30 Interesting Facts About the Amish People
Can you imagine forgoing modern conveniences like electricity, cars, and telephones? People have long been interested in the Amish people because of their plain, old-fashioned style of dress and their disdain for modern conveniences. TV shows like TLC's Breaking Amish have also given us a fascinating glimpse into how Amish societies work in the last few years. Check out these 30 interesting facts about the Amish.
The Amish Shun All Violence
The Amish have a strong belief in nonviolence, which stems from their religious beliefs. They take seriously the instructions in the Bible to “turn the other cheek” and resist violence. They are pacifists, which Merriam-Webster defines as “someone who opposes war or violence as a means of settling disputes.”
The Amish Sprang From a Disagreement With Mennonites
The Old Order Amish Mennonite Church was started by followers of Swiss native Jakob Amman in the late 17th century. Amman lived from 1644 to 1730 and was a leader among the Mennonites, another branch of Anabaptists. He taught that all church members should dress the same way, men should not trim their beards and those who did not adhere to church teachings should be shunned.
They Shun Modern Conveniences
The Amish are famously known for their disdain of modern conveniences. Old Order Amish shun the use of electricity. However, there have been exceptions, including using electric flashers on their buggies so they can legally drive them in their communities and the use of farm equipment that could not be operated without electricity, such as equipment to milk a cow. Old Order Amish also do not have telephones in their homes.
The Amish Are Called the “Plain People”
The simple way that the Amish dress is the reason why they are known as the “plain people.” Most Amish women make their own clothing in addition to the clothes their family wears. They dress simply to encourage humility and to not be entangled with what they deem the “world.” Their clothes reflect their faith and values.
They Adhere to a Strict Interpretation of the Bible
The Amish practice a very strict interpretation of the Bible. There are numerous examples of biblical teachings that they take literally. For example, in 1 Corinthians 11:5-6 it says women should cover their heads. For that reason, Amish women always keep their heads covered. Another example comes from Leviticus 19:27 which tells men to “not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard.” That verse is the reason why some Amish men do not trim their beards.
Most Amish Are Farmers
Farming has a particular significance to the Amish, who like to make all of their own food. Being a people who want to be set apart from anyone who is not Amish, whom they call “the English,” it is only natural that they would be master farmers. The Amish farmlands in Pennsylvania are some of the most productive in the U.S.
They Shun the Use of Automobiles
The Amish are famous for driving horse-drawn buggies. Although in popular culture a black buggy comes to mind when people think of the mode of transportation of the Amish, they can also be white, gray or yellow. They are generally shaped like a box and may contain heaters, windshield wipers and even upholstered seats.
Where the Amish Live in the US
The Amish live in the U.S. and Canada. There are no Old Order Amish populations outside North America. The biggest population are in Pennsylvania and Ohio, with two counties having the highest concentration: Holmes County, Ohio and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Indiana has the third largest population. Those three states have about two-thirds of the entire Amish population. They live in other states as well and in the Canadian province of Ontario.
Famous for Handmade Quilts and Furniture
Both quilting and furniture making are important activities for the Amish people. Amish women gather regularly in quilting circles, which often function as social gatherings. Young women learn to sew starting in childhood, and take over quilt making for their families when they get married. Quilts are often sewn by hand, but women sometimes use non-electric sewing machines.
They Possess a Strong Belief in Forgiveness
The Amish believe in forgiveness, which they view as a Christian duty. In Christianity, God forgives sinners and even comes down in the form of a man and dies for the sins of humanity. Christians are expected, according to the Bible, to pass on that forgiveness. The Amish adhere to that belief to an extent that many other Christian sects do not.
You Can Learn About the Amish Through Tours in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania
If you are fascinated by the Amish, and there is much about them that is fascinating, you can learn more about them through the Simple Life Amish Tours in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. Started by Susan Hougelman, Simple Life Amish Tours offers visitors tours of the Old Order Amish Community. The tours include farms and businesses in Western Pennsylvania.
They Speak an Old German Dialect
Although the Amish are fluent in English, they also speak a German dialect called Pennsylvania German or Dutch (a misnomer of the German word “Deutch”). The German dialect they speak shares some similarities with German dialects currently spoken in Europe, but the dialect of the Amish includes English words.
They Are One of the Fastest Growing Populations in the US
While the population growth rate of the U.S., in general, is less than one percent a year, the Amish growth rate is about 3.73 percent a year. In 1989, their estimated population was only 100,000. A 2012 study of the Amish found that there were roughly 251,000 Amish people in the U.S. And by June 2018 there were 330,270.
They Do Not Pay Into or Collect Social Security
The Amish pay federal income tax and other taxes, including state and property taxes. Some Amish communities end up paying taxes for both public and private Amish schools. The reason is that most Amish send their children to their own schools, but are still taxed to pay for public schools in the areas in which they live. What they do not pay into is Social Security, which they also do not collect. They were exempted from paying into it in 1965.
Most Amish Only Go to School Through the Eighth Grade
Amish children only go to school through the eighth grade. Due to their religious principles, they are exempt from compulsory school attendance beyond the eighth grade. Their schooling is centered around the basic skills of reading, writing and math. They also receive vocational training and learn about Amish history and values.
The Custom of Rumspringa
Rumspringa is a custom among the Amish that means “running around.” It refers to a period during adolescence starting at about 16 years old where parents relinquish control over Amish children on weekends. The thinking is that because the children are not yet baptized, church authority does not yet apply to them.
New Order Amish Generally Welcome Visitors
There is a small percentage of the Amish who belong to New Order Amish communities, making up only three percent of the entire population. The largest population of New Order Amish live in Holmes County, Ohio. They dress in a similar manner to Old Order Amish, drive horse-drawn buggies, speak a German dialect and send their children to Amish-run schools.
They Forbid Photos of Themselves
While attitudes to having their picture taken may differ, it is common to see “no photos please” signs in Amish communities. Many Amish tend to avoid having their picture taken. There are some who will totally refuse to be photographed in any form, but there are some who view a natural setting as acceptable as opposed to a posed photo. The reason is that a posed photo may be regarded as exhibiting pride.
Volleyball and Softball Are Popular With Amish Families
It may come as a surprise to you, but the Amish enjoy sports. Volleyball and softball are common sports played by children during school recess. They are also enjoyed by Amish teenagers and even some adults. Although there is some controversy among them concerning adults playing sports, there is widespread acceptance for children playing a sports game.
They Do Not Play Musical Instruments
Amish communities do enjoy music, namely in their churches where they sing songs in German and sometimes English. They also enjoy singing at home or while working. Although they enjoy music, they generally frown upon musical instruments. However, occasionally harmonicas are allowed. Their church music is unaccompanied and they do not dance to music.
Amish Little Girls Play with Faceless Dolls
There is something very curious about many of the dolls Amish little girls play with. They are faceless. Their lack of eyes, mouth and a nose makes them very different. However, not all Amish dolls are faceless. All the dolls that Amish little girls play with are handmade and that lends an old-fashioned and timeless look to them.
They Shun People Who Stray From the Amish Lifestyle
The use of socially excluding those who have strayed from church teachings has long been a practice among Anabaptist sects, including the Amish. However, shunning among them does not mean there is no social interaction. What it does mean is that Amish members cannot eat at the same table as someone being shunned. It also means that Amish people cannot do business with the shunned person.
Family Is Their Most Important Social Unit
Family is the Amish community’s most important social unit. It is not uncommon for an Amish couple to have seven to 10 children. Their high birth rate keeps their community going and ensures there will be future church members. It also not uncommon for several generations of family members to live in the same house.
They Vaccinate Their Kids
While some people think that the Amish do not believe in vaccinating their children, that is not true. Dr. Kevin Strauss, M.D., who is a pediatrician at the Clinic for Special Children in Pennsylvania, said, “We run a weekly vaccination clinic and it's very busy.” However, the rate of vaccination among the Amish does tend to be lower than the rest of the population.
They Use Public Transportation
While horse-drawn buggies are the main mode of transportation for the Amish, they are not good for longer trips. When they need to travel longer distances, many Amish use bicycles and even public transportation including taxicabs, buses and trains. Some may accept rides from non-Amish friends or hire a van and driver.
Women Can’t Become Teachers, Pastors or Bishops
While Amish women have a big role to play in their household by running it, they cannot become leaders in their communities. Leadership is for men only. They cannot serve as bishops or pastors in their churches and married women cannot be teachers. Teaching is for single girls only. However, married women do help bring in money for their families and they are voting church members.
Outsiders Occasionally Join the Amish
While the numbers are low, there are outsiders who join the Amish and even stay Amish. However, many who join end up leaving. People seek to join the Amish to live a simpler way of life that is family and church based. The ones who are successful in remaining Amish keep a few things in mind before joining.
They Officially Join the Church Between the Ages of 18 and 22
Amish youth officially join the church between the ages of 18 and 22. Remember the Amish tradition of Rumspringa? After that period, Amish youth who choose to stay will become baptized and join the church. To be baptized and join the church, young people have to submit to the authority of the church. It is a life-long commitment.
They Have a Barn-Raising Tradition
Barn raising is a tradition among the Amish that is a symbol of the value they place on community. When a farmer needs to have a barn built, whether because of disaster or he is a new farmer, the community comes together to build him a barn. Everyone who helps does so as a volunteer and does not get paid.
Most Amish Communities Have a Dry Goods Store
If you have ever visited or lived in a very small town, you know what a small general store is like and the various types of foods and basic necessities, such as toothbrushes and toilet paper, it offers. The Amish have something similar. Dry goods stores are common in their communities.