The Amish: All About America’s “Plain People”

Amish family
Amish family
The Amish are among the fastest-growing populations in the world, with an average of six or seven children per family.

For a group that enjoys living a life of seclusion and doesn’t believe in watching television, dramatizations of their mysterious lifestyle and some Amish people themselves have been featured in many programs bringing a somewhat unwelcome focus on America’s “Plain People.” However, there’s still much about these introvert people, known for their plain dress, who eschew modern technology, favor long beards for men and prayer kapps for women, and wake at the crack of dawn, that we do not know.

  • Jakob Ammann was a Swiss Anabaptist who, advocating for a literal interpretation of the Bible, led a schism in the Mennonite church in Europe in 1963. The group of traditionalist Christians who followed Ammann’s beliefs became known as “Amish.”
  • The Amish initially settled in North America in the early 1700s to escape religious persecution in Europe. Today, they are one of the fastest-growing population groups in America due to their firm belief in large families numbering almost 300,000 people.
  • Their communities can be found in 30 states with Ohio, Pensylvania, and Indiana, as well as Florida, Maine, Texas, Wyoming and Canada having the largest Amish populations.
  • The Amish have established themselves in farming, crafts, furniture making, construction, and tourism-related enterprises and they speak “Pennsylvania Dutch,” a combination of Dutch, German and English.

    Amish man in Ohio, United States
    Amish man in Ohio, United States.
  • The Amish, like all Anabaptists, refuse to baptize infants. According to them, the ceremony of baptism should only be held once a person can willingly confess his/her faith.
  • School attendance past the eighth grade is rare. According to the United States Supreme Court and on the basis of religious freedom, they can end school at age 14.
  • At about age of 16, Amish are encouraged to socialize and experience the outside world doing things that are normally forbidden by the Amish community. This critical aspect of Amish social life is known as “Rumspringa.”

    Amish young people roaming the streets during "Rumspringa."
    “Rumspringa” is the period when Amish youth experience greater freedom.
  • Beard growing in men does not start until marriage and marriage does not happen until the person is baptized and joins the church, usually between the ages of 18 and 22.
  • Amish women make their wedding outfits by themselves. Blue is the proper color according to some groups while others leave the color option open. After the wedding ceremony, the woman wears this dress for Sunday church services, and after her death, she is buried in it.
  • The Amish attend Sunday religious services, not in church buildings but in private residences, every other Sunday. On average each family hosts a Sunday service once a year.
  • The Amish pay all the taxes that other people do on their earnings, but they do not participate in the Social Security system because they believe that it is a form of commercial insurance. As strict pacifists and non-resistance believers, they are exempt from military service.
  • Modern medicine is acceptable by the Amish. However, they don’t believe in hospitalization insurance. Any treatment or hospital expenses are paid using a special community fund.
  • While they have a higher risk of getting genetic diseases, they have lower rates of cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases because of their healthy lifestyle in the countryside.
  • Amish people cannot own phones in their homes. Also, they cannot use motorized vehicles such as cars, but horses and buggies instead, but they can occasionally hire a taxi or accept rides from others.
  • Insisting on not using power from the public electric grid, the Amish prefer using the sun and batteries as their primary source powers.
  • The Amish kids use to play with handmade faceless rag dolls which are dressed in the typical Amish attire. The dolls are purposely faceless in the community’s effort to deter against vanity and pride.

    Faceless Amish Dolls
    Faceless Amish Dolls
  • According to their religious beliefs, the Amish should not pose for pictures because posed photos may be seen as a show of pride.
  • Music is not a celebrated art form in the Amish communities unless it comes from the “Ausbund,” the High German songbook that has no musical tones because it can encourage bad behavior.
  • “Barn raisings” are the festive times where all the community members work together to build a barn for one of its members in their effort to celebrate their bond.