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The amish, the mennonites, and "the plain people"
The Amish, The Mennonites, and "The
Each church district decides for itself what it will and will not accept; there is no single governing body for the entire
Old Order population, but all follow a literal interpretation
Who are the Amish?
The Amish are a religious group who live in settlements in
22 states and Ontario, Canada. The oldest group of Old
Order Amish, about 16-18,000 people live in Lancaster
of the Bible and an unwritten set of rules called the
The Amish stress humility, family and community, and
Old Order groups all drive horses and buggies rather than
What is the history of the Amish?
cars, do not have electricity in their homes, and send their
children to private, one-room schoolhouses. Children
The Amish have their roots in the Mennonite community.
Both were part of the early Anabaptist movement in
Europe, which took place at the time of the Reformation.
After that, they work on their family's farm or business
s believed that only adults who had
until they marry. The Amish feel that their children do not
confessed their faith should be baptized, and that they
need more formal education than this. Although they pay
should remain separate from the larger society.
school taxes, the Amish have fought to keep their children
Many early Anabaptists were put to death as heretics by
Many Mennonites and progressive Amish do attend high
both Catholics and Protestants, and many others fled to the
mountains of Switzerland and southern Germany. Here
began the Amish tradition of farming and holding their
Do they speak English?
worship services in homes rather than churches.
Most Amish are trilingual. They speak a dialect of German
In 1536, a young Catholic priest from Holland named
called Pennsylvania Dutch at home; they use High
Menno Simons joined the Anabaptist movement. His
German at their worship services; and they learn English
writings and leadership united many of the Anabaptist
at school. They speak English when they deal with anyone
groups, who were nicknamed "Mennonites."
They pronounce Amish with a broad "a" (Ah-mish).
In 1693, a Swiss bishop named Jacob Amman broke from
the Mennonite church. His followers were called the
The Amish are a private people who believe God has kept
"Amish." Although the two groups have split several
them together despite pressure to change from the modern
times, the Amish and Mennonite churches still share the
world. They are not perfect, but they are a strong example
same beliefs concerning baptism, non-resistance, and basic
of a community that supports and cares for its members.
Bible doctrines. They differ in matters of dress,
They are a people apart; they are also a people together.
technology, language, form of worship, and interpretation
Why do they dress that way?
The Amish and Mennonites both settled in Pennsylvania
Old Order Amish women and girls wear modest dresses
as part of William Penn's "holy experiment" of religious
made from solid-colored fabric with long sleeves and a
tolerance. The first sizable group of Amish arrived in
full skirt (not shorter than half-way between knee and
Lancaster County in the 1720's or 1730's.
floor). These dresses are covered with a cape and apron
and are fastened with straight pins or snaps.
The Amish seem stuck in history.
They never cut their hair, which they wear in a bun on the
Why don't they accept modern ideas and innovations?
back of the head. On their heads they wear a white prayer
covering if they are married and a black one if they are
Although the Amish look like they stepped out of the rural
nineteenth century, in fact they do change. Their lives
move more slowly than ours, but they definitely are not
stuck anywhere. They choose to examine change carefully
Men and boys wear dark-colored suits, straight-cut coats
before they accept it. If the new idea or gadget does not
without lapels, broadfall trousers, suspenders, solid-
assist in keeping their lives simple and their families
colored shirts, black socks and shoes, and black or straw
broad-brimmed hats. Their shirts fasten with conventional
buttons, but their suit coats and vests fasten with hooks and eyes. They do not have mustaches, but they grow beards after they marry.
attendants, known as newehockers, (Pennsylvania Dutch
The Amish feel these distinctive clothes encourage
humility and separation from the world. Their clothing is
The styles of the dresses are a plain cut and are mid-calf
not a costume; it is an expression of their faith.
length. They are unadorned, there is no fancy trim or lace
What's an Amish wedding like?
Most non-Amish brides wear their bridal dress once, but
Family is the core element in the Amish church, and
an Amish bride's practical dress will serve her for more
choosing a mate is the most important decision in an
than just her wedding day. Her wedding outfit will
Amishman's life. Boys and girls begin their search for a
become her Sunday church attire after she is married. She
will also be buried in the same dress when she dies.
By the time a young woman turns twenty or a young man
The bride and her attendants also wear capes and aprons
is in his early twenties, he or she is probably looking
over their dresses. Instead of a veil, the bride wears a
forward to the wedding day. But several definite steps
black prayer covering to differentiate from the white cap
must be taken by a couple before they may marry.
she wears daily. And, the bride must wear black high-
topped shoes. No one in the bridal party carries flowers.
Both must join the Amish church. They are baptized into
the Amish faith and are responsible for following the
The groom and his newehockers wear black suits. All
coats and vests fasten with hooks and eyes, not buttons.
The Ordnung is a written and unwritten set of rules for
Their shirts are white, and shoes and stockings are black.
daily living. Joining the church prepares the young people
Normally, Amish men do not wear ties, but for the
for the seriousness of setting up their own home.
The groom also wears high-topped black shoes, and a
The young man asks his girl to marry him, but he does not
black hat with a three and a half inch brim.
give her a diamond. He may give her china or a clock.
All of the attendants in the wedding party play a vital role
The couple keeps their intentions secret until July or
in the events of the day. But there is no best man or maid
August. At this time the young woman tells her family
Wedding dates for the Amish are limited to November and
A whirlwind of activity begins after Fast Day on October
part of December, when the harvest has been completed
11. Fall communion takes place the following church
and severe winter weather has not yet arrived. A full day
is needed to prepare for the wedding. Most are held on
Tuesdays and Thursdays. Mondays, Wednesdays and
This is a major day in the life of the church because all the
Fridays are used as days to prepare for or to clean-up after.
couples that plan to marry are "published." At the end of
Saturdays are not used as wedding days because it would
the service, the deacon announces the names of the girls
be sacrilegious to work or clean up on the following day,
and whom they plan to marry. The fathers then announce
the date and time of the wedding and invite the members
A typical Amish wedding day begins at 4 o'clock in the
morning. After all, the cows must still be milked and all
The couple does not attend the church service on the
the other daily farm chores need to be done.
Sunday they are published. Instead, the young woman
There are also many last minute preparations to take care
prepares a meal for her fiancé and they enjoy dinner alone
of before the wedding guests arrive. Helpers begin to
at her home. When the girl's family returns from church,
arrive by 6:30 a.m. to take care of last minute details. By
the daughter formally introduces her fiancé to her parents.
7:00 a.m., the people in the wedding party have usually
eaten breakfast, changed into their wedding clothes, and
After being published, the young people have just a few
are waiting in the kitchen to greet the guests.
days before the ceremony. They are permitted to go to one
last singing with their old group of friends.
Some 200 to 400 relatives, friends and church members
The girl also helps her mother prepare for the wedding and
are invited to the ceremony, which is held in the bride's
feast, which takes place in her parents' home. The boy is
busy extending personal invitations to members of his
The Forgeher, or ushers, (usually four married couples),
will make sure each guest has a place on one of the long
wooden benches in the meeting or church room of the
Blue is a typical color chosen for weddings by young
Amish women. Navy blue, sky blue and shades of purple
are the most popular colors donning Amish brides in any
At 8:30 a.m., the three-hour long service begins.
year. An Amish bride's wedding attire is always new. She
The congregation will sing hymns, (without instrumental
usually makes her own dress and also those of her
accompaniment), while the minister counsels the bride and groom in another part of the house. After the minister and
the young couple return to the church room, a prayer,
Sunday dinner and a sixth for Sunday supper before they
Scripture reading and sermon takes place. Typically, the
The couple lives at the home of the bride's parents until
they can set up their own home the following spring.
After the sermon is concluded, the minister asks the bride
Do Amish children go to school?
and groom to step forward from their seat with the rest of
the congregation. Then he questions them about their
Yes.for the many Old Order Amish and Old Order
marriage to be, which is similar to taking wedding vows.
Mennonite children living in Lancaster County,
The minister then blesses the couple. After the blessing,
Pennsylvania, the ringing school bell signals a time to shift
other ordained men and the fathers of the couple may give
attention from field work to school work, a time to drop
testimony about marriage to the congregation. A final
Old Order children attend one-room schools through the
eighth grade and are usually taught by a young, unmarried
In a flurry of activity, the women rush to the kitchen to get
ready to serve dinner while the men set up tables in a U-
shape around the walls of the living room.
A 1972 Supreme Court ruling exempted the Old Order
A corner of the table will be reserved for the bride and
sects from compulsory attendance laws beyond the eighth
groom and the bridal party. This is an honored place called
The tables are set at least twice during the meal,
The one-room schools restrict worldly influences and
depending on how many guests were invited.
stress the basics such as reading, writing and arithmetic.
The importance of the community and cooperation among
The tables are laden with the "roast," (roast chicken with
bread stuffing), mashed potatoes, gravy, creamed celery,
coleslaw, applesauce, cherry pie, donuts, fruit salad,
tapioca pudding and bread, butter and jelly.
The bride sits on the groom's left, in the corner, the same way they will sit as man and wife in their buggy.
The immediate family members sit at along table in the
kitchen, with both fathers seated at the head.
After dinner, the afternoon is spent visiting, playing games
and matchmaking. Sometimes the bride will match
unmarried boys and girls, who are over 16 years old, to sit
The evening meal starts at 5:00 p.m. The parents of the bride and groom, and the older guests are now seated at
the main table and are the first to be served. The supper
varies from the traditional noon meal. A typical menu might consist of stewed chicken, fried sweet potatoes,
macaroni and cheese, peas, cold-cuts, pumpkin and lemon sponge pies, and cookies. The day usually winds to a close around 10:30 p.m. The couple's first night together is spent at the bride's home because they must get up early the next day to help clean the house. Their honeymoon is spent visiting all their new relatives on the weekends throughout the winter months ahead. This is when they collect the majority of their wedding gifts. Usually, they receive useful items such as dishware, cookware, canned food, tools and household items. Typically, when the newlyweds go visiting, they will go to one place Friday night and stay overnight for breakfast the following day. They'll visit a second place in the afternoon and stay for the noon meal and go to a third place for supper. Saturday night is spent at a fourth place, where they have Sunday breakfast. A fifth place is visited for
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