The Amish are a group of traditionalist Christians who originated from Germany. Their language is Pennsylvania Dutch, a dialect of German. Throughout the years, people have considered them a secluded community who live in their own world and created reality, far from our current time.
The Amish strictly follow the teachings in the Ordnung. Ordnung is the German word for ‘order,’ and this is a set of rules that dictate how the Amish and Mennonites live. These communities lead a simplistic way of life and are known for their modest dress and avoiding modern technology.
While the Amish seem to be a peaceful group, there may be a few hidden facts about their culture that you may not know. Let’s look at the top 10 Amish traditions you won’t believe.
10 No Automobiles or Modern Technology
You’d expect any population to adapt to changes and advancements, but the Amish follow a different road. They don’t use automobiles and mostly cycle or ride horses. If they need to do tasks that require the use of a car, like mechanized farming, they will hire a tractor. But they will hire a non-Amish individual to operate it.
They also do without TVs, radios, and other electronic gadgets. Most homes don’t have electricity, so it’s common to have lamps light their spaces when it gets dark. However, the Amish find solutions to live with some convenience and use generators and solar panels for electricity when they need it.
9 Discourages Higher Education
A community that sticks to each other, their traditions, and their identity believe that the world should not influence you. Because of this, they highly discourage higher education. They believe in sticking together and creating a united front because having an individual pursuing higher education may lead to them being socially segregated. They value rural life and have their own schools, where they share their values on to younger generations.
The learning that goes on in their institutions is basic. They learn how to read and write with subjects like Math and Spelling. However, they aren’t introduced to biology, chemistry, physics, history, or geography. The highest level of education is 8th grade, and there is also very little involvement in current events and politics.
The teachers are usually from the Amish community as well, passing on the beliefs the community holds. For the Amish community, it’s more practical for the younger generation to be equipped with skills that they may use in their trade when they’re older. They are trained in sewing, carpentry, and farming.
8 No Photographs
Everybody huddle in for a family picture. Now say “Goat Cheese!”
You’re probably pretty used to capturing moments by taking photos. While it’s common for other communities to have family albums, this just isn’t the case for the Amish. They have no idea what their great-grandparents looked like.
They don’t like being captured on camera, and if they agree to have an interview, they do it with their face hidden. They believe that because we are made in the image of God, having a documented image of them is like having the image of God. The Amish also believe that having or holding a photo of someone is a way of idolizing them.
7 Dating Rituals
Amish are traditional Christians and are strict about not having sex before marriage. However, young adults, who get married at around the age of 20 to 22, usually start dating at 16. They have the opportunity to socialize at functions at church or during home visits. Sunday night singing also provides a chance to meet and interact.
Since premarital sex is forbidden, they have to undergo a ritual called bundling or bed courtship. When a young man is interested in a lady, he’s taken to the girl’s room, and he is to stay there till morning before the family wakes up.
But it’s not as sexy as it sounds. There is no sexual contact, and either a wooden board is placed between the pair or they’re tied up in sacks until morning. They are expected to lie in bed together. As a couple, your options are to talk or go to sleep. Bed courtship is to be done every two weeks. The dating ritual is to create an opportunity for the couple to talk and know each other on a more intimate level without breaking their moral laws. Essentially, it’s an old-school version of Netflix and Chill.
For a tight-knit community committed to their way of life, you’d be mistaken to think that there’s no chance for native-born Amish to explore the ‘outside world.’ But Amish adolescents have an opportunity to experience a sense of personal freedom when they reach the ages of anywhere from 14 to 16.
Rumspringa is a rite of passage. And the name of this tradition translates to running around, hopping around, or jumping. The teens will not be under parental control and will get to have worldly experiences. They get to experience driving, technology, drinking, smoking, and non-traditional dressing and hairstyles.
During Rumspringa, adolescents go through the ultimate test of their faith. They usually undergo this journey right before they are baptized. After the experience, they decide whether they will stay in the Amish community and be devoted to the church or leave the church and the community.
However, it does seem that Amish parents are successful in training their children to keep the faith because they have a high retention rate and most of the youth choose to stay. However, the reasons for return are debatable because the teen could willingly choose to stay or they may opt to stay out of fear of being shunned.
5 Shunning of Members
The Amish church congregation will excommunicate and shun any members who stray from their way of life. This prevents the individual from eating or even sleeping inside the community, let alone visiting friends or family. The other members will not accept gifts from the shunned member either.
There are a few different reasons why someone would choose shunning. Some individuals feel that Amish practices are outdated and may be uncomfortable with rituals like bundling or their stance on how women are treated. They may decide to drop the faith after experiencing Rumspringa. For this reason, the person may leave the church and the community altogether. Others may be involved in criminal activities, and their actions usually lead to them being shunned by the church and the community.
4 Facial Hair
Amish men stand out due to their dated outfits and facial hair. They mostly wear black suits and hats and tend to grow long beards. However, if you have a closer look, they don’t have mustaches.
Historically speaking, men who kept mustaches were making a fashion statement that indicated that they were wealthy. The men who also went to war also grew mustaches. Since Amish men do not identify themselves as wealthy or engage in war, they do not grow mustaches. However, after they get married, they grow their beards. The beards are considered to be a milestone in their manhood.
3 Puppy Mills
The Amish pass on various trades to the younger generation. However, one that’s been in the spotlight in recent years is the Amish puppy mills. They stand to profit a lot from the sales of furry friends that most households love to have. After all, puppy breeding can be a pretty lucrative business. And Amish communities located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Holmes County, Ohio; and Shipshewana, Indiana, are known to have puppy mills.
The dogs in these mills are sometimes treated poorly, locked held in cages until they’re auctioned off or sold to buyers. They’re raised similarly to livestock, but there are debates about whether dogs can handle those conditions. And they can receive harsher treatment, getting exposed to various diseases and infections.
At any given time, the mills can have up to a thousand dogs, all different breeds. Due to the neglect and abuse that some dogs at Amish puppy mills experience, there are calls to end this tradition and trade.
2 Faceless Toys
Most of the toys on the shelf at your local toy store have a face and some sense of individuality. But Amish toys are actually faceless. It does seem weird, but they have reasons as to why they keep their toys faceless. Their way of life is not influenced by the vanity that other communities may be exposed to.
Amish parents want their children to learn that God loves them as they are, and it does not matter how they look. The faceless toys serve to train the children, especially girls, not to be obsessed by looks. The toys have clothing similar to what Amish wear, and they may be made by hand or sewn by machines.
1 Marrying within the Community
An Amish individual can only date and marry another Amish person. Their dedication to their faith and culture encourages them to remain closely knit. In some areas, inbreeding may occur as a result. This can happen when the community is small, and there are not many options available in terms of spouses. It wouldn’t be surprising to find cousins marrying each other. Some communities are battling children having unexplained conditions and genetic disorders as a result.
Genetic testing could be a solution for these children, but unfortunately, the Amish do not believe in this science either. Another solution would be for them to marry outside the local gene pool. However, since they can only marry other Amish, this limits them and goes against their beliefs and practices.