Many people can conjure an image of a hat and bonnet-clad people riding in horse-drawn buggies when they hear the term “Amish,” but few may understand much about this group of people who are primarily known for their disuse of modern conveniences like cars and electricity. Amish people tend to keep to themselves, so the outside world may not truly understand this group’s strong belief system or particular aspects of their culture that make them so unique.
Also known as Amish Mennonites, they typically belong to what is officially called The Old Order Amish Mennonite Church. The church was founded in the 17th century by followers of Jakob Amman in Switzerland and parts of Germany. While many European Amish assimilated to modern cultre, those who emigrated to North America beginning in the 1800s have managed to preserve their way of life.
Amish people live by the notion of “gelassenheit,” which means “as God intended.” This is why they do not use modern forms of technology or electricity. Naturally, they don’t watch television, play video games, install alarm systems, or surf the internet either in accordance with the principles of gelassenheit.
Do you know why Amish people rarely get sick? Everything they eat is organic. They grow their food and make it from scratch. Many people enjoy visiting their communities so that they can enjoy the fantastic cooking. Amish women are particularly well known for their outstanding baked goods. Additionally, they people are forbidden from drinking alcohol or smoking, which also enhances their health.
Humility, family, community, and separation from the world are hallmarks of Amish culture. They live by these tenets and weave them into their daily life. There is an unwritten code of behavior called Ordnung, and they grow up understanding what is expected of them. If they deviate, they risk being shunned by their community.
Amish people wear simple clothing. They people shun vanity, so their clothes are meant to reflect their humble ways. Furthermore, they dress similarly to promote the ideals of equality. Men wear white shirts and black pants. Women wear the same type of dress. You won't find any accessories or decorations on Amish clothing, which is simply designed to be functional.
Amish people do go to school until about 8th grade. After that, the custom is for men to choose a profession and go to work. Girls reside at home, continuing to learn how to keep a home according to custom. Women become housewives; they do not enter a profession.
The Amish have a close connection to God. They believe that church can be held anywhere—even in their backyards. They do not think you need a church to teach the Bible. Church can be held outdoors. Often, they gather outside near someone’s home to hold their church. Candles and altars are not important to their belief system.
Why are there so many Amish in Pennsylvania? Historically, Pennsylvania was the state that early Mennonites settled in when they came from Europe. Today, however, there are communities in nearly thirty states that include Illinois and Iowa. According to statistics, there are about 250,000 Amish people currently living in the United States today.
Amish people believe in pacificism. They shun violence and will not typically enter military service or retaliate violently if they are attacked. Their commitment to peace is something that permeates their culture. If a community member were to commit an act of violence like getting into a fist fight, they might face punishment from their community.
Although the Amish are relatively healthy as a population, they do go to see doctors in the event of a serious illness. There are many remedies to employ, but they understand that modern medicine is sometimes necessary. In cases of emergency, they will certainly go outside of their community to obtain medical care.
Marriages are not arranged. The only rule for young men and women is that they must marry a member of the Amish church. Before a marriage can take place, the couple must obtain permission from the church. Proposals are typically simple; there is no diamond ring. Beforehand, all dating must take place in public.
After the wedding takes place, the young couple will reside, even on their wedding night, with parents--usually the bride's parents. Until the community can gather together to build the couple their own home, they will continue to live together under the parents' roof. Most Amish weddings occur in the Fall, which means house building isn't likely to occur until better weather in the spring and summer.
The men are often easy to identify by their facial hair. Men sport beards without mustaches. During the 1800s, soldiers typically sported mustaches, so Amish men took to shaving their faces but allowing their beards to grow as they believed God intended them to do.
Amish people refer to individuals outside of their culture as English. When they emigrated to the U.S., most people they encountered spoke English. They, of course, spoke the German of their homeland. Today, they call everyone English who is outside of their culture regardless of their race or the language they speak.
Amish people typically grow up learning three languages: German, Pennsylvania Dutch (a form of German), and English. German is their native language, but as they acclimated somewhat to America, they learned that English was a useful language to know as well. There is little need for them to learn any other languages according to their traditions.
Some people find it hard to imagine life without their modern comforts like electricity and computers. Amish people understand that it’s important for their young folk to embrace their lifestyle willingly and whole-heartedly. For this reason, they encourage youth to experience English life or “Rumspringa” before they officially join the church.
Some Amish teens return home after a week of living in the English community. Others have chosen to embrace English life for a year or even longer. Some teens choose to travel to other countries. Interestingly, most do return to their community to join the church after experiencing Rumspringa.
When individuals join the Amish church, they are baptized. Children are not baptized because they believe that people should be older when they decide to join the church and commit to its religious ideals. Typically, they officially join the church between the ages of 16 and 25.
The Amish are very serious about their rules. People who break them will sometimes be “shunned” for committing actions that are deemed as wrong by the community. A shunning is like a “time out” that can last days, a week, or even several months depending on the severity of the infarction.
Amish people value their community and the concept of sharing. They frequently gather throughout the year. They enjoy having meals together. Each person or family will bring a food dish to share for a communal meal. These meals might take place after worship service, to celebrate a harvest, or during a home or barn raising.
Amish people do not believe in birth control. For this reason, it’s not uncommon to find families with five or more children. Generally, they will have between five and seven kids. Since couples marry relatively young, it’s not uncommon to find couples with more than seven kids.
Amish people do not play music as a rule because it could lead to self-expression and pride. They enjoy singing, but the hymns that sing come from a high German songbook known as the Ausbunch. The tunes are passed down from one generation to the next. Singing constitutes an important part of their worship service.
Women are not allowed to take on important or influential roles in the church. They are not the head of their family either. They are dependent on their husbands. Before they marry, they are dependent on their families. Additionally, women do not have a choice when it comes to their occupation once they join the church. They are destined to be housewives.
As mentioned, the community is significant to the Amish. In cases when there is a medical emergency, and someone in their community racks up medical bills, the entire community will chip in to pay. They will work and contribute to the fund until the debt is paid. They do not obtain medical insurance. Instead, they pay outright.
While Amish people avoid English life, they are open to accepting others into their church. Many individuals have converted to their faiths To become a member of the church, they must learn the German and Pennsylvania Dutch languages first. Naturally, they must learn about and embrace tenets of the church.
Since most Amish people farm to some extent and keep animals, a barn is an essential feature of many homes. A barn raising is a festive community event. The men help to build the barn while the women watch the children and prepare a communal meal for everyone to enjoy after the barn raising is complete.
The Amish do not take photographs because they believe it could cultivate vanity. They are strongly opposed to pride and arrogance. They do not take family photographs or create artworks. When a loved one dies, they have no image to remember them by except for the one in their memory.
Amish people are known for their hard work ethic. Both men and women alike tend to wake up with the dawn to start the work of the day. There are crops and livestock to tend to. Since all meals are essentially made from scratch, women have much to do just in the way of meal preparation. They also sew, take care of their children, and help their neighbors.
While many Amish men go into farming, others prefer to take up a trade like woodworking. Amish carpenters are revered for their fine-quality workmanship. Women can even help make money for their families by selling items like preserves or baked goods. Many Amish people will sell to English at farmers markets near their homes.
The horse and buggy conveyance is, of course, the quintessential mode of transportation for Amish people. Their communities tend to be filled with them. Walking and riding a bicycle are also ways to get around. Although they are forbidden to own a car, they can ride in one in times of emergency.
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