The Amish: Simply Captivating
Enjoy folk arts, crafts, and recipes that haven't changed in centuries
Reprinted from Lancaster Visitor Bureau Website
Part of Lancaster County's old-fashioned charm and homespun warmth stems from our Amish population -- the families, farmers and craftsmen who follow a deeply religious, family-centered lifestyle that hasn't changed much since the early 1700s.
Forgoing "outside world" luxuries such as automobiles, tractors, phones, or even electricity, the Amish who grace our small towns and farmlands present a fascinating and authentic horse-and-buggy contrast to the hustle and bustle of the 21st century.
Actually, there are three families or Anabaptist-related groups found in Lancaster County: the Amish, the Mennonites, and the Brethren. All three groups share the Anabaptist belief that calls for making a conscious choice to accept God. (Accordingly, only adults are baptized.)
The three groups also share the same basic values concerning the all-encompassing authority of the Bible, a philosophy of brotherhood and non-resistance, and the importance of family and community.
The groups differ primarily in matters of dress, language, forms of worship, and the extent to which they allow modern technology and the forces of the "outside world" to impact their lives. Most Brethren and Mennonites dress much like their "English" neighbors. Other Mennonites, Brethren and Amish Mennonites wear distinctive Amish clothing but may make use of "worldly" conveniences -- such as cars, electricity and telephones. On the other hand, Old Order Mennonite and Old Order Amish groups are more restrictive in their views of modern technology, with the Old Order Amish being the most conservative of Lancaster County's "plain" groups.
For the sake of simplicity, the following information refers primarily to the Old Order Amish:
The Amish Lifestyle
On the surface, the Amish lifestyle might appear to be staid and inflexible. However, it reflects a way of life that is based on a literal interpretation of the Bible, as well as unwritten rules from the Amish Ordnung that prescribes behavior, appearance and other aspects of the Amish culture.
Please note: Believing that photographs in which they can be recognized violate the Biblical prohibition against "graven images," most Amish consider posing for photographs to be an unacceptable act of pride. For this reason, visitors are respectfully requested to refrain from taking photos or video images of the Amish.
The Amish Style of Dress
The characteristic Amish style of dress is the most obvious outward manifestation of their faith.
Amish men wear dark-colored suits, straight-cut coasts with no lapels, broadfall trousers, suspenders, solid-colored shirts, black socks and shoes, and black or straw broad-brimmed hats. Shirts fasten with conventional buttons; suit coats and vests fasten with hooks and eyes. Men do not wear mustaches and generally wait until after marriage to grow beards.
Amish women wear modest, solid-colored dresses, usually with long sleeves and a full skirt, a cape and apron. The clothing is fastened with straight pins or snaps. Hair is never cut and is worn in a bun on the back of the head, concealed by a prayer covering. Single women in their teens and twenties wear black prayer coverings for church services; a white covering is worn after they marry. Amish women are not permitted to wear jewelry or printed fabrics.
On the Amish Farm
While farming was not an integral tenet of Anabaptism, agriculture has always been a major part of the Amish lifestyle. Believing that practical knowledge, hard work and long hours are the "technological marvels" that make farm life fruitful, they practice impressive levels of thrift and self-sufficiency which they believe are mandated by the Bible. Accordingly, they attribute their successes in farming to divine blessing.
The Amish and Technology
In the Amish view, "progress" is not assumed to mean "something better." The modern conveniences that non-Amish take for granted -- such as electricity, TV, telephones, tractors -- are considered to be tempting elements from an "outside world" that could lead them away from their close-knit community or weaken the family structure.
Amish children attend school only up to the eighth-grade level. (In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court exempted them from compulsory school attendance beyond the eight grade, based on religious precepts.)
The Amish build and maintain their own church-funded, one-room schoolhouses, where children study reading, writing, English, math, geography, history, German, music, art, and the Bible.
As the Amish believe that classroom learning represents only half of the knowledge needed to make one's way as an adult, farming and homemaking skills are an extremely important part of an Amish child's education.
At home and in their community, the Amish speak a dialect of German referred to as Pennsylvania Dutch. Amish children learn English at school and High German at worship services.
The Amish Family
The family is the most important social unit among the Amish; families with seven to ten children are not uncommon. In the past twenty years, the Amish population in Lancaster County has doubled to approximately 22,000.
While the Amish consider themselves to be Christians, they do not attend churches in the traditional sense. Instead, they take turns holding three-hour services in each others' homes every other Sunday. Worship services are solemn; hymns are sung slowly, in German, without musical accompaniment or harmony. Scripture reading and sermons in High German follow.
The Amish are a private people who believe that God has called them to a simple life of faith, discipline, dedication and humility. Their conviction that God has a personal and abiding interest in their lives, families and communities is the force that holds them together in spite of the pressures of the outside world.