Since the Amish people settled in America, they have been the subject of much curiosity. Many people think that ‘Amish’ refers to their religion and that they do nothing but attend religious services and work the land. But this is not an accurate reflection of the Amish lifestyle.
The Amish are devout protestant Christians, albeit extremely conservative ones. And while their faith is the central tenet of all that they believe and do, they lead full and rewarding lives. They work, they play and they socialize just like everyone else.
But the Amish do have their unique approach to all these things. And you’ll learn all about it, in this deep dive into the Amish lifestyle.
What this article covers:
- Amish Family
- Amish Religious Practices
- Amish Language
- Amish Style of Dress
- How Do the Amish Earn Money?
- Amish Pastimes
- How Do the Amish Travel?
- How Do the Amish Function Without Modern Technology?
- What Are the Amish's Views on Education?
- Amish Rites of Passage
The family is the most important institution in the Amish lifestyle, after the church and the community.
Amish Family Beliefs
Marriage and children are a part of every Amish adult’s life, and they get married and start families younger than in most modern societies. Contrary to the myth about arranged marriages, Amish people choose their own life partners.
In instances where a couple is unable to have children, or where Amish children have been left orphaned, Amish adoption is possible. They may also adopt non-Amish children, although this is very rare. A large family is seen as a blessing, and thus adoption does not conflict with that belief.
The greater Amish community is also like a big family. In truth, as it is rare for outsiders to join the community, they are all related to each other in some way. Therefore, most Amish people can trace their ancestry back to the first group of settlers in the 1700s.
The Amish take marriage very seriously. For them, it is a sacred act of devotion, instituted by God. And they usually get married fairly early in life.
Their marriage ceremonies focus heavily on biblical readings and church service. Marriage between Amish and non-Amish is forbidden, but not for the reasons you might expect.
Amish are not prejudiced against any other people groups. But their faith is of the utmost importance to them. Should an outsider want to marry an Amish person, they’ll have to convert to this faith and live the Amish lifestyle. This has sometimes happened, but it's rare.
You’re probably wondering right now if Amish weddings have the same features you’re familiar with like wedding cake and an afterparty. And speaking of parties, are Amish people allowed to dance?
A reception and feast are held afterwards as you’d expect, but this is a much more low-key affair than traditional non-Amish weddings. They don’t have the band or the dancing, but they do have some delicious wedding feast recipes.
No honeymoon though - after the wedding, the clean up after the night before’s festivities begin. The newlyweds will stay with the bride’s family for a while until their new home is built for them. Amish men are very skilled woodworkers and the community comes together to build a house for each new couple.
Marriage is traditional, involving the union of one man and one woman. The myth of Amish polygamy persists, but it isn’t, nor has it ever been true. This misconception is probably due to outsiders confusing the Amish with other minority religious groups like the Mormons.
The Amish don’t believe in, nor do they tolerate divorce. Separation is sometimes allowed, but every attempt is made by elders in the community to bring about reconciliation. Should an Amish person divorce their spouse, and attempt to remarry, that would be viewed as an act of adultery.
It’s another matter entirely if an Amish person’s spouse dies. They are then free to remarry and will not be seen as adulterers. Marriage is seen as an important step into adulthood, and it isn’t entered into lightly. Those traditional marriage vows of ‘until death we do part’ hold a lot of weight in the Amish community.
Amish Familial Roles
Family is of great importance in any Amish settlement. Amish people get married quite young and have large families. So much so, that every Amish community has to build an Amish schoolhouse and eventually enlarge it to accommodate the abundance of school-age children.
Familial roles are subject to a patriarchal system. The husband and father are the heads of the household, the disciplinarian, and the breadwinner. The wife and mother is the caregiver and is in charge of household duties. Children are expected to help around the home.
This doesn’t mean that couples don’t help each other. Husbands and wives often run farms together, working together in the fields. But the men do the heavier work. This may seem odd to non-Amish who may be used to a more liberal approach to gender roles.
That said, women are allowed to run small businesses and contribute to the family. Amish women are keen seamstresses and crafters. Their quilts are loved and highly sought after for their beauty and fine attention to detail.
Amish Religious Practices
Amish religious practices are not very different from other conservative protestant churches. And a few of their religious practices even echo those of the biblical days. But some practices are uniquely Amish.
For example, the Amish attend church services on Sundays, like millions of Christians all over the world. But they only do so on alternate Sundays. So, what do Amish do on Sundays when they aren’t in church?
They spend time with their families, visit neighbors and friends, and enjoy their favorite hobbies and pastimes. Keep reading if you’d like to discover what those Amish leisure pursuits are.
But when in church, the service is very similar to other Christian churches. Sermons are given, Bible texts are read, and hymns are sung.
Old High German is used for church ceremonies, and their prayer books and hymnals are also in this dialect. This stems back to their very beginnings in Europe when they first splintered off from the Swiss Anabaptists.
The Amish language has remained untainted through years of separation from modern linguistic influences. But there are, in fact, three languages in use in Amish communities. There’s the home language, called Pennsylvania Dutch. But this is a misnomer, as it isn’t Dutch at all.
Pennsylvania Dutch is actually a dialect of Old German that developed when the first Amish contingent arrived and settled in Pennsylvania in the 1700s. Surrounding American settlers, unfamiliar with the language, incorrectly assumed it was Dutch they were hearing. And so the name Pennsylvania Dutch was born and stuck.
Next, there’s the Old High German that is used for religious services and ceremonies. This is closer to the language they spoke before settling in America. It is a very quaint and formal version of German and bears little resemblance to the modern lingo used in German-speaking countries today.
Lastly, English is taught in Amish schoolrooms. This ensures that Amish youth grow up able to speak at least conversational English. This not only makes communication with neighboring non-Amish farmers easier but also makes it possible to run a business in the non-Amish world.
Amish Style of Dress
A stroll through an Amish village is like taking steps back in time. The Amish style of dress offers a glimpse into 17th-century European attire. However, their clothing is not worn for its fashion properties, but for its simplicity in function.
Amish men wear simple, practical clothing suitable for working outdoors or doing other manual labor. They wear shirts with long trousers and plain shoes. Because of the Amish opposition to all forms of vanity, decorative buttons, embroidered insignia, and all other adornment are forbidden.
Even belt buckles are viewed in this way. So instead of wearing belts to keep their trousers up, Amish men wear suspenders. It does the job well and fits the traditional look of their clothing well. Amish men wear hats that protect their heads while working outdoors, but these too are as plain as possible.
Like the men, Amish women are expected to dress plainly and above all, modestly. Amish women don’t wear trousers as these are viewed as traditionally male garments. Instead, they wear dresses that cover their arms, chests, and legs, Nothing tight-fitting, revealing, or ostentatious is allowed.
Amish women wear their hair long, in keeping with biblical recommendations. But they wear their hair pinned up and covered by traditional bonnets, called Kapps. The color of their bonnets signifies their marital status - white for married and black for unmarried.
This is just as well, or it would be difficult to know who is married and who isn’t. Both Amish men and women don’t wear jewelry of any kind, and that includes wedding bands. The presence of a white bonnet for a woman, or a long beard for a man, is the only way to know for sure.
How Do the Amish Earn Money?
Why do the Amish live as they do? They live simple, plain lives away from the distraction of contemporary society, to stay true to their traditions. Modern-day Amish may have relaxed a few of the minor rules in their communities, but for the most part, they live the way they did since their arrival in America.
Of course, despite their reverence for the ways of old, they still need certain things to survive. And so just like any other community, the Amish need to make a living. They are not materialistic but need money to buy the goods, groceries, and clothing they can’t make themselves.
Amish people are hardworking and diligent and are especially good at certain types of work that have been passed down through the generations. These are some of the top jobs in an Amish village.
Agriculture plays a major role in Amish culture and is the number one occupation in most Amish settlements. The original Amish settlers were keen farmers and passed down their love of working the land to their descendants.
It not only provides a source of healthy food for the community but also a way to earn an income. The English (as non-Amish are called) find it hard to resist garden harvest baskets filled with fresh produce straight from nature.
Amish craftsmanship usually involves woodworking for men and sewing or quilting for women. Amish woodwork is prized throughout the US and Canada, as are Amish handmade quilts.
These products provide Amish communities with good income streams and also allow them to furnish their own homes. Gifts in the Amish community are usually crafted products, too.
Amish businesses are run in most Amish communities throughout the US.
Amish businesses sell items like freshly grown fruits and vegetables, cured meats and cheeses, deli products, woodcrafts, quilts, and handmade Amish dolls complete with furniture. These exciting eco-friendly items for the home are of the highest quality and best of all are sustainably produced.
One of their most popular products is the woven wicker basket. The time-honored tradition of basket weaving has been passed down from generation to generation. And now you can enjoy this beautiful art yourself, with your purchase of Amish Baskets.
Everyone from the homemaker to the remote worker is catered for with the Amish Baskets line of authentic Amish wicker products.
Browse our innovative range of wicker file baskets, stylish woven storage baskets for shelves, and practical under-bed storage baskets.
Your home or even your home office will be far less cluttered and have a touch of Amish charm. They make wonderful gifts, so get yours today and bring joy to your family and friends.
Because of their self-imposed isolation, few outsiders know much about Amish leisure pursuits. As they try to be completely self-sufficient, questions like “do Amish hunt?” are common. Yes, some Amish hunt birds and also larger game. They hunt for food or for sport and may use a hunting rifle or even a bow to do so.
Another popular query is whether or not the Amish enjoy playing musical instruments, singing, or listening to music. Much confusion surrounds the subject of the Amish and music. The Amish love music. They love to hear it, and they love to sing hymns or folk songs. However, playing musical instruments is not a part of the Amish lifestyle
The reason for this may seem unusual to outsiders. While Amish love music, they also realize that some people may have more talent in the playing of music than others. And it is in this realm of abilities that the door can be opened to pride and boastfulness. This is something that conflicts with the Amish way of life.
Naturally, it’s not healthy to work all day and never make time for rest and recreation. The Amish understand this and have hobbies and pastimes just like the non-Amish do. However, Amish leisure activities mustn’t conflict with their religious beliefs or community values.
What Do the Amish Do for Fun?
The Amish love to play games, and both young and old will happily spend an hour or two seated around a board game on one of their off-Sundays. Popular Amish games include traditional favorites like Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit.
Several sports feature on Amish fun days too. These include softball, basketball, volleyball, and even hockey. However, contact sports and aggressive sports like boxing or martial arts are forbidden. These conflict with their pacifist beliefs.
How Do the Amish Travel?
Although most Amish people spend virtually their entire lives in and around their own village, they still need to travel to stores occasionally. A few Amish may also work outside the village, and then need transportation. Amish don’t drive cars, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get around.
The horse and buggy is their primary mode of transport for longer distances. For short trips, walking and cycling are the modes of choice.
But do they travel around and take selfies of themselves in exotic places? No. That is not a part of the Amish lifestyle. The making of graven images is forbidden. This rule is based on a biblical commandant and is the reason why Amish don’t photograph themselves.
So, can the Amish use mirrors? Yes, they can, because a reflection is not a graven image. Mirrors are functional. Allowing Amish women to do their hair and men to shave their facial hair. Only the unmarried men, though. Once an Amish man is married, he grows his beard out and never shaves or cuts it.
How Do the Amish Function Without Modern Technology?
It may be difficult for you, dear reader, to envision your life without the many technological aids you’ve come to rely on. But the Amish have none of these, and yet they thrive.
So, “what is an Amish heater then” we hear you ask. Marketed under the name Amish heater or Amish fireplace, these heaters offer significant reductions in your heating bills. But they have nothing to do with the Amish. It’s merely a clever marketing trick on the part of unscrupulous businesses.
Although more progressive New Order Amish communities may use certain technologies to make their lives easier the more orthodox Old Order communities don’t. They avoid all forms of technology as far as possible.
More traditional methods are favored over labor-saving devices in the home. Agricultural equipment and woodworking tools are allowed, as these help the community members to grow and prosper. But hand-operated tools are given preference over electrical ones.
Surprisingly, just like when you go camping in the great outdoors, the vast majority of household chores can be achieved without modern mechanization or electricity. Gas lamps provide adequate lighting, and gas or wood-fired stoves allow for boiling water and cooking meals.
What Are the Amish's Views on Education?
Amish views on education are a bit different from the outside world. That doesn’t mean that they don’t value education, because they certainly do. But as secular education conflicts with their core beliefs, they have their own system of education to meet their needs.
Amish children attend school in their own communities or on nearby plots of land donated by well-wishers among their non-Amish neighbors. Amish schools are built and run by the Amish themselves and are therefore private schools.
They are also parochial schools, as they are religious in nature. The government allows this and doesn’t require Amish children to receive school lessons beyond the 8th grade, This is in accordance with the right to religious freedom as ruled on in the Wisconsin vs Yoder case of 1972.
The typical Amish schoolhouse is plain, simple, and practical. Amish children receive instruction in Pennsylvania Dutch but are also taught English. Basic mathematics, language, and science topics are taught. But the curriculum also revolves around Amish history, Amish culture, and their faith.
Amish Rites of Passage
Like any other societal group, Amish people have their distinctive rites of passage. Although at first glance, they may not seem familiar to you, a deeper look will highlight their commonalities with modern cultural norms.
This is the name given to the time when Amish youth have completed their schooling but have not yet been baptized into the Amish way of life and the church. After baptism, all rules for Amish living contained in their code of conduct, the Ordning, must be followed.
Amish usually marry and start their own families shortly after baptism. Rumspringa offers a brief opportunity to go out into the world and have a taste of non-Amish life. Most Amish return and become baptized.
A minority chooses to live outside the community if they decide that they can't return to the austere Amish living conditions. Even when this happens, they will be allowed to return later, if they then repent and choose to be baptized.
Once an Amish person becomes baptized, their Amish way of life is set. This is not only the next step on the road to adulthood. It is admission to the church and the necessary path to becoming a fully participating Amish community member.
Amish marriages can only take place between two baptized individuals. Even if an Amish man or woman wishes to marry an outsider, their partner would have to undergo this same baptism after a period of instruction in the Amish ways.
Marriage is seen as another rite of passage and plays a vital role in the community. That is why dating, although allowed, is not quite the same as amongst non-Amish people. All dating is pursued to find a marriage partner.
If a person chooses to remain unmarried, that is not necessarily a problem. But they would have to lead a life of celibacy, as premarital and extramarital sex is forbidden by Amish societal rules. Most Amish people choose to get married, and to get remarried if they become widowed.
Living separately from the rest of society, and toiling daily without the help of modern technology, isn’t easy.
The Amish lifestyle takes dedication and devotion. Yet their unwavering faith has carried them through centuries of isolationism. And as a result, their culture has remained strong and vibrant.
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