With the execution style killings of five Amish schoolgirls, the less known and secluded community has once again come into the media glare. Everyone everywhere is talking about the Amish beliefs, customs, peace-loving nature, ability to forgive and unbelievably simple way of leading life. With so much being written and read about them, there really is nothing new left to say. But after some deep research and digging, I have found some less known trivia about the Amish community.
We always thought that the Amish didn’t use technology. The Amish do use disposable diapers, gas grills, skates, and cell phones! They use machines that run on batteries and not on electricity. The Amish can ride in cars and buses but cannot own them.
The Amish are not only into farming. They are adept at woodworking. Amish Furniture, made of solid wood, is very popular throughout the USA. For making wholesale Amish furniture they use modern machinery operated by sometimes ingenious combinations of diesel engines used to power hydraulic and air pumps that replace the electric motor.
Amish Boys and girls begin their search for a spouse when they turn sixteen. The young man asks his girl to marry him, but instead of a diamond ring he gives her china or a clock.
Amish women wear blue at their weddings. Navy blue, sky blue and shades of purple are the most popular colors donning Amish brides. Her wedding outfit becomes her Sunday church attire after she is married. She is also be buried in the same dress when she dies. No one in the bridal party carries flowers. The groom wears a black suit, white shirt, black shoes and stockings, a bow tie, high-topped black shoes, and a black hat with a three and a half inch brim. There is no best man or maid of honor.
Wedding dates for the Amish are limited to November and part of 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 to avoid work or clean-up on the following day, Sunday.
The couple’s first night together is spent at the bride’s home because they must get up early the next day to help clean the house. The couple lives at the home of the bride’s parents until they can set up their own home the following spring.
Amish women never cut their hair, which they wear in a bun on the back of the head. On their heads they wear a white prayer covering if they are married and a black one if they are single. In earlier times the women wore flat straw hats.
An Amish man does not shave his beard after he becomes married; a long beard is the mark of an adult Amish man. Mustaches are associated with the military, and therefore are forbidden among the Amish people.
Since so many Amish people have the same names, a person is sometimes identified by the name of his parents and grandparents, such as “Amos’s John’s Sammy” or “Jake’s Suzie’s Mary.” Sometimes a man even gets a nickname from his wife’s name.
Pipe and cigar smoking is the accepted practice. Cigarettes, however, are viewed as ‘worldly.’ Older men appear to have more ‘right’ to chew or smoke than young men. Modern lighters are used by some. Earlier, it was common for older women to smoke a pipe.
The carriage, or buggy as we non-Amish call it, may not have changed a great deal in design, but now the body of the carriage is mostly made of fiberglass rather than wood.
The Amish use car batteries and other alternative sources to power their machines. The new machines were first used because the hand-operated ones broke, were old and could not be replaced since they were no longer made. To re-charge such batteries some Amish use solar panels, which can recharge a 12-V battery in about seven days.
The Amish have used telephones for years. Before they were common in the home, they used ones in town. Later, as they became more common, a phone booth or phone “shanty” was often built outside, and shared by several neighbors. Many Amish businesses used to rely on answering machines or services, or instruct their patrons to call at a certain hour when they would be at the outdoor phone.
The Amish will never cease to amaze us. Their resilience and inner strength will continue to astound us for years to come.