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Lancaster County Amish
One of the things we love about our Amish neighbors is that their lifestyle allows us to take a little peek back into time. Things weren't so hectic, farmlands were plentiful, and a horse and buggy could be heard clip-clopping down the road.
These hard-working plain people are both our neighbors and friends and a welcome part of our communities. You are invited to take a few minutes to learn a bit about the Amish in Lancaster County. Welcome!
In Europe in the 1700s the Amish were persecuted for their religious beliefs. They fled their home country to seek a place where they could worship freely. The community found its new home in Pennsylvania and is currently the largest Amish sect in all of America.
In addition to worshipping God, the Amish practice a simple lifestyle that focuses on humility, discipline, and helping others in need. They also believe that God has a personal interest in their lives, their families, and in their communities.
To protect their families and communities from the outside world, the Amish shun modern conveniences and technology. They remove themselves from influences that could undermine their family and community ideals.
A lot of things that we might consider any part of our day, such as mirrors, cellphones, photos of any kind, are not allowed in or out of Amish homes. Using these could encourage vanity or individualism and might lead one away from family and community. Along the same vein, in keeping with the commandment to have no images – of self or of idols – little girls’ dolls have no faces!
You won't see individualism in traditional Amish dress, either. Clothing is is very plain and modest and is considered an expression of faith. Surprisingly, dresses and shirts are usually bright solid blues, turquoises, purples and greens worn under black clothing.
For women and girls, dresses are long-sleeved dresses and can be no shorter than halfway between the knee and the floor. Their black capes and apron coverings that top their dresses are fastened by straight pins or snaps. If you're an Amish fella looking for a wife, it's easy to tell who's available. Married women wear white prayer caps to cover their hair, which is pulled into a bun at the back of the head. All the single ladies wear black caps.
Men and boys dress in black trousers, suspenders, and solid-colored shirts which close with buttons. Their black vests and straight cut coats use hook and eye as fasteners. To top of their attire, men and boys doff big-brimmed straw or black felt hats. Should you be an Amish gal looking for a husband, you'd be after the clean-shaven guys. After marrying, men grow their beards.
Although we might find it difficult to live without electricity in our world, our Amish neighbors live in their homes and run their businesses without it.
Electricity is not at all considered evil or unnecessary, but church leaders feel that electricity is too much of a connection to the secular world. Considering what's broadcast on tv and radio, you certainly won't find these connections in Amish homes. However, they Amish do use generators to power their refrigerators, lights, and businesses, things needed to carry on the work with which God has entrusted them.
Most Amish transportations is by horse and buggy – or scooter – for running errands or visiting with friends and neighbors. Trips by buggy are within a 20-mile radius, which is about what the horses can withstand before getting too tired. Just as we invest in cars and their care, Amish are interested in the latest model and great horsepower (literally!).
If you wanted to outfit your family with a buggy, you could pick one up for $5,000 – $10,00 depending on whether it’s new or used. You'll also have to throw in money for harnesses and horses, about another $3,000. Fuel costs amount to the current price of feed, but don't forget vet bills, shoeing, horse blankets and stalls. There's a lot to keeping your ride running smoothly!
What about longer trips or the need to get someplace in a hurry? Though they don’t drive cars and trucks themselves, the Amish do see their value. They will often hire “English” drivers to take them longer distances.
As the Amish sect began to grow in Pennsylvania, people found they needed to get in touch with doctors, dentists, vets, and other providers to stay viable on a number of levels. Religious leaders met and voted to sanction community phones.
Today you might see little shanties – "phone booths" that look like outhouses – plopped down at the end of a lane. The phone is deliberately placed outside the home and has an unlisted number. Every good Amish family knows that a phone is not meant for socializing but to help maintain businesses and the health of family and farms.
When you drive across the back roads of Lancaster County, sooner or later you'll spy a one-room schoolhouse. With over 250 in the area, they're a common site. They are usually built on donated land by the community they serve.
Grades 1 through 8 are combined together and all subjects are taught to all students. The teacher, a single Amish woman, leads the class in math, reading, writing, and penmanship. Students also learn to speak English, German, Pennsylvania Dutch.
The term Pennsylvania Dutch comes from the word “Deutsch,” which means “German” in the German language. This dialect is unique to the Amish and is another factor that keeps their community close-knit.
Some of our young visitors are envious that formal schooling ends in 8th grade for all Amish kids.That doesn't mean that learning stops. At home children are also taught homemaking skills, farming and vocational work which are often be apprenticeships. All kids, even pre-school tots, help with chores and family work. These are considered as part of the life skills needed to become functioning adults in the community.
Before their baptism as young adults, Amish boys and girls are not considered under the authority of the church. Before committing to their faith, the youth experience a rite of passage around age 16 called Rumspringa. During this time they're allowed more freedom and can experiment in outside-world activities.
Most teens stay within family and religious guidelines, but other take advantage of the chance to sow some wild oats. Some kids go to the movies wearing non-Amish clothing, some drink or try drugs. Others buy televisions or radios to see what kinds of lives the rest of the world might live.
Whatever they do, the point of Rumspringa is to remind Amish youth that they have a choice in whether they want to become members of the church. Elders believe that giving them this choice will make teens more willing to adhere to the strict lifestyle and standards once they're baptized.
Farming has been the center of life for most Amish people. They believe that work is blessed by God and handed down from generation to generation. Although making a living in farming is difficult, Amish thrift, self-sufficiency, and their values of hard work and responsibility have helped them thrive in their farming vocation.
Even so, over time rising land costs and scarcity eventually made farming more difficult, and led some families to work for others. They began working as carpenter’s assistants, welders, cleaning persons, or farmhands.
What became even more lucrative for Amish families were cottage businesses. These enterprises first served the Amish community but luckily for us are now open to neighbors tourists. Today you'll see quilt shops, bakeries, harness shops, and farm stands to name a few.
Want to Know More?
There are so many fascinating things to learn about these wonderful people and their way of life. Come out to Lancaster County and get better acquainted with our Amish neighbors through their hand-made crafts, foods, and the one-of-a kind experiences. Go on a tour, take a buggy ride, or enjoy a meal with an Amish family in their home.
The heart of Amish Country is less than 25 minutes from accommodations at Olde Square Inn. Stay and make memories that last a lifetime.