If you ever find yourself in the Midwest of the US, or in parts of Pennsylvania, then you might have met members of the Amish community. The spiritual group is unusual in that they generally reject many modern ways of life. The general community among the Amish is known for being rather friendly, though we don’t know much about them since they keep their way of life to themselves.
From growing up and playing with faceless dolls to their everyday customs, there are many extraordinary details of Amish life that have never been explored. Let’s take a look, shall we?
The Relationship With Electricity
Despite what people might think, not all Amish people totally avoid electricity. Whereas some Amish communities are more traditional than others, many realize that sometimes you just have to use electricity. They are allowed to use electricity in emergency situations, work, or whatever else they think is necessary for their lifestyle.
The reason they avoid electricity is that they like to live life with “Gelassenheit.” This German word can be translated to “letting be” and the Amish adopt their philosophy that the world should be used as God intended.
We have certain understandings when it comes to the Amish and their unique facial hair. You are probably familiar with their long beard but totally shaved and neat face.
The reason for this is pretty interesting. Whereas they want to live how God intended (by letting their hair grow), they avoid signs on beards or mustaches. This is because they used to be a sign of wealth and fashion in the 1800s. Since they don’t believe in following fashion statements, they keep their faces cleanly shaven.
All Outsiders Are ‘English’
Even though outsiders of the Amish community could be from anywhere in the world, the locals have a very specific term for people who don’t follow the lifestyle. The Amish refer to anyone who isn’t like them as English – despite race, religion, ethnicity, or nationality.
This is because they strictly stick to their traditions from hundreds of years ago when foreigners arriving in the US were mostly English.
They’re Very Patient With Their Teenagers
Teenagers are set to rebel against their parents – it doesn’t matter how you’re raised! The Amish community knows this and are fully prepared for young people who might act out and misbehave.
In the event that a child or teenager breaks the rules, the Amish parents are pretty relaxed with their punishment. They understand that too much punishment might lead to children leaving the community – which is the last thing they want.
Rumspringa And The Art Of Rebellion
The Amish are so used to children rebelling that they literally have a life event around it. Called Rumspringa, teenagers between the ages of 14-18 are allowed to experience ‘English’ life. The word is a translation of literally ‘running around’ and is a rite of passage.
The time is an opportunity for young ones to learn more about life outside the community and see what they are missing. Usually, they return for baptism and stay in the lifestyle.
The Outside World
The rite of passage known as Rumspringa can actually go on for as long as they like. Even though it occurs in the teenage years, there’s no timeframe or deadline for how long it takes.
Some people refer to it as a dangerous or scary time in their lives as they become exposed to things like electricity, shopping malls, cars, and televisions. Imagine seeing all these things for the first time as a teenager?
Most Teens Return
Amazingly, most teenagers return to Amish life once their Rumspringer is complete. It can be hard to understand why anyone would go back to living how they did in the 1800s, but it must be a testament to the strength of the community and the importance of family.
Of course, the parents will always be happy to welcome their kids back home. If they decide to not return, the community will not welcome them back at a later date.
Why Don’t Dolls Have Faces?
Usually, children’s toys aren’t creepy – but then you probably haven’t seen an Amish doll. These are known to not have any faces at all and are seen ass pretty normal for young kids in the community. After all, they don’t know any different.
The toys they have are homemade and emphasized for their simplicity and humble roots. The lesson is that it doesn’t matter what you look like and that beauty shouldn’t be something to aim for.
When You Date, You Share A Bed
It turns out we’re not so different from the Amish after all! Amish parents actually encourage children who start dating to share a bed – but trust us, that’s all they do! The teens remain fully clothed and separated by an additional bedsheet.
So why do they bother? The ‘bundling’ experience is supposed to strengthen the bond between the two people dating and help build a strong connection. They are encouraged to stay up and ‘talk’ all night.
No Arranged Marriages
This detail about the Amish surprised us since the community is famously quite small. Traditions all over the world depend on organizing arranged marriages between a man and a woman. Despite the small community of around 500,000, the Amish do not force anyone to marry someone if they don’t want to. It’s a weirdly progressive way of life but not too surprising.
After all, you can join or leave the community at will, so surely you can marry who you want. The only restriction is that they have to also be Amish.
Dating Is Prohibited Until They Join The Church
It makes sense that the Amish community would restrict marriage to themselves. It’s a particularly difficult and demanding lifestyle to abide by, and asking someone to join it is no easy feat.
Conventionally, people can’t start dating until he/she is baptized in the church, usually after their Rumspringa. Still, even then dating has to be done in a public space and only once both parties have been properly welcomed into the community.
Engagements Must Be Approved By The Church
Even though you can choose who to date and who to marry, you have to seek permission from the church. Only after they explicitly grant permission for the man and woman to marry, the couple can go ahead and start to plan the ceremony.
Generally, there are few reasons to prevent a marriage, but this is more of a tradition than anything else. Usually, the happy news is then shared in a local newsletter.
Weddings Are Humble
Not only do the Amish avoid all diamond engagement rings, but the bride and groom avoid all forms of jewelry and makeup! This is to not indulge in vanity and is in line with their traditions.
The bride wears a simple blue dress and keeps her hair covered, whereas the man stays in his traditional outfit. Usually, weddings take place in the fall.
The Location Of The Honeymoon
Don’t expect an extravagant trip for a honeymoon when you marry in the Amish community. In fact, the location for your first night of marriage can be pretty daunting: the bride’s mother’s home!
Clearly, the Amish don’t require privacy to consummate the marriage. The next morning, the new couple cleans the house as a thank you for hosting them. Yeah, you can count us out of this tradition. Thank you, next.
Many Parts Of Honeymoons
There are actually several different parts to a couple’s honeymoon period. After their first night at the in-laws, the newlyweds get up and go somewhere else.
They embark on a ‘tour’ of visiting all the friends and family across both families as they start their new life as husband and wife. Usually, they won’t have their own house yet so they will settle back at the bride’s parents’ home until they buy their own place.
Barn building is a popular activity that includes the whole community. When someone is in need of a new barn, it is understood that everyone comes together to help out.
It is almost an unspoken rule that everyone who can, will help out. This is usually for newly married couples and shows how you are always willing to help your fellow Amish person. This is completed with no power drills or electricity, so many hands make for little work.
They’re Mainly Cancer Free
Want to hear something frightening? It turns out that the Amish have record-low levels of cancer in their community. This is because they don’t drink or smoke cigarettes and grow all their food organically.
It makes you think about all the things we do that increase our chances of cancer. Amazingly, they are more healthy than their ‘English’ neighbors around the world. It makes sense: they eat well, drink well, and avoid all processed foods. Good for them!
They Speak Three Languages
Nowadays, many people across the States and beyond speak more than one language. Being bilingual is becoming the norm in the 21st century. This trend is getting more and more pronounced in society, but did you know the Amish had us beat?
Most Amish people speak three languages. The native language is German since this is where the original ancestors came from when they landed in America. What are the other two languages they speak each day?
The Other Two Languages
The German they speak is an old dialect from hundreds of years ago, and so it might even sound like a different language to native Germans today. Aside from the German they speak, the Amish also speak English and Pennsylvania Dutch.
The breakdown is usually like this: English is used for schools and businesses, whereas German and Dutch are used in everyday affairs and family matters. This is so they can remain true to their roots while also interacting with everyday life.
You’re Not Baptized Until You’re ‘Old Enough’
Usually, people are baptized when they are a baby or young toddler. Regardless of culture, baptism is a rite of passage for families and individuals. According to the Amish, baptism should be up to the individual who can choose when this takes place.
They will never perform this act on a child since they are too young to decide for themselves. Usually, Amish will get baptized between the age of 16-24 after their ‘Rumspringa’ is complete and they are ready to date.
The Famous Book of Rules
Since the Amish have so many rules, it’s important to keep track of them. That’s why they have a book to keep them in. In fact, the Amish claim that two books are more important than any others: the Bible and the Ordnung. The second book might not be familiar, but it’s their main book.
Ordnung means ‘order’ or ‘discipline’ and is the most important book that they live by. Generally, it’s a guidebook that outlines what each Amish individual can and cannot do. Communities punish those who break the rules.
Don’t Confuse The Two!
You might hear about people wearing bonnets and think they’re also Amish. In fact, there is another group called Mennonite – and you don’t want to get caught confusing them! Mennonites are a Christian group but not as strict as the Amish community.
Generally, Mennonites live in more modern communities than the Amish counterparts. In fact, they’re even known to use technology and drive cars. While they look the same, they live very different lifestyles.
To Be Banished Is To Be ‘Meidung’
The Amish community has many restrictions on their lifestyle and habits, but are mostly rather permissive. Like most cults, they allow the people to come to their own conclusions about how to live. When codes are violated, however, they are placed in a ‘Meindung’ – which lightly translates as ‘time out’.
If someone continues to break the Ordnung, they might be shunned from the community and asked to leave. This can have devastating consequences if they leave their friends and family behind.
While you might think Meidung is bad, there’s actually something that is far worse. This more severe punishment is called ‘Bann’ and can mean you’re permanently banned from the community. Whereas Meidung is temporary ‘time out’, Bann is far worse.
Depending on the ‘crime’, you can be shunned for days, weeks, months, or years. As bad as it sounds, it’s designed to make the person realize just how bad they acted. We think they’d get the idea!
Keep It Modest
In line with their belief of modesty, the Amish consider vanity and selfishness serious follies. Therefore, members of the community must keep their clothing as plain and modest as possible as to not attract attention to themselves.
To make sure everyone is equal, women dress in the same dresses and men wear plain shirts and black pants. They also refuse to wear any jewelry, makeup, accessories, or even patterns. This uniform is adopted 24/7.
You Can Expect Inbreeding
This probably shouldn’t surprise any readers. Since their communities are so small, the Amish often engage in incest and inbreeding. They don’t intentionally engage in the taboo act, but they can’t avoid sharing at least some of their DNA with other members in the community.
These family ties are often quite far out, like distant cousins. They don’t exactly fall in love with, or marry, their sibling! This can sometimes result in genetic risks among young people.
DNA Testing Is Forbidden
Strangely, we don’t know for sure just how far the inbreeding goes since it is against their beliefs to have DNA testing. Since they don’t seek knowledge about their ancestry, they know very little about where they’re from or who they are.
This means that any inbreeding or incest is likely to be accidental. They believe that if this DOES happen, then it is God’s will and it’s what he wanted. Let’s just hope they’re all happy and healthy.
It turns out that food transcends any and all cultural traditions! Historically, there are many communities that share a meal as one of the most symbolic ways to bond with people. The Amish are no different! In fact, hosting and participating in potluck dinners are important factors for the Amish.
These meals are coordinated to make everyone feel welcome. Everyone is responsible for bringing a dish or meal to a large table, and then people gather round and catch up. When there’s no electricity, there isn’t much else to do!
Graduation After The 8th Grade
Good news for kids who hate school! The Amish community technically finish school after the 8th grade, making them all high school dropouts! Apparently to the Amish, finishing school isn’t as important as learning about the family and religious values they hold.
Once they complete their schooling in the 8th grade, they do not continue to more than that. By then, usually, they decide what profession they want for life. This usually includes shopkeepers, farmers, or housekeepers.
No Fancy Churches
One of the most fascinating parts of any religion is how they build and decorate their house of worship. Whether it’s Christianity, Judaism, or Catholicism, most people can appreciate the unique architecture.
Well, you’re set to be disappointed by the Amish! Don’t expect any fancy buildings for their place of worship. They believe that you can teach the Bible anywhere – which is technically true – so they don’t indulge in extravagant buildings. Sometimes, they even meet outside.
They Don’t Think Any Less Of Us
Obviously, devout followers of any religion can sometimes feel like their god is better than anyone else’s. We’ve all seen examples of people who claim others to be sinners or suggest that everyone else should convert to what they’re preaching.
Fortunately, the Amish don’t fit in with this group of people. Generally, the Amish are very welcoming and accepting of people regardless of their relation. Arrogance is seen as a sin among them so they don’t practice it.
No Birth Control Allowed
Something they DO share with other orthodox religions, however, is the lack of birth control. They believe that whatever happens is because of God and his decisions. That might explain why their numbers are growing strong each year!
In fact, it’s probably all part of the plan. According to the Amish, it is considered a good deed to create a large family. On average, the normal Amish couple has between 5-7 children. Imagine all the birthday parties!
War? What Is It Good For?
Don’t worry: you won’t experience an army of Amish throwing sticks and stones any time soon. Similar to Quakers, the Amish are against any form of violence. This means no war, regardless of the circumstances or threat.
It is against their policy to exert force over any human being. Like a true libertarian, they believe their rights to injure someone end at someone else’s rights to be protected. If only the whole world thought like that!
The DO See Doctors
The Amish have a reputation for being isolated from the rest of society. This means they do not interact with doctors, educators, or any part of pop culture. Despite not using technology or electricity, they do sometimes see doctors.
They will always prefer to seek natural remedies to ailments, but will use modern medicine if necessary. Nothing in the bible says people should refuse medical treatment! It might seem hypocritical, but we’re talking about saving lives.
The Central Theme
So, they don’t use electricity but will happily seek medical assistance. You might be wondering what their main idea is on how they choose to live their lives. Well, there’s one specific part of the bible that can explain it.
Romans 8:12 in the New Testament says: “Be ye not conformed to this world”. Essentially, it encourages the Amish not to conform to everyday beliefs or traditions. Well, they’re certainly not doing that. It’s one of the biggest motivators to their seclusion.
Where Did ‘Amish’ Come From?
Where do our names come from? You might think that the word ‘Amish’ was simply made up to name this group of people, but the truth is far more interesting. The word ‘Amish’ means someone who calls themselves a follower of Jacob Ammann – a Swiss thinker and religious leader.
Over time, he became somewhat controversial with his teachings. His unique take on the European Mennonite Church caused a divide within Protestantism. 300 years later and here are the Amish: those who live a simple life, love their community, and follow the bible the way it was originally intended.
How Many Amish Today?
It sounds like the Amish are a small and insular community, but that is wildly underestimating their numbers. Today in the US alone, there are more than 250,000 Amish people. So far, they can be found in 28 states and continue moving west.
Outside of the US, there are also groups of Amish people in Europe – where the religion was founded. Small communities can be found in Germans, Switzerland, and France. We can expect these numbers to only grow in time.
There Was A Schism
As time progressed past the 17th Century and the start of Amish communities, they began to evolve in different ways. Starting in 1862, conferences were held to discuss their place within society and how they can best live their lives. Unfortunately, two groups couldn’t agree on what direction to take the communities.
This resulted in a division between a ‘new’ and ‘old’ order that progressed in different ways. Today, these factions are known as the Old Order Amish and the Mennonite Church. They each hold varying degrees of innovation and tradition.
What’s The Difference?
The man who founded the Amish community was an Anabaptist. From that faith, a few different Anabaptist communities branched off, ultimately developing into the Amish and Mennonites – as previously mentioned. The Amish technically branched off of the Mennonite church. Mennonite Anabaptists hold some of the same tradition as the Amish Anabaptists. However, the Mennonite Anabaptist group has some important differences from the Amish.
Both believe in adult baptism, but generally, the modern Mennonite are more likely to embrace technology, healthcare, and education more freely than the others.
Inheritance Traditions Are Reversed
Usually, we read about how things like property or titles are inherited by the oldest son or child. However, the Amish have basically flipped this tradition on its head. They dictate that it’s the youngest child who will inherit the farm or home.
This is usually because the Amish have so many children that the oldest ones are normally more settled than the young ones. However, some traditions never die: it can’t go to the women since men are the breadwinners.
Some Photos Can Be Taken
There’s a rumor going around that the Amish don’t let people take their photos. Technically, the laws in the Amish community dictate that they are not allowed to take photos. The loophole is that they are allowed to have their photos taken – as long as they’re not using the camera.
Still, you’re going to want to be respectful of the culture. Even though it’s technically allowed to have your photo taken, some members of the community will still refuse to do so. Just be considerate.
Some Factions Allow Phones
We’ve already seen how different types of Amish communities have varying levels of technology in their groups. In today’s society, it’s almost impossible not to use a phone in everyday work and life. Some members of the Amish agree.
Some communities allow a phone to be used by a small number of people. Even this has its restrictions: they’re not allowed in the home and must be kept in a barn outside. Some Amish people refuse to use any technology.
It’s Like A School
So, what is the community like? Since young members of the Amish community only attend school until the 8th grade, much of their development is left to their home life. Every aspect of their education helps them learn how to be a better member of the community in which they serve.
This means that the whole area acts as a vocational school. They learn how to be caretakers, farmers, or carpenters. Just don’t ask them anything about history, geography, or science.
Separation of Church and State
One of the most important aspects of American culture is the separation of Church and State. It was a fundamental aspect proposed by the founding fathers and enshrined into the US Constitution. The Amish completely agree and practice this.
They don’t believe in the merging of the two aspects of American life. To them, the word of God is more important than the rule of government. Because of this, they decline any social security payments and refuse to join the military.
Crime Is Settled By The Church Disciple
Since they don’t believe in state intervention, the Amish like to settle disputes among themselves. One of the biggest criticisms about the Amish community is how they don’t report their crimes to the police.
Generally, the crimes they settle are petty or personal. However, it can cause problems if serious crimes are never reported to the state police. In special instances, some members might turn to the police if necessary.
Most Amish people don’t use electricity, making listening to music very difficult. Imagine never hearing recorded music from a radio or iPod? Not only are they not allowed to listen to electronic music, but they’re also forbidden from playing it themselves.
This is because playing music is seen as a form of musical expression – which could lead to pride. Next time they’re seen tapping their feet, they might get punished for it. We think that’s pretty tough to tackle…
What Do They Sing?
So, they can’t play music or listen to it in any form. They do, however, have a small exception to this. There is one song that the Amish sing, and it comes from the High German Church. It’s known as the Ausbunch and is considered the oldest Protestant church hymn still sung today.
Technically, the songs don’t have any musical notes and they’re simple tunes passed down for generations. Can you imagine hearing music for the first time as a teenager during your Rumspringa?
Re-Wearing Wedding Dresses
Usually, women only wear their wedding dressing on the day they get married. And hopefully, it’s the only time they will wear one. But for the Amish, they have slightly different traditions when it comes to the wedding gown. The Amish brides actually sew their own gowns which need to blue in most instances.
After the wedding takes place, the wife wears the gown every Sunday as a reminder to the dedication of marriage. Even stranger, it’s also the dress that they get married in – so make sure it fits!
No Recordings Or Images
Obviously, the Amish don’t take any photographs since they cannot use technology. But you might think about art and portraits to keep memories alive.
Unfortunately, the Amish are also banned from painting the faces of their loved ones. This is because they consider it ‘stealing someone’s image’ and is not allowed. Memories of family members live on in the minds of the descendants, and only there.