act as a social event.
Higher Rates Of Genetic Disease
The Amish have a higher rate of genetic diseases. Although there are a handful of converts, the genetic gene pool is very shallow. As there is a chance you may be related to many in your community, this creates a better a chance of diseases being passed along to children. There is a special type of dwarfism that is prevalent in some communities as well as high rates of deafness.
Low Rates of Prominent Diseases
Even though the Amish have high rate for genetic diseases, their healthy lifestyle leads to a decrease of other types of diseases. They have lower rates of cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. This is mainly due to their lifestyle choices. They grow much of the food they eat, alcohol and drugs are forbidden, and their work is very laborious which entails everyone to be active. They also normally live in a rural setting so pollutants are at a low level.
Amish vs. Mennonite
Both the Amish and Mennonite people are descendents of the original Anabaptists, in Europe. However, the Amish split from the Mennonites in the 17th century. The Mennonites practice shunning on a much more lenient level. Old Order Mennonites also allow some technology in the home. Old Mennonites also worship in meeting houses, while Amish worship in community members’ homes. However, they both have similar religious and fashion beliefs.
Jakob Amman was the first man to preach the Amish philosophy. He was a leader of the community in Switzerland. The word “Amish,” is derived from his last name. His teachings date back to the 16th century. Amish began migrating to America, from Europe, in the 1700s, after they began being persecuted. Amman promoted shunning and other religious innovations, this led to the split of the anabaptist movement and to what we know today as The Amish and The Mennonite branches.
The Devil’s Playground
The Amish live a very simple life – no electricity, no musical instruments, and no worldly pleasures. They believe worldly objects can tempt a person into sin, therefore, the normal American way of life is considered “The Devil’s Playground.” Amish forbid life in “The Devil’s Playground,” except at the age of 16 when most Amish children are partaking in Rumspringa. This is when an Amish child is allowed to participate in the many varieties of sins the devil offers in the “English” world.
Write Their Own Newspapers
Even though they have limited use to computers, the Amish still create their own newspapers and magazines. There is the monthly publication called “Family Life,” which is produced by Pathway Publishing, an Amish company out of Aylmer, Ontario. It address the Old Order beliefs through stories and columns. There is also “The Connection,” which is published in Topeka. This publication is much more personal, as Amish are given a whole page in the publication to write about their personal stories. You can also subscribe to both of these publications.
No Pictures Allowed So They Use Other Things To Decorate
Many modern day American homes have family portraits, fancy light fixtures or extravagant paintings on their walls. However, the Amish do not believing in owning any of those things. Mechanical timepieces and calendars are used. Inspirational or religious quotes may also be created, normally using needlepoint and hung. Family history, family trees, or birth announcements may also be hung. However, ultimately, the house remains simple.
As the Amish religion is a strict view on the bible, they do celebrate all the prominent Catholic holidays, such as Easter and Christmas. However, they also celebrate Ascension Day (40th Day After Easter Sunday), Church Fast Day (Sunday Between Council Service & Communion), Second Christmas (December 26th), Pentecost Monday (Monday following Pentecost) and St. Michael’s Day (October 11th). None of their holidays are celebrated with excessive gifts or decorations.Holidays are spent praying and with family.
Traditional Amish Delicacies
If you ever have the chance to sample some Amish cooking, be sure to not turn down the opportunity. As many of the ingredients Amish cook with are fresh out of the farm, their cooking is delicious. One of their specialties in Shoofly Pie. Shoofly Pies are made with a normal pie crust and a molasses filling. Another sweet dish they are known for are Whoopie Pies, which are heavily present in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Whoopies pies are two small cake patties with a cream filling in the middle (pictured below).
The top 5 American baby names for 2016 for females were Sophia, Emma, Olivia, Ava and Mia. The 2016 top male baby names were Jackson, Aiden, Lucas, Liam and Noah. However, the Amish do not follow trendy names. They tend to stick to biblical names. Some of the most common female names are Sarah, Mary, Elizabeth, and Rebecca. However, there was one in common with the “English” world and that was Emma. The most common Amish male names are Samuel, John, Wayne and Eli.
A Look Inside
Despite the hate towards photography, the mainstream media has been able to wiggle its way into the Amish community. There have been a few reality TV shows as well as pretty accurate movies about the community. “Breaking Amish,” premiered in 2012. It follow 4 Amish young adults, and one mennonite, as they tried to live in NYC. It followed their journey of deciding whether the “English” life or the Amish life was the best way to go.