This section was originally published on August 29, 2004
We enjoyed a wonderful meal at the Good and Plenty Restaurant . Our friends developed a keen interest in the Amish and asked if we would consolidate some of what we had written about the Amish over the years into a single document. This is the result of that effort.
There are no photographs of Amish included in the article, since the
Amish do not take photographs or normally allow themselves to be photographed.
To do so would be evidence of pride and vanity, and might violate the
second of the Ten Commandments.
The largest group of early non-English speaking Pennsylvania settlers
were German, many coming from along the Rhine River. The Pennsylvania
Germans began slowly arriving in this country around the year 1689,
only slowly growing in number until a steady immigration of German and
Swiss immigrants began arriving around 1720. Estimates are that approximately
100,000 immigrants came in 1742 and continued in ever-increasing numbers.
The new immigrants were pioneer settlers of our state state.
Much of the German-speaking population concentrated in a few areas. In the Philadelphia area, the Germans became bilingual, while is the Lancaster/York area the Germans clustered in communities where only German was spoken. These settlers were called Pennsylvania Germans or Pennsylvania Dutch. Our family sold a farm a number of years ago 74 miles from Benton in the little town of LeRaysville. The farm was sold to an Amish family, and that became the nucleus of the start of a small Amish community in that part of the state.
We often say that someone is speaking "Dutch" when we travel through counties like Berks, Bucks, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh and York. Our ears twitch when we hear things like, "Yonnie, go throw the horses over the fence some feed" or "The corn is all but the potatoes are yet."
The word Dutch comes from the Old High German word "duitsch"
meaning "popular" or "vulgar." In Germany, diustisc
was used as in the Latin vulgaris, to distinguish the "vulgar
tongue" from the Latin of the educated and the church. The word later
applied to those who spoke it. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the name
of the country Diutishland arose and the word has now migrated
to the word Deutschland.
Town names of Hanover,
indicate where some of the early settlers originated.
Our pioneers faced hardships at every turn in the road. They knew a life of toil in their home countries as the Pennsylvania Germans sought religious tolerance in William Penn's new state. The early families understood industry and thrift just as the Amish and Mennonite families of today work hard and do a lot with a little. They are good farmers, but work hard to make their living off the land.
The Amish--pronounce Amish with a broad "a" (Ah-mish)--live in 22 states and Canada. They stress humility, family, community and separation from the world. They are full of contradictions and inconsistencies even within their unchanging world. We'll examine their world from an outsider's viewpoint over the next couple of days. We'll tell you that it is OK to have an outdoor phone booth but they can't have phones within their houses. They can use electronic calculators but they can't use computers. It is OK to use battery power, but not acceptable to get electricity from a public utility. In this state, the Amish figure they will go to hell if they own a car, but it is OK to ride in one. In Indiana, however, where a Newmar motor home we once owned was manufactured, the Amish not only drove their own cars to the factory, a Mennonite family owns the factory and owned several race cars. His 1,000 acre farm was valued at over $5 million.
We may never understand how the Amish can exist without television, blow dryers, microwaves, dishwashers, doorbells, VCRs and TiVos and--gasp--computers.
This section was originally published Monday, August 30, 2004
The Amish have their roots in the Mennonite community. The Amish and
the Mennonites were part of the early Anabaptist
movement in 16th century Europe. The Anabaptists rejected the practice
of infant baptism and believed that only adults who had confessed their
faith should be baptized. They practiced remaining apart from the mainstream
of society. Many early Anabaptists were put to death as heretics by both
Catholics and Protestants, and others fled to Switzerland and southern
Germany and took refuge in the mountains. The Amish tradition of farming
and holding their worship services in homes rather than churches began
In 1536, a young Catholic priest from Holland named Menno Simons (1496 -- 1561) joined the Anabaptist movement. His writings and leadership united many of the Anabaptist groups, who became nicknamed "Mennonites."
In 1693, a Swiss bishop named Jacob Amman broke from the Mennonite church. His followers gradually became known as "Amish" while other anabaptists were known as Mennonites. The Amish and Mennonite churches share the same beliefs concerning baptism, non-resistance and basic Bible doctrines, but differ in matters of dress, technology, language, form of worship and interpretation of the Bible.
The Amish and Mennonites both settled in Pennsylvania as part of William Penn's "holy experiment" of religious tolerance. The first sizable group of Amish arrived in Lancaster County in the 1720's or 1730's.
The Amish believe in basic Christian
doctrines like the divinity of Christ, the concepts of heaven and
hell, the scriptures, the church as the body of Christ. They do everything
in their power to keep from drawing attention to themselves. The members
of the community freely contribute time and effort for the good of the
group and decline all public attention. Jewelry is forbidden, as well
as all forms of makeup and hair styling. Commercial clothing and anything
that is "showy" is forbidden, even as a member of the order
lies in a casket. Religious beliefs among the Amish prohibit showing the
human face on any object. Because this restriction includes toys, handcrafted
Amish cloth dolls have blank faces.
Old Order groups drive horses and buggies rather than cars, do not have electricity in their homes, and send their children through the eighth grade to private, one-room schoolhouses where they are taught by young, unmarried Christian woman. They feel that education should prepare for usefulness which will be needed in eternity. The Amish feel this is all the formal education needed, and after the eighth grade they work on the family farm or business until they marry. They pay school taxes, but don't send their children to public schools. In 1972, the Supreme Court exempted the Old Order Amish and related groups from state compulsory attendance laws beyond the eighth grade.
Amish are often trilingual, speaking a dialect of German called Pennsylvania Dutch or "Deitsch" at home and High German at their worship services. They speak English at school and with anyone who is not Amish.
Baby girls wear hair covering when they first start attending church at six weeks or so. The small girls wear their hair in braids. By the time the girls are four, their hair is covered during Sunday religious services. From the age of about four, their hair is twisted into rolls and then arranged in a bun gathered at the back of the head. The girls and the women do not curl their hair, shave their legs and trim their eyebrows. A woolen shawl frequently adorns the shoulders of women in public.
Baby boys wear dresses until they are about a year old, probably to facilitate changing diapers. The first pants of the boys have buttonholes and fasten to buttons of their shirts. The boys slowly work toward wearing suspenders, trousers and a hat. Hair is not parted, and bangs are cut in front halfway down the forehead. The wearing of sideburns without a beard is forbidden. Until marriage, the men shave their faces. The growing and wearing of a beard has much of the same message as wearing a wedding ring, although single men over the age of 40 are allowed to wear a beard. Mustaches are always forbidden. The wide-brimmed hat tops off the garb of the Amish.
The predominant color for men is black, although dress shirts have been seen in the color of green, purple, blue or wine. White is the color of death, and both men and women are buried in white. A special pair of white pants and a white shirt with vest are worn by the men. Women wear a white dress and a white bridal cape at their funeral. If size permits, the one in which they were married.
Amish women and girls wear solid-colored dresses with long sleeves. The full skirt is no shorter than half-way between knee and floor. The dresses are covered with a cape and apron and are fastened with straight pins or snaps. The hair is never cut and is worn in a bun on the back of the head. They wear a white prayer covering on their head if they are married and a black one if they are single. The women do not wear jewelry.
Men and boys wear dark-colored suits, straight-cut coats without lapels, broadfall trousers, suspenders, solid-colored shirts, black socks and shoes. On their heads are black or straw broad-brimmed hats. Their shirts fasten with conventional buttons; their suit coats and vests fasten with hooks and eyes. The men do not have mustaches, but after they marry they grow beards. The Amish feel that these distinctive clothes encourage humility and separation from the world.
This portion of the article was published Tuesday, August 31, 2004.
Amish boys eagerly await their 16th birthday when their traditions permit them to run amuck and join youth groups. Former Benton resident and now Kutztown University professor Dr. David Laubach wrote about this trying period in life in his book, Growing Up Amish: Life as an Adolescent Amish Teenager. An Amish boy over 16 is between the authority of his parents and the scrutiny of the church. The boys are not required to follow the rules of the church until after they are baptized. Some of the young lads are baptized a year or so before marriage and some wait until the last minute before they marry.
Little is more important in the life of the Amish than choosing a mate. The boys "officially" start looking when they turn sixteen and keep their eyes wide open until about the age of 20.
Most Amish marry between 19 and 25, but getting married is a complicated procedure and it happens along certain timelines. The young man asks his girl to marry him, and shows his good intention by giving her a present of a piece of furniture, china or a clock. The boy and the girl must join the church if they have not already done it, be baptized into the Amish faith and follow the rules for daily living, the Ordnung. The parents get the news of the pending marriage in July or August.
The Amish observe a Fast Day on October 11. Following the fasting, the Fall communion takes place the following Sunday. Confirmation of membership in the church is nmecessary. By the second Sunday after communion, the couples who plan to marry are "published." The deacon, at the end of Sunday services, publically announce the girls who plan to marry and who they plan to marry. Fathers of the couple then announce the date and time of the wedding and invite members of the church community to attend. Meanwhile, the happy couple skipps the church service on the Sunday that the names are published and instead prepares a meal for jusst her and her fiancé at her home. When the family returns from church, her fiancé is formally introduced to her parents. After being published, the young people don't have much time before the ceremony.
The wedding and the wedding celebration takes place in her parents' home. Because of the scheduling, many weddings from within a church community can occur on the same day.
Blue is a typical color chosen for weddings by young Amish women.
The wedding attire is always new. The bride makes her dress and the dresses
of her attendants. Dresses have a plain cut and are worn mid-calf length.
The dresses don't have fancy trim, lace or train. The wedding outfit become
the bride's Sunday church attire after she is married and she will be
buried in the same dress. The bride and her attendants wear capes and
aprons over their dresses. She wears a black prayer covering to differentiate
from the white cap she wears daily. The bride wears black high-topped
shoes. There are no flowers.
The groom and his newehockers (or attendants) wear white shirts with bow ties, black suits, black shoes and stockings. The groom's shoes are high-topped black shoes, and he dons a black hat with a three and a half inch brim. There is no best man or maid of honor.
Usually weddings take place in November before the arrival of winter weather. Weddings are held on either Tuesdays or Thursdays with adjacent days used to prepare for or to clean up from the wedding. Saturdays and Mondays are out since work or clean-up on Sunday is not permitted.
The wedding day begins by getting the milking and the farm chores out of the way. Guests start arriving in the kitchen of the bride's parents shortly after breakfast. Hundreds of relatives, friends and church members are invited to the ceremony. Guests sit on wooden benches in the meeting room of the home. At 8:30 AM the three-hour service begins. The congregation sings while in a separate room the minister counsels the bride and groom.
The actual service consist of prayers, scripture readings and a long sermon. The room contains no candles or flowers. There are no special music or flower girls, and the bride does not wear a veil. Two other couples accompany the bride and the groom for a total of six in the wedding party.
After the sermon ends, the bride and groom come forward from their
seat with the congregation. The couple is questioned about their marriage,
and are then blessed by the minister. Festivities then begin. The women
serve dinner while the men set up tables in a U-shape around the living
room. A corner of the table, known as the "Eck,"
is reserved for the bride and groom and the bridal party. Tables are set
at least twice during the meal, depending on how many guests were invited.
A typical meal would include roast chicken with bread stuffing, mashed
potatoes, gravy, creamed celery, coleslaw, applesauce, cherry pie, donuts,
fruit salad, tapioca pudding and bread, butter and jelly.
The bride sits on the groom's left, as they will ride in their buggy through life as man and wife. Single women sit on the bride's side, single men on the groom's side. The immediate family members sit in the kitchen, with both fathers seated at the head of the table.
After dinner, the afternoon is spent visiting, playing games and matchmaking. Unmarried boys and girls over 16 often get to sit together at the smaller evening meal that begins about 5:00 PM. The bride and groom's parents and older guests sit at the main table. The typical supper could consist of stewed chicken and fried sweet potatoes, vegetables and dessert. The wedding day ends by 10:30 PM.
The honeymoon night is spent at the bride's home and the newly married couple get up early the next day to help tidy up the house. Their honeymoon is spent visiting all their new relatives. The couple collects wedding gifts, things like dishes, cookware, canned food, tools and household items. Typically, newlyweds make weekend jaunts hitting six or so relatives before returning for Sunday supper at the bride's parents. The couple live at the home of the bride's parents until they set up their own home for housekeeping in the spring.
|Marriage in the Amish community is for life. Divorce is
not allowed and would lead to excommunication. If a husband were to divorce
his wife and he left the church community, she can remain within the church
but is forbidden to remarry until he dies.
We have all heard of shunning, or "meidung," practiced when a member acts in an offensive, disobedient or carnal manner. It is used in a public manner. When banned, members can talk with the shunned person but many forms of interaction, such as shaking hands, is prohibited. The member enters a one-way relationship with his community. An example is that a shunned mother is not permitted to pass her child directly to its grandparent, but must hand the child off to a third party. The shunned person eats by himself at a separate table. A shunned wife eats at a separate table and must refrain from sexual relations. Parents must shun their excommunicated adult children.
The shunning continues until the excommunicated repents and confesses and the church community lets them back in. Those who break baptismal vows by leaving the church are excommunicated. In all cases, the church is held as a higher authority than the family. Members of a family are accountable first to the church and then to the family.
"...if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer or drunkard or an extortioner: with such a one do not eat." I Cor. 5:11
The Amish recognize Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, Easter, Christmas
and a second day of Christmas on December 26, Good Friday, Easter Monday
and Pentecost Monday, sometimes known as Whit Monday. Whit Monday is also
known in English as Whitsun (Whitsunday).
In closing, we'll tell the story about the punishment dished out by the Amish father who found out that two of his sons sneaked into a bar for a drink. The father disciplined his sons by taking the horse home. The boys had to bring the buggy.