The Amish have been living in America for a very long time. Yet, many Americans still don’t know a lot of things about these “simple people.” What’s certain, though, is that the Amish’s way of living continues to fascinate those who are outside of their community.
That’s because the Amish shun the use of technology and refuse to be influenced by all things modern. That’s not the only interesting thing about this community. Here are 40 facts you didn’t know about the Amish that might surprise you.
#1. The Amish beginnings
The Amish heritage can be traced back to 16th century Switzerland. They are a group of Christians, who was later on known as Anabaptists, that came up with their own belief systems. Years later, the people moved to the U.S. and the rest is history.
#2. Boring wedding night
When it comes to weddings, the Amish expectedly have it in a different way. Not only do they have low-key celebrations, their wedding nights can also be dull. The wedding night is spent in the bride’s parents’ house talking. The couple usually stays there until the next day. You may think there’s no fun in that but the Amish believe that doing so would foster family bond which is important to them.
#3. Secret engagement
With social media in existence, people tend to announce important life events, like the birth of a child, weddings and of course, engagements. But for the Amish, the engagement is much better if kept secret. It stays that way until a few weeks before the low-key event, when the couple would use a religious service the opportunity to tell everyone in the community.
#4. Hand-delivered wedding invitations
Don’t expect an Amish to deliver wedding invitations via e-mail. After all, they shun the use of technology. Instead, the invitations are delivered to the recipients personally.
#5. The purpose of a wedding celebration
Couples usually celebrate weddings with friends and relatives in mind, gathering them together to witness the occasion. For the Amish, however, a wedding event is an opportunity to match single men and women. In some cases, single guests are seated together so they might find their future spouse.
#6. Adult baptism
Many Christians receive baptism as a child, but for the Amish, they give it to an adult. The Amish are Anabaptists – they believe that baptism should be done to an adult since Jesus was baptized when he was already an adult.
When Amish kids turn 16, they have a special ritual called Rumspringa, in which they are encouraged to break away from the Amish life. Children can experiment and break the rules of the community — which means they get to party, drink booze and even do drugs and have sex. The adolescent rite of passage ends with the Amish youngster choosing baptism and remain in church or leave the community forever.
#8. Dolls with no faces
Amish kids get to enjoy playing dolls, but what’s different about their dolls is that they don’t have faces. And that’s due to a religious reason. The Amish believe that vanity is sinful since all people are equal in God’s eyes. Having a doll with a face is against their religious customs. An Amish doll cannot be found in many major toy outlets. Amish-owned toy stores are the ones selling them.
Premarital sex is forbidden in the Amish life but they do have a courtship that takes place in bed. In this process, the couple, however, is fully dressed and they stay in bed together with a board between them. All they do is talk and touching is prohibited.
The courtship begins when the Amish are just in their teens. If both parties are interested in marriage, they can go on dates for a few months but can get married sooner, even after they barely dated each other.
#11. Digging graves
Amish bury the dead by digging graves by hand – yes, their actual hands. No shovel should be used since it is considered a modern tool. The old-fashioned way is to do it by hand and it usually takes three days to completely dig a grave.
#13. Grounds for shunning
Anyone who violates the community rules will be shunned in a process called Meidung. Anyone should avoid the violator socially to show their commitment to their faith. The banishment is typically used as a last resort punishment.
#14. No to Jewelry
The Amish don’t take a liking to jewelry since they believe they encourage pride. Married couples don’t have wedding rings, and as mentioned, their weddings are low-key. It only makes sense if jewelry is not involved.
#15. There’s no actual church
Amish may be a people of faith but what’s different about them than most forms of Christianity, they don’t have a formal place of worship. The town is simply divided into precincts and members have their services at home or a neighbor’s home.
#16. Family size
Typical American families have two to three children, but the Amish have way more than that. On average, an Amish family has six to seven children. In some cases, a family could have nine children. The more the merrier since more kids means more people to work on farms.
#17. No written rules
The Amish are people living by rules of the community. Yet, their rules are not written on a document. There are rules for almost everything — from playing to work to picking out clothes. There’s no official physical document and people seem to know them by heart.
#18. No musical instruments
You won’t be able to live an Amish life if you like to be expressive and creative because music (playing musical instruments) or any form of self-expression is not allowed.
#19. One Old Book of Music
Although the Amish are not allowed to play musical instruments, they still love songs and hymns. This German songbook is from the 16th century and happens to be the oldest songbook that still exists.
Facial hair has a significant meaning for the Amish community. Only married men and any man beyond 40 years old are allowed to sport a beard. Although they like to grow facial hair, mustaches are not allowed since they are usually associated with the 19th-century military.
An Amish student finishes 8th grade and nothing follows — no high school; no college. When the child is around 14, he or she can already take part in the family business. The Amish legally don’t have to abide by compulsory education laws.
#22. Teachers lack education
Since everyone stops school after 8th grade, that also means teachers in the Amish school also lack formal education. All schools are also mostly one classroom.
#23. No Cars, Yes Uber
The Amish don’t own or drive cars but are allowed to use them for specific business purposes. However, they can get in cars if someone else is driving it – that means they can get an Uber.
The Amish have stores in their communities, but that’s not to say they don’t shop at modern society stores, like Walmart, for instance. An Amish visiting commercial superstore is not an uncommon sight. Of course, they would avoid stores that specialize in selling technology, but surely, they’ll visit other stores.
#25. Not Mennonites
The Amish are usually mistaken for another religious group, the Mennonites. Both groups belong to the Anabaptist sects, but the difference is that the latter are more inclined to use technology.
#26. Puppy mills
Puppy mills are a widespread problem in the U.S. but there are certain communities were dog breeding is prolific – and the Amish community is one. Dog farming happens to be a large economic part of the community. The dogs are treated as livestock and are used to breed more until they can no longer do so. The dogs are then disposed of, shot or euthanized – and it’s legal.
#27. No to Science
It’s been established that the Amish don’t use technology but the community hates Science altogether. They don’t teach it in school and they don’t believe in medical science. Some Amish, however, will visit a doctor. Others don’t.
#28. No health insurance.
The Amish don’t have health insurance and they are exempt from laws related to it. Although it could be a problem, the Amish, as a community, help each other out so that when circumstance calls for funds for healthcare, everyone would pool their resources together to get the right treatment.
#29. Cancer is less likely
What’s great about the Amish lifestyle is that the people are less likely to develop diseases such as cancer. That’s because their food is mostly organic and they are less likely to consume processed ones. Genes may also play a part.
#30. Women’s roles
#31. Amish Women
Amish women have certain styles of outfits – mostly they wear long skirts (or a specific length of skirts) and shirts with long sleeves. Apart from not being allowed to wear jewelry, they also shouldn’t put on makeup.
#32. Amish language
Most of the Amish are bilingual since they can speak two languages – English and Pennsylvania Dutch. Some also learn how to speak German, which means that an average Amish is probably multilingual compared to an average American.
#33. A Safe Community
The Amish are a gun-loving community but there is little to no violence around. They are generally peace-loving people and men do not have to serve in the military. They don’t even have to sign up to be included in the draft.
#34. Raising the barn’s roof
Barn raising is a tradition followed by the Amish in which a barn is built or rebuilt by members of the community.
This serves as an opportunity for the community to gather and work together. In recent years, however, the practice’s popularity has slightly declined.
#35. No photos!
The Amish don’t want to be photographed, especially if tourists want to. Some may allow, but only if their faces are not on it. Generally, they don’t like it.
#36. Land inheritance
Normally, we see the eldest child inherit something valuable from their parents. But not in the Amish community. Their precious land is usually passed on to younger – not older – sons.
#37. Amish recruits
The Amish welcome new recruits and anyone who wants to be part of the community can get in. However, they have strict rules for new recruits, which include learning their language and leaving the modern life behind. Also, one should work and attend services. Even if you religiously follow their rules, there’s still a possibility for you to get rejected.
#38. Technology use
Turns out that the Amish aren’t so strict as everyone would think when it comes to technology use. Some communities do allow the use of technology as in the reported case of Amish using solar panels and diesel-powered laundry machines.
#39. Amish on Outsiders
Generally, the Amish are not comfortable being around people who are non-Amish or as what they refer to as “English” people. But they aim to co-exist peacefully with those who are outside their communities.
#40. The Amish by Numbers
Because they believe in the biblical saying, “Go forth and multiply,” the Amish’s population is experiencing an increasing growth. In 1992, the U.S. had 128,000 Amish people. By 2018, the population has increased to 318,000. Pennsylvania state has the most Amish people.
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