From the appearance of shows like Amish Mafia and Breaking Amish, it seems like America has a new pop culture obsession: the Amish. I figured it was time for me to jump on the bandwagon… or buggy, that is.
Almost all Amish currently living in the United States are descendants of two hundred Amish immigrants who originally came to Lancaster County after brutal persecution in Europe. According to “The Amish Studies: Population Trends,” the Amish population doubles every 18-20 years and hit 273,700 in 2012. The average Amish family consists of about seven children. Because of the close family relations, the Amish are at a higher risk for genetic disorders, such as dwarfism and metabolic disorders. However, researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center have found that most Amish live longer, healthier lives dues to their clean living. They are protected against many types of cancer through their lifestyle because they have little exposure to tobacco and alcohol and have limited sexual partners.
The Amish hold a variety of beliefs and are known to live simply. They free themselves from the stresses of every day American life by separating themselves from the outside world. The Ordnung, is a book of rules for the Amish life. The Ordnung places limitations on things like power-line electricity, telephones, automobiles, and clothing. They believe in nonviolence and forgiveness of all things. For these reasons they will not participate in any type of war and often can overcome horrible tragedy through forgiveness, such as the Amish school shooting that took place in Lancaster County in 2006. The Amish are characterized by their reluctance to self-promote or assert themselves. The do not allow innovations like electricity because they do not want to create a status competition though material goods. The Amish also dress plainly and do not allow photographs or mirrors because they create vanity.
Most Amish communities operate one-room schoolhouses and discontinue formal education after the eighth grade when children are between thirteen and fourteen. Although Amish education ceases after the eighth grade, the Amish tend to be multi-lingual. Traditionally Amish are able to speak English, Pennsylvania Dutch and various forms of German. The Amish are educated in topics that are important to success in their society. While the typical American teenager is well-educated in science, technology, and the arts, the Amish teenager is well-educated in languages, soil, animal and plant care, and useful basic skills like carpentry, masonry and food preservation.
The Amish place heavy emphasis on rural life and manual labor making farm life central to their lives. Some Amish men worked as millers and tanners, but most worked the farms. A typical day for an Amish man includes waking up around or before 4 A.M. to tend to the farming duties and other chores. The milking was completed in the early morning so that it could be picked up by the milk truck. The man would then have breakfast before heading out to the field to plow, plant, harvest crops, and tend to the animals. After a long and tiring day most eat dinner early in the evening around 4 or 5 P.M. and then return to the field until bedtime which is usually around 9 P.M. Women take on a traditional role in the family. Her duties include cooking three meals per day for her husband, tending to the large family, gardening, quilting and paying bills.
Amish baptism occurs between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five. During adolescence, teenagers experience rumspringa, a chance for Amish teenagers to experience the world beyond their own community. After rumspringa they are left with the choice of either joining the church or remaining permanently shunned.
Another big event in the Amish life are weddings, which take places at the bride’s home with the entire Amish community, about 200- 400 guests. The Amish life revolves around the seasonal calendar so most couples will be married in November on a Tuesday or Thursday when there is a low need for farming. The wedding includes the traditional element of vows, but is are no kisses, rings, photographs, flowers, fashionable dresses or catering.
The same simplicity is expressed through death. The Amish bury dead bodies in all white and they are placed in a simple coffin. Amish funerals are absent of the traditional aspects like flowers and eulogies. The body is buried in a wooden coffin in a hand-dug tomb marked with a simple tombstone. The Amish ideals of simplicity and equality are present in both life and death. The Amish live the simple life and remain one of America’s most interesting religions and cultures.