Both the Amish and the Mennonites were part of the early Anabaptist movement in Europe, which took place at the time of the Reformation. The Anabaptists believed that only adults who had confessed their faith should be baptized, and that they should remain separate from the larger society. Many of the early Anabaptists were put to death by both Catholics and Protestants, and many others fled to the mountains of Switzerland and southern Germany. Then began the Amish tradition of farming and holding their worship services in homes instead of in churches. In 1536, a young Catholic priest from Holland, Menno Simons, joined the Anabaptist groups, who were nicknamed Mennonites. In 1693, a Swiss bishop named Jacob Amman broke off from the Mennonite church. His followers were called the Amish. Although the two groups have split several times, the Amish and Mennonite churches still share the same beliefs concerning baptism, non-resistance, and the Bible. They differ in matters of dress, technology, language, form of worship, and interpretation of the Bible. The Amish and Mennonites both settled in Pennsylvania as part of William Penn’s holy experiment of religious tolerance. The first sizeable group of Amish arrived in Lancaster County in the 1720s or 1730s. Since the early colonial days the Amish have lived in the United States preserving their distinctive culture, dress, language and religion in peace and prosperity.
What does it mean to be Amish? Well, first and foremost is the inner renewal, having peace with God and with fellow believers. They see themselves as humans living as individuals under God and blending together in relation to Christ and his church. Also, they need to uphold a simple lifestyle where they depend on each other, the more they can maintain, the better the community. They are to be an example of one who cares for and considers others. And lastly, they must be separate fromt he world. In addition, they feel that training the child is very important. Obedience and respect of athority must be taught at home. The home, church and school should teach the same things. They’re way of life should be in harmony with their faith and the Bible.
The Amish are a very conservative Christian faith group, they believe Christ died for our sins. Many of their beliefs are the same as Fundamentalists and other Evangelical churches including baptism and a literal interpretation of the Bible. The Amish believe in remaining separate from the rest of the world, and they reject involvement with military or warfare. There is no centralized Amish organizagion but all Amish follow an unwritten set of rules called the Ordung.
The Amish have also faced a few conflicts throughout the years. They are frequently threatened by laws and regulations made for modern industrialized society. They are at a disadvantage when it comes to defending themeselves in courts. They do not believe in going to court to settle human conflict but instead, to turn the other cheek. They had problems for awhile with the schooling, because the Amish do not attend regular high schools, and their education only goes up to the eighth grade.
Some confusion has arose about the way the Amish dress. The Amish dress alike because they believe more in the community than the individuals, it gives them a sense of belonging. They can recognize each other by the manner of dress. They also don’t have to worry about fashion which they think of worldly and vein. They think fashion has something to do with getting noticed, which they do not want. Jewelry is also forbidden, because it is considered unnecessary and an expression of pride.
There are three required elements of a woman’s outfit. There’s a one piece, long sleeved dress in a solid dark color that is knee to floor length. They then have an apron and a cape to wear over their dress, black stockings and shoes. The whole outfit is made of the same fabric and color. The women wear these for modesty, they should not flaunt their figure.
The dresses also have a lot of pleats in them especially for young girls and young women, so when they grow the dresses can be let out to fit. These also come in handy when a young woman gets pregnant. It allows her to wear her dresses through her pregnancy.
All women, adult and teenagers wear a cap at all times. They wear a white prayer covering if they’re married, and a black prayer covering if they’re not. Outside they wear a bonnet. The style of the caps change with different communities. Amish clothing was once made of all cotton, but now they use a fabric blend instead, because it doesn’t require as much ironing and all clothing is homemade. Amish women also all wear their hair the same, it is always pinned back in a bun.
In the wintertime the women wear triangular shawls or a homemade black coat. They make their own stockings, gloves, scarves and other clothing unless they can buy something at a good price – maybe some underwear, socks, and stockings.
The women should cover their neck and bosom, and visible pockets are not allowed on their dresses. They instead are sown on the front of the skirts because the apron will hide them from view.
Children dress similar to their parents, but there are more choices of colors for thiers. Usually the colors are forest green, purple, and blue. purple and blue are the most common, but you will sometimes see maroon, and with some groups they can wear brown and beige.
Amish men and boys wear dark colored suits without lapels, broad trousers with no pleats, solid colored shirts (which are fastened with buttons), suspenders, black socks and shoes, and a black or straw brimmed hat. Suits and vests are fastened with hooks and eyes instead of buttons. Men do not have mustaches, but they do grow beards after they’re married.
Amish boys and girls start their search for a spouse when they turn sixteen. By the time a young woman turns twenty or a young man is in his early twenties, they are probably looking forward to the wedding day. Before they’re married they both must join the Amish church. They are baptized into the Amish faith and are responsible for following the Ordung.
The young man asks the girl to marry him, but he doesn’t give her a diamond. He may give her a china or a clock. The couple keeps it secret until July or August, then the girl tells her family about her plans.
The following Sunday after Fast Day on October 11th, they have fall communion. Afterwards, certification of membership is requested and is given by the second Sunday after communion, when all the couples that are planning to marry are published. At the end of the service the deacon announces the names of the girls and who they plan to marry. Then the fathers announce the date and time of the wedding and invite the members to attend.
The couple doesn’t attend the Sunday they are published, instead the woman prepares a meal for her fiance and they enjoy dinner alone at her home. When the girl’s family comes back, the daughter formally introduces her fiance to her parents.
After being published the couple has a few days before the ceremony. They are permitted to go to one last singing with their old group of friends. The girl also helps her mother prepare for the wedding and feast which is held at her parents home. The boy is busy extending personal invitations to members of his church district.
The bride usually wears blue. Navy blue, sky blue and shades of purple are the most popular colors used by Amish brides in any year. A bride’s wedding attire is always new. She usually makes her own dress and also those of her attendants. The style of the dresses are a plain cut and are mid-calf in length. There’s no fancy trim or lace and there’s never a train. An Amish bride’s dress will become her Sunday church attire after she’s married, and she will also be buried in the same dress when she dies. They also wear capes and aprons over their dresses, and instead of a veil, the bride wears a black prayer covering and most wears black high-topped shoes, and no one carries flowers.
The groom and his attendants wear black suits. Their shirts are white, and shoes and stockings are black. Normally, Amish men do not wear ties, but for the wedding they will wear bow ties. The groom also wears high-topped black shoes and a black hat with three and a half inch brim.
The weddings are only held in November and December when the harvest has been completed and severe winter weather has not yet arrived. Most weddings are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are used as days to prepare for or to clean-up after. Saturdays are not used as wedding days because it would be sacrilegious to work or clean-up on the following day, Sunday.
Normally an Amish wedding day begins at four o’clock in the morning. Helpers begin to arrive by 6:30 A.M. to take care of last minute details. By 7:00 A.M. the people in the wedding party have usually eaten breakfast, changed into their wedding clothes and are waiting in the kitchen to greet the guests. About two hundred to four hundred relatives, friends and church members are invited to the ceremony. At 8:30 A.M. the three-hour long service begins. The congregation will sing hymns (without instrumental accompaniment) while the minister counsels the bride and groom in another part of the house. After the minister and the couple return, a prayer, scripture reading and sermon takes place. The sermon is usually a very long one. After the sermon the minister asks the bride and groom to step forward from their seat with the rest of the congregation. Then he questions them about their marriage to be which is similar to taking wedding vows. The minister then Blesses the couple, then other ordained men and the fathers of the couple may give testimony about marriage to the congregation. A final prayer ends the ceremony. The women then rush to the kitchen to serve dinner while the men set up the tables. 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 together at the evening meal which ustarts at 5:00 P.M. The day usually ends around 10:30 P.M.
The couples 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. The couple lives at the home of the bride’s parents until they can set up their own home the following spring.
The Amish live their lives as simple and as best as they can. If they are happy, we should not question them, but respect them as anyone else.