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12 Surprising Traditions of the Amish Community

Originating from Germany, the Amish are known for their conservative Christian values and speaking Pennsylvania Dutch. While their peaceful existence is well-documented, beneath this serene surface lie intriguing, less-known traditions. Here are 12 Amish traditions that might surprise you.

Toys Without Faces

In a move away from the mainstream, Amish toys are deliberately faceless, encouraging children to focus on inner beauty and the value of simplicity. Although it may seem unusual, Amish parents use faceless toys to teach their children, particularly girls, that God’s love is unconditional and not based on appearance. 

These toys, dressed in Amish-style clothing and possibly handmade or machine-sewn, are designed to discourage a preoccupation with looks.

Photographs? No, Thanks

Selfies and family portraits are not cherished by the Amish, who believe that photographs can lead to vanity and idolatry. Naturally, these people don’t even know what their great-grandparents looked like in the past. 

They prefer to keep memories in their hearts rather than in frames, staying true to their principle that we’re all made in the image of a higher power.

Higher Education Is Not Encouraged

In Amish communities, there’s a strong belief that unity and tradition are more important than advanced education. After a basic education, capped at the eighth grade, young Amish are schooled in the trades and crafts that sustain their way of life, from sewing to woodworking, all while staying firmly rooted in their cultural identity.

No Cars or Tech Gadgets

While the rest of us can’t live without our gadgets and wheels, the Amish choose a different path, sticking to horses and buggies. You won’t find a TV or smartphone in their homes. Instead, they light up their nights with lamps and, when necessary, power up with generators or solar panels to keep things running smoothly.

The Price of Defiance: Shunning

Step out of line with Amish traditions, and you might find yourself shunned, cut off from community dinners and family gatherings. This practice bars the individual from participating in communal activities, including eating or sleeping within the community, and even restricts visits to friends or family. 

Gifts from the shunned person are also not accepted by other members. 

Reasons for Shunning Members

People might choose shunning for various reasons. Some find Amish traditions outdated and disagree with practices like bundling or the community’s views on women’s roles. After exploring the world during Rumspringa, they might opt to leave the faith and community. 

Meanwhile, involvement in criminal behavior often results in shunning by both the church and the community.

Beards, But No Mustaches

Amish men are easily recognized by their distinctive beards, worn as a badge of adulthood and marital status. Yet, you’ll notice the absence of mustaches, a deliberate choice to distance themselves from historical associations of wealth and military involvement.

Amish Dating: Bundling Up

The Amish approach to dating is both unique and intimate, with young couples engaging in ‘bundling,’ where they share a bed, fully clothed, to talk and bond. This tradition ensures they focus on conversation and connection, not physical attraction.

Puppy Mills: A Controversial Trade 

The Amish have been criticized for running puppy mills, especially in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Holmes County, Ohio; and Shipshewana, Indiana, where they profit from breeding dogs—a controversial yet lucrative trade. 

Treating Hundreds of Dogs Poorly 

These mills often treat dogs poorly, keeping them in cages until sale, raising them like livestock amidst debates over their welfare. With up to a thousand dogs of various breeds, the poor conditions expose them to diseases and infections. This has sparked calls to end the practice due to neglect and abuse.

Rumspringa

Amish teenagers get a taste of the outside world during Rumspringa, a period of exploration before they commit to the church. It’s a time for them to experience life beyond their community, from driving cars to trying out new styles, ultimately deciding where their hearts truly belong. 

Amish Teenagers vs. Faith 

It appears that Amish parents are quite effective at encouraging their children to stick with their faith, seeing as a large number of young people decide to remain. 

Yet, the motives behind their decision to stay are subject to debate, since it could be a voluntary choice or possibly due to fear of exclusion.

One-room Schoolhouses

One-room schools, a staple of Amish communities, are built on land donated by the community and often feature a softball or baseball field, playground equipment, and outhouses. 

Hosting 30-35 students, who are mostly siblings and cousins, in a single room might seem odd today. However, this was the norm for everyone before the 20th century. 

A School System with Perks 

As educational systems evolved to larger, more centralized buildings, the Amish retained the one-room schoolhouse model, keeping education accessible and community-focused. 

This allows students to easily reach school on foot or by scooter, maintaining a close-knit learning environment.

Marry Within or Not at All

Amish communities require members to marry within their faith, reinforcing their strong cultural and religious ties. However, in smaller communities, this can lead to inbreeding, with cousins sometimes marrying each other. 

Potential Health Risks

Such practices have led to cases of children with unexplained conditions and genetic disorders. While genetic testing could address these issues, it conflicts with Amish beliefs. Marrying outside the local gene pool could be a solution, but their traditions still restrict marrying non-Amish.

Amish Teachers Are Usually Unmarried Women

Amish education spans from age 6 (1st grade) to around 14 or 15 (8th grade), with a curriculum taught by an unmarried Amish woman, often with an education up to the 8th grade herself. 

Teaching Everyone in One Room 

The teacher is responsible for teaching all eight grades in the same room, sometimes enlisting the help of older students to assist the younger ones. Typically, Amish teachers are young women between 18 and 22, as it’s easier for them to teach before marriage.

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