About the Amish: Home Life
Religion is a major part of the Amish culture which means that their religious beliefs influence every aspect of their daily lives. It is apparent that they live their faith every day because many of their practices make them appear very different from their "English” neighbors. Their literal interpretation of the Bible governs the way that they act, talk and dress. Amish tend to limit their interactions with the rest of society. They do this so that they stay true to their beliefs and are not led astray by the negative influences of the modern world. Amish are taught to be reserved, quiet and peaceful in nature. They follow Jesus’ teaching by serving and respecting others. The Amish culture stresses the importance of community, not the needs and wants of any one individual. They are a plain, hard working people.
Their clothes are clear examples of their humility and separateness. Style, color and dimensions of clothing are determined by the church. Women wear plain dark-colored dresses with long sleeves covered by an apron and black cape. There are no decorations of any type or buttons. All clothes are fastened with pins or snaps. Women do not cut their hair but wear it pulled back in a bun which is covered by a black bonnet or white prayer cap. They cannot shave their legs and underarms. They wear black cotton stockings and black shoes. There is no jewelry, makeup, nail polish, or perfumes allowed. They cannot smoke. Men wear dark colored suits that are straight cut and do not have lapels, pockets and collars. Their shirts are made from plain solid colored fabric. They use suspenders to hold up their trousers which can have no creases and hooks to fasten their coats. Shoes are black or brown in color and socks are black. They wear black hats or ones made of straw. Single men are clean shaven, but married men must grow beards, but are not allowed mustaches.
Amish homes are simple in style and lacking in decoration. The furniture must serve a purpose. There are no pictures of family since the Amish belief that photographs violate the second commandment and would make them appear vain. The wood used for the furniture must be stained with dark stain so that the grain of the wood cannot be seen. This would make the furniture too fancy. The colors used on the walls, the pattern on dishes, silverware, bed sheets, comforters are all regulated by the church. Even the dimensions of doors and windows are determined by the church. The Amish do not believe in modern conveniences. They may not own a car or farm tractor, but they may ride in them if needed. They prefer their own mode of transportation which is horse and buggy. They do not have electric in their houses so they do not have TV, radio, computers or any electric appliances. Refrigerators, lights and other items can be run on gas or oil. They are not allowed to have a telephone in the house, but may have one located elsewhere on the property. They reject any modern invention that would infringe on their desire for a simple life dedicated to God.
Amish church services are held biweekly in private homes not churches. On the off Sundays, church members visit friends and family for informal services. The Amish celebrate the traditional Christian religious holidays and hold communion services twice a year which includes the practice of foot washing. Marriages and funerals are held in the home. Marriage outside the faith is not allowed. Sexual behavior is restricted for reproduction only, with no birth control methods allowed. Young people who intend to be married are "published" or publicly inform the church of their plans to marry in October and get married in November or December. Bride’s gowns are usually blue or purple. Funerals are conducted without fanfare in the home, no flowers, no eulogy, and no fancy casket. Women are buried in their bridal dresses, children in white to signify purity. A small plain tombstone is later placed in the cemetery.
The Amish overall philosophy is to live separate from the world around them since the ideas and practices of the world go against what their religion teaches. So it is no wonder that many of the Amish beliefs and practices interfere with modern society. The Amish speak a German dialect called Pennsylvania German and only learn English in school. They only educate their children until the 8th grade and only in their own one room schoolhouses. Most youth must apply for work permits from the state to allow them to quit school early. Their mode of transportation, the horse and buggy, have caused many an accident and traffic jam on public roads. The state requires them to have reflective signs, strips or lights on the buggy to try to alert other drivers of the slow moving vehicle. The Amish do not participate in the government’s Social Security, welfare or unemployment insurance programs. They prefer to take care of their elderly on their own by building additions onto their own homes to keep family members near. The church members contribute to a mutual fund to cover medical, dental and other expenses incurred by members of the group. Since violence and war is against the Amish religion, they are listed as conscientious objectors by the government. The Amish do not readily participate in public health programs. They resist child immunizations and diagnosis of potentially dangerous genetic diseases. Genetic diseases are prevalent in the Amish community because of the Amish practice of intermarriage.
The Amish lifestyle is one of hard work, prayer and sacrifice. People who are non-Amish can not understand why they choose to lead the lives that they do. They wonder why more Amish do not leave the faith. In fact, the Amish have a tradition called "Rumspringa” where youth aged 16 and up are allowed to experience the outside world before they make their decision to join the Amish church. It is interesting to note that between 80% - 90% of the youth do choose to stay in the Amish faith. The threat of shunning and banning from the community may greatly effect their decision. The Amish lead a peaceful life dedicated to worshiping their God. Their farms and homes are attractive and well maintained. Their businesses are very profitable since they are highly skilled in the areas of farming, dairying, woodworking, carpentry, cooking and sewing. Amish workers build some of the most beautiful homes in the area and make some of the finest furniture and quilts to be found. It is truly a blessing that the Amish have chosen to share their talents with the rest of society.