The Amish are a tight-knit group of Christian traditionalists, who have Swiss Anabaptist roots, and life their lives in small communities, mostly void of modern technology. Although the sect originated in 1693 in Switzerland, most of the Amish population now reside in North America. There are less than 350,000 members present day, making them a minority group. Despite their migration to North America, the Amish still pay hommage to their foundation by learning certain dialects of Swiss German.
Their simple way of life and particular, old-fashioned style of dressing have attracted curiosity and awe from outsiders. They are a group that are generally misunderstood, and the community is often shunned from the rest of society. In fact, the Amish often prefer it this way, as communication and relationships with non-Amish are seen as threatening, especially to Amish youth. The Amish value a rural lifestyle, simple family values and strict adherence to their interpretation of the Bible. Clothing, education and diet are regulated by the community, and any form of rule-breaking is heavily punishable, often by way of shunning.
Most recently, the Amish community has been in the spotlight, due to the popularity of the TLC show, Breaking Amish. The show follows teenagers who leave their Amish communities for a few weeks to experience life inn a big city. In the end, they are forced to decide if they want to return to their simplistic, yet cultish life, or seek freedom and adventure on the outside.
The community has tried to maintain secrecy for ages, but we are here to uncover 15 Things That The Amish Community Doesn’t Want Anyone To Know
15. Shunning and Excommunication
The Amish have two methods of showing a member that their behaviour is not in line with the strict guidelines imposed by the community. The first form is shunning. A shunned member is essentially being punished for doing something that isn’t allowed by the group (drinking too much, communicating with outsiders, being violent etc;). The shunning is meant to be a wake up call to the out-of-line member, who is then expected to feel remorse and ask for forgiveness (which is most always granted at this stage). Full excommunication happens in the event of a more serious offense. For example, if a member decided to go and life their life outside of the community for a year, and then they decided to come back to the group, they would very likely not be let back in. Once you break the trust of the community, there is very little you can do to get back into their good graces.
14. The Community Had One Savage ‘Life-Ending’ Case
The Amish are generally a peaceful group, as they strictly adhere to Biblical commandments that include not harming oneself or one’s neighbour. There was one particularly gruesome exception, however. In 1993, Edward Gingerich, a Pennsylvania native member of the Amish community, brutally ended his wife Katie’s life. The horrendous crime was later attributed to a non-diagnosed mental illness that Gingerich suffered from. Due to the fact that he was not deemed criminally responsible, he was only sentenced to 5 years behind bars. The troubled man couldn’t live with himself after what he had done, he hanged himself in 2011, leaving behind an eerie suicide note that read, “Forgive me please.” Creepy. Being in a secluded community like the amish comunity may have been the reason why he had such deep mental issues. But of course we will never be able to be sure.
13. Amish Children Play With Faceless Dolls
Amish children are allowed to play, but the toys that they have access to are limited. Amish dolls with no faces are often distributed to young children. Many people have been confused about the reason behind the faceless toys. The Amish believe strongly that only God can create people, and give them faces, therefore a doll face would be considered “playing God”. They definitely take the word very, very literally. But the nice twist is that it teaches children that all kids are the same in God’s eyes, and that physical differences aren’t meant to be focused on. The dolls are often sold as souvenirs in heavily populated Amish areas, and some of them can actually be quite pricey. Doll collectors are willing to spend a pretty penny on vintage Amish dolls.
12. They Get Stopped For DUI’s
Despite shunning modern automobiles, the Amish still need to get around, and depend on more archaic horse and buggies for their transportation needs. Although these buggies are not motorized, the drivers are still expected to follow the rules of the road, including, not being under the influence of alcohol while in operation. Although the Amish tend to follow rules and adhere to the law, there have been some notable exceptions. In 2002, 22 year-old Elmer Stoltzfoos Fisher was taken into custody in Pennsylvania when he was caught sleeping in a moving buggy, with no one else tending to the steering. In 2011, 17 year old Lewis Hostetler was involved in a police chase (imagine seeing that?) when he was pulled over for drinking a beer while driving.
11. They Have Mandatory Periods Outside of The Community
Amish baptism happens between the ages of 18-22. Once you have been formally baptised into the sect, you are expected to have a lifelong commitment to the community. Before baptism, Amish teens are given the opportunity to live outside of the group for a short period, in order to test their faith and commitment. This practice, which is called Rumspringa, was the entire basis of the hit TLC show, Breaking Amish. Generally, most youth engage in innocent activities, like going to see a movie, or shopping at a mall. Others, however, dabble with drugs and alcohol, and in extreme cases, leave the community for good. Kate Stolzfus, who was featured on the show, decided to leave behind her old life in Pennsylvania to become a model in NYC. She posed for Maxim in some suggestive shots later that year.
10. They Don’t Allow Music
The Amish are very concerned with any activity that promotes competition, narcissism or pride. The community does not allow their members to play musical instruments, such as the guitar or the piano. Any solo expression of musical talent is absolutely forbidden. Instead, if they want to be musical, they can enjoy group singing in a choir, which is seen as a more inclusive, non-competitive hobby. Self-expression and individuality, which are often embraced in modern society, are viewed very negatively in the Amish community. Essentially, anything that gives a member any form of uniqueness is frowned upon. Excelling at a sport, for example, would not be seen as a good thing, but rather as a way to separate and rank members by their individual skills and strengths.
9. They Don’t Try To Recruit Members
Many Christian sects engage in missionary work in order to recruit new members to the religion. The Amish, however, do not actively seek out new members. For generations, the Amish have instead cultivated large families with many children to keep their numbers up. Sadly, due to their limited gene pool (there are only about 200 Amish families in total, with a population of about 250,000) they often suffer from congenital disorders and there is a higher level of infant mortality within the community. Actor Verne Troyer (who played Mini Me in the Austin Powers movies) is one such case of Amish congenital disease. He was raised in the Amish community and his rare disability is a direct result of the families’ continuing to breed children with such limited genes.
8. They Are A Patriarchal Society
One can argue that the entire world (with the exception of some matriarchal societies) is under man’s rule. In the Amish community, however, patriarchy is a very clear reality. Women are expected to behave in ways that don’t “embarrass” their husbands, must prepare meals and do chores at home, and, look after the children. These traditional (yet outdated and sexist) practices keep women locked into subservient and submissive roles. Women also must not show off their bodies or embrace their femininity in any way. Traditional dress includes long, loose-fitting garments that keep their bodies very well concealed. Showing skin or wearing a bikini, for example, would be a big no-no. Women are also expected to be nurturers and help neighbours and friends when needed.
7. They Don’t Use Much English
Although the Amish live in predominantly English speaking areas (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Ontario and New York are the big ones) they scarcely use the English language, unless dealing with outsiders. They prefer to use a variation of the Swiss German language that is often referred to as Pennsylvania Dutch. Since this isn’t an official, written dialect, they teach the children how to speak it in their home schooling sessions (and sometimes High German courses are given for writing, but many Amish never learn to read or write). Their sermons, which are given in their homes (they do not build churches) are always done in German. English is often criticized, as are “English people” , the term they loosely use for anyone that is not part of the Amish community.
6. They Use A Special Computer
The Amish have historically shunned all modern forms of technology, including televisions, computers and telephones. However, certain exceptions have been made more recently, in order to facilitate business dealings. The Amish occasionally use a computer called a Deskmate, which is a basic word processing tool with absolutely zero frills. The computer cannot be connected to the Internet, does not offer games and is limited to the most basic of spreadsheets and writing tools. The Amish use the Deskmate to keep track of expenses, business charts and chore schedules. Some usage is also permitted in home schooling classes, if only to facilitate learning and writing skills. Some communities don’t even allow this technological luxury, as they consider it a distraction from the simple life.
5. Barn Raising
The Amish celebrate the Christian holidays of Christmas and Easter, however, they do not have typical celebrations like we see in mainstream society. Their Christmas is celebrated on January 6 (Old Christmas) and the focus is less on gift-giving and more on the religious implications. Children are not taught about Santa Claus, and do not put up a Christmas tree. One activity that is particularly significant for the Amish is barn raising. The community gets together to help a neighbour erect their barn over a period of a week or two. The group have feasts together and celebrate the establishment of a new building in the community. Selflessness and helping thy neighbour are of huge importance in the Amish way of life, so this is a big deal for all.
4. They Have Dating and Marriage Rules
To no one’s surprise, the Amish follow regimented patterns for their courtship and subsequent marriages. Dating often commences in church. When a young man in interested in a young lady, he will offer her a ride home in his buggy. If they decide to continue dating, it will most often be done in private, and their relationship will only be revealed a week or two before they plan to wed. There is then a formal announcement made in the church, and the wedding ceremony is planned. Typically, the Amish only get married on Tuesdays or Thursdays in November and December, once the harvest is fully completed. The wedding takes place at the bride’s home, and the bride and groom do not exchange rings or kiss during the ceremony.
3. They Can Jump From One Community To Another
Members of the Amish faith sometimes do not feel like they fit in with their particular community. Sometimes, a member doesn’t appreciate all of the rules of the group, and chooses to move to another group where things might be slightly different. People have been known to leave communities for something as trivial as not liking the hat brim width that they must wear within the group. Some groups are a little less rigid with the technology rules, as well. One community apparently set up a phone booth with access to a cellular phone that could be used to contact the outside world, when needed. Many traditionalists frown on these changes and adaptations to their strict policies, but there will always be some black sheep!
2. Church Clothes
When a woman is preparing for marriage, she is expected to sew her own wedding dress. The traditional dress is often royal blue, and very modest, covering her entire body from head to toe. Once the big day has come and gone, the dress is not put into a closet to collect dust. It then becomes her church attire, which she is to wear to Sunday service. In many ways, the woman’s dress is as significant a symbol as the man’s beard is. It indicates to other churchgoers that the lady is off the market and not eligible for dating. The dress is often accompanied by a dark, head covering bonnet. These wardrobe pieces are nods to how the peasants and agricultural women used to dress in the 18th Century, when the Amish community first emerged.
1. The Amish Beard Tells Tales
One of the most notable traits of an Amish man is his long beard. The Amish use the beard as way to symbolize a man’s marital status. When a man is married, he begins to grow his beard out, although moustaches are forbidden. If you see a freshly shaven Amish man, you can be assured that he is still on the market (perhaps he is not yet baptized, therefore ineligible for marriage). The beard is also symbolic of age and wisdom, and due to their prevalence in the Bible, the Amish haven chosen to adopt this custom as a sign of their devotion to the written word. The fact that the beards make them look pretty old-school and archaic is probably another point that they appreciate!
SOURCES: todayifoundout.com, list25.com
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