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Facts about Amish People

Debopriya Bose Mar 11, 2020
Amish people are conservative and lead a very simple life, devoid of the comforts of technology and innovations. Here are some facts about them, that will help one have a better understanding of their way of living.
My interest in Amish people was sparked when I saw a picture of their settlement in a snap taken by my cousin. The landscape was that of a valley, serene and lush green with simple houses made of wood. Below, the picture bore a caption, 'The Amish Village'.
The picture reminded me of the Hollywood movie Saving Sarah Cain, that my mother was watching at home a couple of years back. Although I got just a glimpse of a few shots as I sat at the dining table gulping down my cornflakes, the simplicity of the environment (almost an impossible sight in present days) quite interested me.
The movie had simple houses made of wood, and people in those houses dressed in plain dark clothes. Men were without mustaches and grew long beard. Women were dressed conservatively in large skirts with a cap covering almost all of their head. Everything was so somber about those people.
Immediately, I concluded that the movie was about some very old European village. But when I saw the snap that my cousin recently took, I realized that these people existed with me. I was amused and excited, and started reading up about Amish people and in this article, I share what I came across.

The Amish people cab be traced back to the 16th century Radical Reformation, that believed in the 'invisible body' known only to God, as opposed to the belief of the Roman Catholic Church in the 'visible Church'. This movement started in Switzerland.
The followers proposed adult baptism and fostered the idea of separation of the Church and the State. Also known as the Protestant Reformation, this movement gave birth to a number of Anabaptist groups throughout Europe, from which the Amish, the Mennonites, and the Hutterites emerged.
The Anabaptists were persecuted by the Church. A group of Anabaptists fled to Switzerland under the leadership of the Dutch Anabaptist leader Menno Simons (1496-1561). These people were known as the Mennonites. However, within the Mennonites difference in opinion and the way customs were practiced, arose.
A group of more devout Mennonites was led by Jakob Ammann who wanted stricter enforcement of practices like shunning in which the disobedient would be strictly dealt with, more rigid regulation of dress code, holding communion more frequently, and other differences.
Known as the Amish people, this group separated from the Mennonites in the late 1600s. The Amish people finally started migrating to Pennsylvania in the 18th century.

The Amish are a group of people that are mainly concentrated in the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, in the United States. In Canada, most of them live in the state of Ontario. What makes these people stand out in today's times of modern and material comfort, that too in developed countries like Canada and the US, is the conservative beliefs and their plain way of living. It is for this reason that these people are also referred to as plain people.

The Amish people are divided into 5 main orders. They are the Old Order Amish, New Order Amish, Andy Weaver Amish, Beachy Amish, and Swartzentruber Amish. The Older Order is the largest of all the order. Along with the Swartzentruber Amish, it is one of the two most conservative orders.
Each order has a church that runs independent of each other. Each order has a separate Ordnung - a list of oral and written rules that dictates every aspect of the Amish people including dressing, use of transportation means, and farming techniques to be used.

The Amish life is guided by two key concepts. One is the rejection of pride and arrogance and practicing humility in every aspect of life. The other is that of calmness and placidity, which can be translated into submission to the will of God.
It is these two principles that forbid a number of practices like the use of technology, based on the belief that it might make one too independent, taking photographs of individuals as this may promote vanity, and use of modern innovations, as Amish people believe that this may trigger competition for status amongst neighbors.
Besides this, the belief in adult baptism is the hallmark of the Amish faith. They believe that an individual should be baptized by his own will, instead of being baptized during infancy. Due to this reason Amish children are allowed to live a life outside the Amish faith, however, within the guidance and rules set by their parents.
Once they come of age, they are given a choice to get baptized and join the community or separate from it for good. This period of freedom is known as rumspringa or 'running around'. During this time the Amish youths get a taste of the outside world and decide if they want to stay with their order as adults or join the world outside.
Way of Living

Amish people attach a lot of importance to family. This is one of the reasons that men do not go out to work. They work on their farms while the women do all household work. German is spoken in most Amish homes, although English may also be heard at times. The father is the head of the family. Intermarriage is prohibited and divorce is not allowed. Separation is very rare.

One of the facts about Amish people that may contradict their strong belief in education, is that formal education is allowed only till the eighth grade, after which they are trained in work as expected of their gender in the community. Amish schools are single-room houses with a teacher from the community itself.
Children are taught basic reading, writing, math, geography, Amish history, and values. Children are also given vocational training that would stand them in good stead as members of their community during their adulthood.

True to their belief of simplicity and humility, they dress very simply. Dresses are of dark colors and the fabric is spun at home. Men wear straight-cut suits and coats without collars or lapels. Pants do not have any crease or cuffs. They are worn using suspenders. Belts, ties, and gloves are forbidden.
Women are not allowed to wear ornaments or make-up. They never cut their hair and wear them in a bun or a braid that is hidden under a black bonnet or a white cap.
They wear long sleeved dress with a full length skirt, which is covered with a cape and an apron. Men are clean shaven. However, after marriage they are not allowed to cut their beard. Mustaches are forbidden.

One of the interesting facts is that they largely avoid the use of technology as they see it as a means of breaking family life and creating competition among members of the community. However, such regulations are more strictly adhered to by the more conservative Amish orders.
Generally, the Amish people do not use electricity, televisions, automobiles, or tractors. Telephones, may however, be installed in wooden shelters between farms.
Many orders prohibit their members to ride automobiles or even fly in an aircraft, whereas some allow their occasional use but prohibit ownership. The most common mode of transportation is the Amish buggy which is drawn by horses.
These facts provide an overview of the lives of these people that are simple, but governed by strict and austere rules. Nevertheless, the fact that intrigues me is that, despite living in countries which are known for their modernity and technological advancements, these people have upheld their faith and maintained their identity.