Common Amish Traditions Explained
When it comes to the Amish culture, myths and inaccuracies abound about how this religious group live their lives. While there are many differences between the Amish way of life and the modern lifestyle, the Amish do take part in weddings, funerals, and church services — with their own specific set of traditions. Below, we take a closer look at some of the most common Amish traditions and debunk some notorious myths.
All Amish attend a community church. What church an Amish family goes to is determined mostly by where they live. Rather than a weekly church service that takes place in a church building, Amish church services happen every two weeks at a different church member’s home.
Services are held in basements, shops, or barns that can accommodate the entire congregation. The host spends much of the week preparing for church by cleaning and getting the church space ready. It is also the host’s responsibility to provide lunch after the service.
An Amish church service typically lasts around three hours and includes singing from the Ausbund hymnbook along with sermons that are given by the church deacon. Church deacons (pastors) are always men.
Rumspringa is perhaps the most misunderstood Amish tradition. Rumspringa, or the period of time between age 16 (typically) and when an Amish youth joins the church (typically in their early twenties), is a time period in which Amish youth experience a little more freedom from the traditional rules of the church.
A few of the most common misconceptions about rumspringa are that:
Amish youth leave their homes to live in the cityAmish youth are encouraged to “break the rules”Rumspringa is a “time out” from being Amish
In fact, most young Amish live in their parents’ homes during rumspringa. Amish youths will join youth groups, which are composed of other church young people who are also on rumspringa. Some of these youth groups are supervised by adults, others are not.
Some young Amish choose to get their driver’s license while on rumspringa, and many will buy a car. Other Amish boys will choose to outfit their buggies with stereo systems and speakers. There are many misconceptions about Amish youth on rumspringa who attend raucous parties with lots of drugs and alcohol — those are the exception, and not the rule.
Rumspringa ends when a youth decides to be baptized into the church or get married, as rumspringa is often a time when youths begin to date and court their spouse.
Amish wedding ceremonies typically take place on a Thursday at the home of the bride. These ceremonies typically begin in the morning, and while the actual wedding ceremony lasts about three hours, the celebration lasts all day.
Many Amish couples keep their engagements secret until it is “published” or revealed in church. However, some couples choose to send out save-the-date cards a few months prior to the wedding.
Some tell-tale signs of an impending marriage are a family painting their house (to prepare for the upcoming ceremony) or a young girl sewing a new blue dress. Amish brides sew their own wedding dresses, and while they aren’t always blue in color, they often are. Grooms typically wear black and white.
After the ceremony concludes, there is a lavish lunch meal, and the remainder of the day is spent socializing. An evening meal is also provided, though often this is dedicated to the younger crowd. Typically, the entire church as well as the bride and groom’s families are invited to weddings, and the total number of guests can number as many as 400-600.