50 Facts You Didn’t Know About the Amish
Despite the numerous parodies concerning Amish lifestyles and traditions that may seem farfetched, there are amazingly fascinating things about their way of life waiting to be discovered by the masses. Here is a list of facts about the Amish that aren’t quite known.
Engagements are typically big news for a lucky couple and sharing this news with everyone is at the top of their list. However, Amish communities keep their engagements a secret. On the contrary to modern day engagements, whereby the ladies receive a flashy diamond ring, Amish girls are presented with some china or a clock. But this is not the reason they keep them a secret; it is just tradition. This happy news remains hushed until it is ‘published’ at a religious service, giving the couple only a few days to prepare. These weddings are so low-key that the couple’s presence is not even solicited at the announcement.
Hand Delivered Wedding Invitations
If you are looking forward to receiving a mailed wedding invitation from Amish couples, you will be waiting in vain, but in a good way; the Amish are a lot more personal. In keeping with their customs, they personally hand deliver these invitations to each and every invited guest; adding a personal touch to their delivery. The list of invitees may vary from only church members to close friends and relatives in more conservative settlements. On the other hand, if your Amish friends reside in more progressive communities, you stand a better chance of receiving a wedding invitation along with people from numerous church districts.
Unconventional Wedding Celebration
Modern wedding celebrations are usually an occasion for the well-wishers and families of the groom and bride to celebrate the joyful affair with the newly married couple. On the other hand, like all things Amish, wedding celebrations serve a different purpose. Though they uphold the tradition of keeping it family-oriented, they see this as an opportunity to play matchmakers by pairing single women and men for future marriages. If you are single and invited to an Amish wedding, be on high alert that you may be assigned to a seat with the hope of meeting your future spouse.
Boring Wedding Night
In a modern-day society, it is expected that on the night of one’s big day, the newlyweds retire for a romantic evening, but for the Amish, things are done quite differently. There are far more interesting things to do on their wedding night, and lovemaking is not one of them. As if their weddings are not uneventful enough, it is expected that Amish newlyweds spend their wedding night at the bride’s parent’s house chatting until the following day. If you are family oriented and plan on keeping it really simple, this Amish tradition is essential for maintaining a good foundation.
Dolls Are Left Faceless
It is customary for children to play with dolls and Amish children are no exception to this leisure activity. However, there is one evident distinction; unlike dolls around the world, most Amish dolls are left faceless. For the Amish, everyone is equal in the eyes of God and having faces on the dolls would violate their religious customs. After all, vanity and pride are sinful. This difference of no facial features for the dolls is strictly religious and good business for the makers of Amish dolls. There are less Barbie trimmed noses and intricately designed facial structures to produce.
For most Christians, baptism occurs as a child, but the Amish communities go through this at a later date. Keeping it Amish, they believe in adult Baptism since they are an Anabaptist group. It is their belief that because Jesus was baptized as an adult, this procedure must be followed in their customs. In other words, baptism is conducted on a voluntary basis, and it is a commitment made by the congregation to God. Being baptized in an Amish church has lifelong implications, and it is a decision that should not be taken lightly. On the plus side, one has until adulthood to think things through.
Not all things Amish can be classified as monotonous; there are a few peculiar, but fun and exciting rituals that are permitted. When Amish children turn 16, they are allowed to engage in a special ritual referred to as Rumspringa. Though the word ‘rum’ in the name of this ritual is quite evident, it translates to jumping or hopping around. Amish teenagers are encouraged to leave their communities and experimenting as they see fit. This rite of passage, like its name suggests, may include Amish youths breaking their religious rules and exploring with alcohol, sex or drugs.
Premarital sex is prohibited in Amish customs, but for Amish couples who are about to tie the knot, a test drive in bed is allowed. This is a step in the couple’s courtship and is considered an essential part of the process. Bed courtship usually requires the couple to talk all night without any touching. They are most definitely fully clothed throughout their conversation. If being completely dressed is not enough, some communities kick it up a notch, and an actual board is placed between the couple for the night, since no funny business is allowed.
Hand digging graves seem primitive by modern societal standards, so one may ask, ‘isn’t digging what a shovel was made for?’ Well, Amish traditions are beyond peculiar, and when it comes to burying fellow members of the community, the Amish must dig up all of their graves by hand. It is their belief that shovels are pieces of modern technology, therefore it is forbidden. For this reason, they are only allowed to dig graves with their hands, and a shovel must not be used. After all, doing it the old-fashioned way is an Amish tradition.
No Huge Church Buildings
When one hears the word “church,” it is almost always used in its architectural sense. However, there is a vast difference between the Amish community and other forms of Christianity. There is no official Amish religious building, and thus, every Amish town is separated into precincts. Since the Amish were persecuted, they have held church services at their homes or their neighbor’s home with a different member hosting weekly. Though this is somewhat an odd way to hold services, it emphasizes the significance of religion in the homes and makes the religious aspect easier for the community.
They Practice Shunning
Shame! Shame! Shame! The Amish Christianity derived as a result of shunning and this is enforced amongst believers, giving a new meaning to the verse ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged.’ If members are in violation of the rules governing their faith, they are shunned. This type of social rejection or emotional distance is a critical means of maintaining integrity to the Amish church. As a last resort, members limit contact with the transgressor to disgrace them back into the church, making them aware of their faults. It is best to adhere to the rules or risk being shamefully shunned.
‘If you like it, put a ring on it.’ This song is not popular in Amish communities, and it is something you won’t find the Amish saying; they believe in the exact opposite. It is their belief that jewelry encourages pride, thus it is frowned upon by the community. As a result, once married, couples do not wear wedding rings. Amish nuptials are kept a secret and are very much low-key, so the inability to wear a ring as a symbol of marriage makes perfect sense where that is concerned.
Be Fruitful and Multiply
When it comes to sowing seeds, the farms are not the only place Amish sow theirs. Unlike the average American household which consists of two or three children, Amish families have six or seven. When an Amish couple gets married, the bride often becomes pregnant shortly after as they are expected to have a large family. Like all things Amish, other families take things up a notch and have nine or more children. It is their belief that children are gifts from God and forbid the use of contraception. Moreover, the more kids in the household, the more hands on deck to work on the farms.
When you know, you just know. The many rules and regulations that are enforced by the Amish communities remain unwritten. The set of laws which govern their actions are officially known as Ordnung and are set in place to assist Amish members in their spiritual quest. In embracing this truly spiritual lifestyle, members must abide by the rules which govern everything including clothing, work and praying. Though members are steadfast and strictly live by these, no official documents exist. Instead, they are mere norms or mental notes the communities memorize and adhered to.
No Musical Instruments
In modern society, a life with no music seems like a rather dull one. Some Amish community members are not allowed to play musical instruments. They believe that singing is a method of self-expression, thus they oppose all forms, which consists of most of the arts such as dancing. According to Amish beliefs, self-expressions encourage feelings of superiority which brings unnecessary attention to individuals, as well as pride among members. On the other hand, playing the harmonica is somewhat accepted and could be attributed to its small size and ability to be easily stored in pockets.
An Old Book of Music
Amish community members are prohibited from playing musical instruments, but they are big supporters of the Ausbund. The Ausbund, which is a sixteenth-century songbook, is an old Anabaptist hymnal and one of the oldest song books continuously in use by Christians all over the world. It contains an exceptional collection of songs which is incorporated into the Amish church services. During the opening of the church service, these songs are typically sung for 30 minutes or more and are usually slow with prolonged notes. Besides the Bible, it most probably could be the most popular books on the shelves of the Amish.
A beard can tell a lot about a person, especially if he is an Amish male. Beards are quite common in Amish communities and are reserved for married men or men over the age of 40. These symbolize modesty, manhood, and husband-ship. On the contrary, mustaches are not allowed since they are related to the 19th- century military. In most instances, an Amish man commences growing his beard after his wedding. Just by looking at the faces of Amish men, it is easy to tell whether he is single or married because the beard says it all. In essence, a beard replaces the wedding rings in the Amish society.
Junior High School, Highest Level of Education
If you dislike going to school, then be Amish! In Amish communities, after students finish the 8th grade, their schooling is over! The reasons being that Amish skills are craftsmanship and agriculture, as well as their beliefs that education encourages ideas which are counter to the values of Christianity. Therefore, Amish communities are legally exempted from compulsory education laws and the children attend vocational training with family members after completing the 8th grade. At the age of 14, they join the family business whereby they drop the pencils and take up the axes; saying “Goodbye” to high school, college and most definitely university life in the modern world!
Teachers Have No Secondary Level Education
The Amish society has their doubts about what the rest of the world calls “education.” Teachers have no secondary level education and are sometimes unmarried young women who are chosen from the community. Seemingly, it may appear that this is an inadequate amount of time to prepare Amish children to be productive members of their communities, however, the Amish are people of the trades. Just as the children end school in the 8th grade, so too did the teachers. In other words, the Amish education systems comprise of only 8 years in a single-classroom schoolhouse with the teachings of a teacher who has, herself, only completed the 8th grade.
An Amish horse and buggy is a common picture engraved in the minds of many. This is due to the fact that members of the Amish community are forbidden to own or drive a vehicle but are permitted to travel inside one. It is their belief that if members own vehicles, the efficiency of it weakens the community’s structure. This means that members, who are otherwise mutually dependent on each other, will no longer see the need to ask for assistance. As a result, they cannot own a Toyota car, but can surely go places in one.
Shop Until You Drop
Amish families are typically large, so when it comes to shopping they go all out. Although they would much rather shop at the stores that are located in their own communities, they also patronize the stores in the modern civilization such as Wal-Mart. However, they do not shop at malls consisting of loads of technology, but other stores are indeed an option for the families. So the next time you visit a local store or supercenter and members of the Amish community are present, do not be alarmed as it is not an unusual sighting.
They are not Mennonites
These sects are both Anabaptists, which means ‘against baptism,’ particularly infant baptism, with the Amish following the beliefs of Jakob Ammann. The Mennonites adhere to the teachings of Menno Simons. Unlike the ways of the Amish, the Mennonites embrace technology and are more likely to drive automobiles. Additionally, Amish communities separate themselves from modern societies and live in the dark with no electricity, but the Mennonites are typically more integrated. Essentially, the Amish and the Mennonites are two different Anabaptist sects that are often mistaken for each other; the Amish are way more restrictive while the Mennonites pursue a conservative lifestyle.
For the Amish community, every dog must have his auction day. Dog farming plays a major role in the Amish economy with nearly one in every five puppy mills in the United States being owned by Amish individuals. This has been controversial throughout the United States and particularly in the Amish community because of the mistreatment of the dogs. The auctions are limited to dog selling as well as the sale of housing and breeding equipment, with the dogs being treated like livestock. When you consider the rather restrictive lifestyles of the Amish, this comes as a huge surprise to the modern world and a tradition which would be unlikely supported.
Origin of the Amish
The origin of the Amish community can be traced back to 16th century Switzerland. The history and heritage of the Amish church began in 1693 with a Swiss Anabaptist in the Mennonite church by the name of Jakob Ammann. He was an advocate for a literal explanation of the Bible. Ammann’s ideas resulted in the divide of the church with believers siding with him while others opposed his beliefs. The followers who sided with Jakob Ammann were called Amish. They later immigrated to the United States where they reside today, spreading his beliefs.
Getting Kicked Out
When it comes to the Amish and their traditions, anything goes, literally! The Amish can banish members of their communities for any type of infringement. There are cases of members being rejected for violations such as drinking alcoholic beverages, the use of technology, swearing, as well as failure to kneel during church services. As a result of these violations, Amish members are required to repent of their misdemeanors in order to be invited them back into their communities. In essence, members should abide by the rules of their good book or risk being banned like the black sheep in the barn!
National PostThe Amish communities are well-known for their simple lifestyles, plain clothing and their unwillingness to adopt modern technology. However, the depth of their dislike for science extends further than its technological roots. As such, the community does not see the relevance of teaching science in their junior high school. Additionally, the Amish do not believe in modern medical science. Thus some may choose to visit doctors while others refrain from doing so. This reluctance to learn science or use technology means that it is quite unlikely for an Amish person to be a scientist.
Less likely to develop harmful diseases
When it comes to healthy dietary needs, the Amish communities are known for their organic farming, healthy eating habits, and food preparation techniques. Traditionally, Amish communities have been farm-based with families growing and raising their own food. They also refrain from smoking as well as drinking. There are no microwaves located in Amish living areas and food is heated on wood fires. As a result of their lifestyles and organic foods, they are less likely to be affected by harmful diseases. Despite their plain clothing styles, their good genes are also believed to play a vital role in their health.
No Health Insurance
If one is less likely to suffer from diseases, why would one need health insurance? Amish communities are exempt from all laws related to health insurance and as a result do not have one. However, if something goes wrong and a family gets sick that could pose a financial problem since they do not have any. On the other hand, Amish communities are very close knit so if one family is in need, they all work together and combine resources to assist with finances. In the community, no one gets left behind and everyone is entitled to proper treatment.
A Woman’s Role
For traditional Amish women, there is no time for thinking of dream occupations as they are usually confined to being homemakers and mothers to their large families. Their tasks include cooking, managing the homes and assisting neighbors. Due to these Amish gender roles, they sometimes have no voice and their opinions go unheard. However, there are exceptions whereby some Amish women are business owners. In a public setting, it is expected that an Amish woman follows her husband’s lead. With that being said, there is limited woman power in the Amish world.
No Short Skirts
For Amish women, no sense of fashion is required as the general theme for Amish clothing is plainness. It is their belief that clothing should not call attention to the wearer. As such, women are restricted to wear specific styles of outfits such as shirts with long sleeves, calf-length plain-cut dresses in solid colors as well as no makeup or jewelry. The communities also impose stricter rules compelling women to wear skirts of specific lengths. When a skirt does not meet the necessary requirements, a woman is forbidden to wear it.
Typically, most Amish people know at least two languages. These include a dialect of German, which is commonly referred to as Pennsylvania Dutch or Pennsylvania German, and English. Though there are similarities with German dialects spoken in Europe, the Pennsylvania German consists of numerous English words with varying accents and difference in the manner in which it is spoken across communities. English is taught in the schools and will be spoken there, as well as for business purposes. German is spoken at church and Dutch is used for daily activities within the communities. Despite being early school leavers, the average Amish individual possibly speaks more languages than most average Americans.
The Amish condemn any form of violence. They are soft-spoken and their communities usually remain peaceful. The religious beliefs of the Amish favor pacifism, as a result, they can be referred to as very strict pacifists. Due to their soft-spoken and calm demeanor, they refrain from serving in the military and the men are automatically exempt from signing up for the military draft. However, if they do join, they are banished from the community. On the other, some Amish people do carry guns, but overall gun violence levels within Amish communities is minimal.
Raise the Roof: Barn Raising
Barns are considered an important part of the Amish lifestyle and the raising of the barn’s roof is a special time. It is not only regarded as a social event but an economic one also. It is a display of selflessness with neighbors helping neighbors and is fundamental to the Amish culture. In the past, it was an opportunity for the entire community to work together. However, in recent years, the practice has lost its popularity with a decline in assistance received. Barn building is a fun social activity which is enjoyed by the Amish men, allowing them to socialize in large groups.
No photos, please
The Amish not only do not partake in taking selfies, and they also do not like the idea of modern photography. Therefore, they do not take photographs of themselves or keep them in their homes. According to their religious beliefs, photographs are “graven” and therefore should be avoided. Another reason for not having their photographs taken is because they view it as a fixed image. They dislike tourists and other persons wishing to capture their likenesses. Many refuse to be in a picture but if they agree, it would be in a natural setting or their faces are not showing.
The land is not yours
Unlike modern societies where the eldest child or more specifically the eldest son is next in line to inherit his parents’ valuable belongs, this is not the case for Amish communities. In fact, this is quite the opposite. When the Amish die and leave behind their large families, the decision on who gets the possessions take a different turn. For the Amish, land is quite valuable, so it is fitting that the youngest son will benefit rather than the oldest. In essence, the last shall be first in line where Amish land is concerned.
Joining the Amish
Being Amish is no walk in the park but it is doable, to say the very least. Outsiders are allowed to join the Amish faith but the rules and regulations in the recruitment process are rigorous. For starters, the recruit must leave behind all modern luxuries and technology and move to the Amish society. The potential convert must live with a family and adapt to the household lifestyle, work in the community, attend services and learn the Pennsylvania German dialect. However, the final say on admission rests in a church vote. In essence, anyone is allowed but the process is strict, you can follow the rules but still be rejected.
They do use some technology
Traditionally, the Amish oppose most modern technology, but there are two sides to every coin. There are some who do not view them as a threat to their religious beliefs. Some communities accept the use of limited forms of electricity which include battery power for the lights on their buggies, as well as machinery such as tractors without rubber tires. On the other hand, other forms are deemed tempting and are believed to lead members away from their communities, contributing to weakening the existing family structure. While some sects have accepted the modern advances like flushing toilets and one telephone in the community, Amish have done their best to maintain their traditional ways.
Straight to the point
When it comes to settling down and tying the knot, the Amish get right down to business. For Amish communities, there is no time wasting, and courtship begins during their teenage years. When there is a mutual interest in marriage, the couples usually date. Once they begin dating, they will come to a decision after going out for a few times. However, some Amish couples after barely dating each other, get married. The community church blesses the marriage and the engagement becomes official and is announced in the town’s newspaper. With no time for beating around the bush, the Amish get straight to the point.
Population on expansion
After escaping persecution in Europe, the Amish immigrated to America and found themselves peace in their new residence. In recent times, the Amish have been experiencing an unbelievable expansion in its population, which is largely attributed to the size of their families. About 128, 000 Amish people were recorded in the United States in 1992. In 2010, the numbers had increased to 249,000 people being recorded. Pennsylvania has been recorded as the state with the most Amish people, closely followed by Ohio and Indiana. The Amish communities record an annual growth of approximately 3.6% which may be due youthful marriages and of course their family size.
What is their belief?
From 1525 up until 1693, the religious ancestors of the Amish were part of the Anabaptist movement. They were led by Jakob Ammann and were separated from other Anabaptists in Switzerland. At times, the Anabaptism is seen as a sect of Protestantism due to its refusal and opposition to baptize infants. It is their belief that baptism is only valid when one is able to willingly confess their faith in Christ and chooses to be baptized. As one of the earliest proponents of the separation of church and state, they gave greater allegiance to the Bible than to the civil government.
Amish in numbers: Location
Over the centuries, the Amish have had an extensive history of immigration, mainly settling in Pennsylvania, United States. Today, they have moved to over 28 states, as well as in Ontario, Canada. Amish settlements have been found in unlikely places like California, Mexico, and New Orleans with a short-lived community in Honduras, Central America. In the United States, they can be found in the southern states of Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Mississippi, and Kentucky; the western states of Montana and Colorado and the northern states of New York and Maine. The largest Amish populations exist in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Although not all Amish settlements survive, when they do, they flourish.
When an Amish community member decides to leave, they will face excommunication, which is a more severe charge. This is a religious reprimand used by the elders to deny, suspend and restrict rights within the community. It is their religious belief that the church should avoid these ex-members as a reminder of their defiance to the biblical scriptures. This shutdown of contact with the person extends as far as the parents cutting ties with them, if he or she has been excommunicated or if they are excommunicated themselves. Moreover, if their transgressions are confessed they are reinstated into the community.
The Bride’s Gown
The bride’s dress is not simply “the bride’s dress”; it will be sewn by her, will be worn by her and she will continue to wear it to Sunday church services after her wedding day. Contrary to modern society, the bride-to-be will choose the color of her dress and wear a white apron on her wedding day, but will not wear a veil. This dress will be newly made and worn for the very first time on the day of the wedding. Like the man’s beard, the Amish woman’s wedding gown replaces the ring and tells many tales.
The Amish community supports the total separation of the state and church, putting the Word of God above governmental rule. The Amish generally do not vote unless voting entails issues which directly involve them. It is their belief that both a material and spiritual kingdom exist with a fine line between the two. Although they have respect for governments, they are of the opinion that Christians must adhere to the laws of the spiritual kingdom. They are deeply spiritual and view the material kingdom as worldly, thus choosing to limit their interaction with it. In essence, they choose to not see the ‘light’ because electricity is deemed a worldly invention.
The Amish are not evangelists and do not engage in missionary work, which differentiates them from other Christians. They are reluctant to vocally promote their faith and are drawn to quiet witness whereby they believe that the best judgment of a person’s faith is to observe it lived in context, in the community. They believe in living a good example through their deeds and actions because that speaks far louder than just the mere use of words which is considered hollow. The Amish aim to let their light shine but refrain from shining it in the eyes of others.
There are various names used by Amish people to refer to individuals who live outside of their communities. They are normally uncomfortable with “non-Amish” people and refer to them as “English” people. Other groups in the Geauga County, Ohio have their unique name for non-Amish, calling them “Yankees.” It is their aim to peacefully coexist with the outside world. As a result, Amish maintain friendships with “outsiders” and have a deep appreciation for those who respect and exercise Christian values. Moreover, these “English” people are allowed to visit Amish communities and patronize Amish businesses but must be mindful of taking photos.
Retention rate of Amish children
Amish communities have recorded high levels of growth with 80-90% of Amish youth choosing to join the church and remain members after baptism. In addition to this retention rate, the Amish population is expected to double every 20 years due to the high birth rate. The high baptism rate is a critical factor in the retention and growth rates as there are minimal numbers of converts to the Amish faith. Therefore the high numbers of youth wishing to be baptized in the church ensures a steady retention rate but may vary across individual Amish settlements.
Sexual Abuse in Amish Communities
Despite murder being practically unheard of in Amish settlements, other crimes are unfortunately common. Throughout the years, there have been reports of sexual abuse incidents in Amish communities. Most recently, there have been cases in an Ohio community as well as in central Pennsylvania. Amish operate a patriarchal society, thus the Amish men dominate in their culture with the women remaining submissive in some cases. There have been reports of incest as well as pedophilia. But like all things Amish, everything is handled within the community and these are only a few cases of sexual abuse which have come to light; the rest remain untold.
It is believed that due to the relatively small sizes of Amish communities, inbreeding is almost unavoidable, with high rates of these occurrences being recorded. Some Amish people are against genealogical testing as it is their belief that this goes beyond the will of God. They widely discourage close cousin marriages while more distant relations inevitably get married. Despite their rather small settlement size, members occasionally are not quite sure who is related to whom, making it quite difficult to classify it as inbreeding. For their sakes, one can only hope that the apples fall very far from their family tree.
Although the Amish are strict in their faith and the teachings of the Bible, they have not taken a vow to live in poverty. These tremendously spiritual believers are typically very good businessmen. They possess willingness and dedication towards working hard in order to reap the benefits of their successful ventures. Such is the case of an Ohio Amish businessman, Monroe Beachy, who lost millions of his clients’ money on risky stocks and refused to report the losses. It is said that where there is money, corruption will surely follow and this is may be true even among the people who are most devoted to their faith.