Source : Google photo of the Amish people
Synopsis : The Amish people who live in the United States live in their own world of their making and by their own simple rules that determine every aspect of their life from birth to death. The outside world does not understand them and the reason why they shun the materialism that plagues the rest but it is not difficult to understand them if you know that their core beliefs have to do with Faith, Family and Farm and nothing else.
I have always been curious about the Amish people living in the United States and about the reason they live the way they do but did not have the opportunity to know something about them until I went to the Lancaster county in the State of Pennsylvania recently.
It is about one hour away from the city of Philadelphia but you will feel that you are in a very different world than the rest of the country when you take the back roads into the Amish country where they live , farm and send their children to school. You will begin to see their houses that are simple with green shades drawn across their windows and clothes drying on lines stretched near their homes. Then you will notice the absence of power lines and telephone lines. You will also notice the clothes drying on the lines that are of solid colors because the Amish only wear clothes of solid and simple colors because to them any printed cloth is a sign of vanity that they disapprove of.
Source : Google photo of Amish children playing at school
You will see the schools where children play but they too wear simple clothes of solid color and the girls wear a bonnet. I was told that they go to school only up to the 8th grade after which they go back to their farms to help their parents in certain chores and the girls learn about cooking, sewing and home management. Their teachers are young women who teach after they finish their schooling up to the 8th grade. The Amish think that they do not need more education than the 8th grade because by then they learn all they need to learn that suits to their way of living which is basically a simple farm life with strong religious convictions and love for their family.
Vanity is a sin to Amish: The Amish do not like to be photographed because posing for a photo is considered vain so they forbid it. They do not approve of graven images and do not keep any photo in their house as wall decor. Amish men and women are taught that all form of vanity is a sin so should be avoided. You will not see them wearing fancy, colorful clothes and fancy shoes, jewelries, belts, buttons, fancy hats and head gear, carrying fancy bags, wearing watches, printed and silky clothes, carrying colorful umbrellas and any such thing they consider sinful .
Amish horse buggy that comes in various configuration depending on its use.
You will see beautiful one horse carriage that has a polished cabin with glass front and battery powered lamps in front and some reflectorized signs that glow in the dark to avoid accidents. You will see people pushing their scooters that have no seat and no chain and pedals because they do not approve of anything faster than a horse driven carriage that suits their rural lifestyle perfectly.
Source : Google photo of an Amish scooter as a simple mode of transportation
You will see neatly planted fields of corn, alfalfa and other crops in a picture perfect countryside where everything looks like a perfectly tended garden that it really is. There you will not find any field of green not mowed or any lawn in front of any house not neatly maintained. We saw an old lady pushing her lawn mower so you can now imagine thousands of people doing the same to keep their homes and fields in perfect trim.
Source : Google photo of Amish farm and picturesque countryside
The Amish people are of Anabaptist faith that split away from their original group of Mennonites because they felt that the Mennonites were not adhering to the true spirit of the Bible so they formed their own group that lives by every word of the Bible . They were persecuted by others in their native land of Germany so they emigrated to the United States some 300 years ago where they settled in the Lancaster county of Pennsylvania at the invitation of the founder of the State . But the Amish people are spread in many other states like Ohio and number in some 400000 people.
The three F that the Amish hold dear are Faith, Family and Farm so their whole life revolves around the faith, family and farm therefore all they do reflects their faith, family and farm in a way that suits their lifestyle perfectly.
Source : Google photo of the Amish family prayers before meals
Faith : Amish do not believe in ostentatious churches so you will not find any church anywhere because the Amish pray at home and a bishop does the service by turn. They are strict adherents of the teachings of the Bible and follow each and every rule and commandments literally.
Source : Google photo of Amish Rumshpringa of liberty for a while
Family : The Amish young people are given one year of liberty called Rumshpringa to do whatever they wish and then decide if want to return to their community to continue the way Amish have always lived so some go to learn ways of the outer world but almost 95% return to their Amish ways and get Baptized as Amish. After that they can get married and raise children because among the Amish the Biblical advice to go and multiply is taken seriously so they tend to have large families meaning 7 to 8 children or more. They do not marry outside their Amish community. Anyone who marries outside their faith and community is asked to leave and not taken back.
Meaningful prayers :
Source : Google photo of Amish women in prayers.
The Amish people believe that if they dedicate their entire selves to prayer and the word of God, they will get into Heaven. That’s why they don’t attach any sort of materialistic ideals to prayer; no fancy cathedrals, not complex rituals, and certainly no money making schemes. Often times, the Amish will simply do prayer at their own home, or the homes of other families who happen to be hosting that day. For them, it’s the actual prayer that matters.
Source : Google photo of Amish young people going on date
Source : Google photo of Amish wedding
An Amish young man who gets married stops shaving and grows his beard as long as he lives but the women never cut their hair and tie it in a bun that they cover with a white lacy cap they wear all the time. All females of all ages wear the white cap to keep their hair under cover. Braiding, wearing ornaments and printed clothes are considered vanity that they avoid at all cost. They also shun any form of self adornment like make ups and pin their clothes with straight pins and not buttons. Wedding does not mean honeymoon and ostentation so they go visiting friends and relatives.
The social punishment :
Source : Social shunning of deviants in Amish communities
The Amish do have strict rules that everyone must abide but those who disobey and do something non Amish, they are shunned by their community until the person repents and asks for forgiveness. Amish are known for their forgiveness as they had shown forgiveness to the shooter of the school room children a few years ago.
Farm : The Amish are farmers so they grow many crops and raise animals they feed on corn or barley .They sell the rest to the non Amish people they call English. The Amish do not eat anything they do not grow so they do not buy anything from the outside world. You will hardly find any people more self reliant than the Amish people. They only use the horse drawn plows and seeders to cultivate their fields that are among the most productive fields anywhere. They do not use herbicides and pesticides, GMO seeds or chemical fertilizers because their farms are totally organic so they recycle their farm wastes into organic compost that they spread over their farms. All their animal wastes are also turned into organic manure for the benefit of their farms.
The youngest son gets the farm when the parents are too old to farm and takes care of them in their old age. The rest of the brothers then move on to other parts of the United States where they hope to buy their own land and settle down. This system keeps their farms intact and not subdivided generation after generation.
Amish grow all kinds of fruits, vegetables and other crops organically in their vegetable garden that they set up near their homes and sell the extra produce in the weekly farmer’s markets at low costs directly to the buyers thus avoiding the middlemen. The women make jam, jelly and pickles at home from the fruits and vegetable they grow. There is a great demand for their organically grown farm produce so they earn some money this way.
The Community spirit :
Source : Google photo of Amish helping building a house for someone.
What I find very admirable among the Amish is their concept of community where they are always ready to help their neighbors in anyway possible at absolutely no cost so if someone needs a new roof, they all get together and rebuild the roof. If some one needs a new barn, they all pitch in to build a new barn . They bring wood, nails and all the tools needed to complete the job while women prepare communal meals for everyone. I only found this concept of community in rural African communities but nowhere else.
Source : Google photo of Amish eating together
The Amish are non violent and do not believe in joining the armed services to fight wars but some may join as medics or cooks or orderlies in the armed services so that they can maintain their non combatant roles.
I was told that they do not use buttons in their clothes because it reminds them of the soldiers who persecuted them in Germany but have developed some sort of fasteners they use. I still do not understand why Amish women do not use safety pins instead of straight pins that can be harmful. Perhaps they have a reason but I do not know what that reason may be.
Faceless dolls :
As with most things, the toys Amish children play with differ from the rest of the world. Young children are given handmade dolls both male and female) complete with clothes, hats, and bonnets. However, no dolls has a face, just a blank area where a face should be. This is to teach that vanity and looks do not show the true worth of a person, rather its whats inside that counts the most. They are just the slightest bit creepy to look at.
Source : Google photo of faceless dolls kids play with to teach them that vanity is not good so their dolls have no face, no decorations and no printed clothes.
No instruments and singing outside prayer sessions
While singing is not only allowed, but it is required, any other form of music is strictly prohibited in the Amish community. Singing is reserved for worship only, in Church and during hymn singing practice, but playing a musical instrument is never allowed. Why? Going with the Amish theme of humility, they believe that having the ability to play a musical instrument gives one a sense of superiority to his or her peers. None of that kind of thinking is allowed.
Source : Google photo of Amish singing during prayers
The Amish house :
Source :Google photo of an Amish home where simplicity reigns
We had an opportunity to see an actual Amish home they keep in the Amish Village for the tourists like us to see. There is no electricity so there are no appliances that use electricity although they may have a refrigerator that runs of propane and a wood burning pot bellied stove in their kitchen. The pedal operated singer sewing machines and hand cranked clothes driers are also noticed.
Their beds are simple cots and the bed rooms have a minimalist look that is quite admirable. There are no adornments on their walls and the women may not look at a mirror because it is considered a sign of vanity although men may do so .
Women are expected to be the home makers, raise children, learn to cook and clean and learn how to make jams, jelly and pickles and grow their own vegetables and fruits near their homes that they learn to tend from their childhood. They can marry anyone they wish but the engagement period is often for two years during which they can decide to marry or look for other suitable partners but once married, they never divorce so the elders give the young people a chance to decide who they wish to marry and give them ample time to do so.
Source : Google of Amish hand dug graves with simple small headstones
Amish do not believe in embalming so dead are buried in a simple casket they make with their own hands and cover the dead with simple white cloth. There are no funeral parlors and expensive coffins. All the dead are given a simple and small headstone and all the head stones face West from where they believe the Second Christ the redeemer will come some day so they should be ready for Him to rise.
Amish handicrafts :
Source : Google photo of a hand made quilt
The Amish women are known for their exquisitely made quilts they make communally. They are remarkable for their quality and colors that are painstakingly put together by nimble hands because it is entirely hand stitched. They also make numerous other products that earn them an income because the Amish do not have a lot of cash so they try to earn some by selling their farm products and hand made things they sell in their shops . They are good craftsmen and good businessmen.
The Amish food :
The Amish are known for their excellent culinary skills. They are not fancy, and do not have many ingredients, but the finished product is always extremely tasty. Most likely because they grow all of their ingredients, and do not use anything processed or chemical. They are best known for their roast beef sandwiches, chicken and waffles, apple dumplings, pretzels, and homemade gravy.
Pork : Unlike some religions around the world, the Amish are a religious group that does eat pork. In fact, pork makes up a huge part of their diet, from bacon to pork chops to ham and sausage, it’d be pretty tough to find an Amish vegetarian. Often times, Amish families will raise a pig or two to be butchered in the fall, and then preserved or processed to be eaten in the winter.
Source : Google photo of pork preparations by the Amish
The Pennsylvania Dutch are absolute experts at making delicious desserts, especially when it comes to pies. Their most famous ones are shoofly pie, a molasses crumble which is completely addictive, and whoopie pie, which is more like a small cake, with two chocolate pieces sandwiching vanilla creme. For using such simple ingredients, the Amish sure have dessert figured out better than their “English” counterparts.
Source : Google photo of Amish desserts
The Amish are especially known for their simple, homegrown, yet hearty cuisine. But they are also famous for their special soda called “Birch Beer.” This drink actually originates from central Pennsylvania, or “Amish Country”, as it’s so fittingly named. The drink is made using herbal extract from the bark of the Birch tree. It is similar to root beer, but has a deeper, sweeter taste. ( Source : 35 amazing facts about the Amish)
I did not not know what the authentic Amish food was but we were very pleasantly surprised at the variety and the rich flavor of their food we had an opportunity to taste that changed my mind entirely about the German origin of their dishes. Their food is organic, very healthy and tasteful.
What I find so admirable about the Amish people is their effort to ward off the outside influences that may change their way of living so they shun anything that they consider will have a negative impact on them. They do not want to change their lifestyle and hope to continue the way their ancestors have for centuries that have given them a sense of community that helps each other in their time of need. It also gives them a sense of belonging to a community that believes in the same values that makes them comfortable and safe.
To ward off the relentless pressure of the English people who push needless consumerism that makes people want things they do not need and learn to waste takes courage, concerted effort and total determination the Amish people show so that is quite admirable. Not to want cell phones, cars, Television and live without electricity and internet is not easy in the United States but they show that their way of living can’t be compromised.
The Amish do not ask for food aid and social security,. They do not ask for unemployment benefits from the government. They do not have pension funds and do not bank their money somewhere but now that is a changing because I saw one Amish bank near the road. They do not have debt and are great savers. They are totally self reliant and proud people who believe in themselves to solve all their problems. They do not suffer from alcoholism, substance abuse, domestic violence and teen age delinquencies and they do not have autism. In general they live long and healthy life. In case someone gets seriously ill and needs expensive hospitalization, they all pitch in as a community and pay all the bills. If that is not admirable then I do not know what is.
They do not vaccinate their children and shun all modern medicine unless it is absolutely necessary to save someone’s life. I may not agree with this but I am not Amish.
Some say that they live a life of deprivation without all the modern gadgets, cars and the amenities others enjoy but the Amish say that they are happy the way they are so who is complaining? It is their choice to shun the modern world and live in a world of their own where everyone lives in harmony with the nature and each other, where people care for each other and pitch in at the time of need, where greed, vanity and avarice are avoided at all times, where people marry for life and raise wonderful children with very good values , where being helpful to each other is taught since childhood, where meanness and selfishness is considered a sin, where violence and quarrel is a mortal sin, where simple but fulfilled life is their goal and not need less accumulation of things they have no use for. This is an ideal world they strive for and from what I have seen is what they have achieved.
Can we the outsiders claim as much ?
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