Thank you to everyone who submitted questions for Sadie to answer. If you don’t see your question and answer up this week, be sure to check back next Sunday. Unfortunately, there may be a small lag in getting everyone’s question answered and posted, but know that you’ll get your answer shortly.
Do the Amish adopt children? If yes, do they adopt outside of their community such as English or Chinese children?
Yes, we do adopt children. If a couple is childless they may go to an agency in the area in order to adopt. There is a woman in my church district who has two foster children (they are English sisters) that she is in the process of adopting. My husband’s brother had a foster child at one time but the girl had a hard time with the strict rules of the church and so she left.
It is said that children in an Amish home do chores early. I’d like to know what tasks children do and at about what age they do it?
Children learn to do chores at a very early age. When my daughter was two she was helping with barn chores like sweeping and feeding the animals. My girls are 3 and 2 now and they help gather eggs everyday (although some end up broken on the ground) and muck the horse stalls. They also help their daddy in his workshop every night (sweeping up the sawdust and handing him tools) while I clean up the dishes. My sister and brother both have dairy farms and their children help with every aspect of it. From feeding the cows during the milking, to cleaning the udders before the milking, to climbing up the silo to get the silage, to transferring the milk to the holding tank, everyone is involved. Once a girl finishes the 8th grade she stays home with her mom learning how to be a good wife and mother. She will learn to sew, cook, and care for younger children, often babies. The boys will spend days with their dad learning his trade or go off to other farms learning about farm duties.
I read a lot of Amish books and wonder how much leeway to parents actually give during rumspringa?
Just like in your culture, every parent is different. My sisters do not let their teenagers, who are currently running around, get wild like I hear some shows depict on TV. They are allowed to go to singings with the youth, trips with their buddy bunch, and date. They really have no curfew like Amy has told me your youth have. But it is understood that they stay within the boundaries set by their parents. There are actually some youth groups who are “wild” where they can drive cars and dress English but if parents do allow their children to do that then the child would not choose that youth group.
How do I become a pen pal with an Amish woman? I am 66 years old. My husband and I visit Lancaster, Pa several times a year to get away from our hectic life in New Jersey. I love learning about everything Amish.
Amy is currently working with me to try to find some older Amish women who may want to be pen pals with you and some others who have asked.
How do the Amish keep track of the weather when there is no TV or radio? It seems the weather is getting more violent as the years go on. Do the Amish know what to look for when it comes to the weather for planting and haying time?
We get the paper every day and read about the weather on that. We also have weather radios. My husband works for a company that uses the internet so he is always up to date on weather and news. Farmers follow the same “schedule” every year as far as planting and farm chores. But as far as day to day events we rely on the paper, radio, internet at businesses and word of mouth.
I don’t understand the reasoning about why the Amish can use gas powered machines, but not electricity. Is it just to keep you separated from the English world?
Yes. If we had electricity we would be connected to the outside world. By using solar or gas power we are just relying on ourselves.
(These first two questions were asked in last week’s comments.)
I don’t understand the Amish way of forgiving outsiders for trespasses against them yet they shun those who go against the rules of the order. And those rules aren’t in written form. What good does shunning do when the Amish forgive outsiders yet shun those in the religion for wrong doing?
Many non-Amish people misunderstand shunning. Shunning is not meant to be a punishment. We use it to help people. In my church district, we use a shunning as the last possible resort. And, once it is in place, it is meant to help bring the church member back. For example, if someone breaks a rule continuously, the bishop or deacon will pay them a visit and talk to them about it. Some members of the church may also try to help get the person back on track. If, after those interventions, the rule continues to be broken, a shunning may be put into place. This would only happen if everything else has failed to help the person. So, it is not a matter of someone doing something wrong and us not forgiving them and punishing them instead…it is about doing everything possible to help (which implies forgiveness) and then using a shunning as the last possible way to help.
I so enjoyed the questions & answers! Thank you!
I found myself stirred by the reply “We also have many of the same problems that the English have. It’s how we solve the problems that truly differs.” It describes in a nut shell what I seek and hunger for inside the Amish culture…Can you please explain by what means does the Amish church perceive & resolve various problems by comparison of non-Amish? One area of particular interest to me is forming respect and obedience of your children. Those I have ever seen are so well mannered! 🙂
An example of a different view would be of that on marriage. Amish have marital problems just like the English. However, instead of divorcing, we do everything possible to work things out. We can attend marriage enrichment classes or marriage counseling groups. Amish couples may even separate for a bit while friends, family, and church leaders talk with them to try to get them back on track. But divorce is not an option (in my Old Order church) unless they leave the church and then they will be shunned. In fact, marriage is so sacred that if a husband would leave his wife or vice versa, the only way they could get remarried is if the spouse would die. We truly believe in “til death do us part.”
Amy here: I thought I might take this time and answer the question about children. When I asked Sadie, she said she didn’t know what the differences are in how we raise our children. She only knows the Amish way. I’ve given it some thought and here’s my theory. I’ve been with Sadie when her children have misbehaved. It’s the way she handles it that differs, a steady and gentle reminder that the behavior is not accepted. Our lives are so rushed and schedules so filled that we may not have the time and patience we would like to discipline our children the same way the Amish do. So many moms work outside their homes which leads to less time with their children. The Amish have much slower lives which lends itself to taking the time to discipline. For most Amish women, raising the children is their primary occupation. Not to mention, as Sadie told me, they must learn from birth how to behave in church for three hours. They participate in family chores as soon as they can walk. They are not over stimulated with electronics, loud music, etc. and learn early in life that they are a part of a greater entity—their family.
Does an Amish woman wear her wedding dress as her funeral dress?
When an Amish woman gets married she wears a colored dress and a white cape and apron. That is the last time she will wear the white cape and apron until she dies because once a woman marries she wears a cape that is the same color as her dress to church. When she dies she wears a white dress, sometimes made ahead of time but often made by a family member after death, and the white cape and apron she wore on her wedding day. Amish men wear white pants and a white shirt when they die.
I see that you use snaps on clothing, I understand about pins being easy to adjust, but I still don’t understand why buttons are not used. Also, which Amish or Mennonite group is the strictest about sticking ‘to the old ways.’
Young girls use buttons in the back of their dresses until age 11. Then the girls have snaps in the front and this small, extra piece of fabric in the back. Buttons are not used for girls/women after the age of 11. I don’t really know why. It’s just the way it has always been done. Men may have buttons or snaps on their shirts.
From Amy: It is also believed by some Amish scholars that when buttons came into use that the Amish turned away from using them, most probably because they were made out of special materials. There were no plastic buttons back then. This practice has stayed around even though buttons are very common today. However this is purely speculation.
As far as which group is the strictest about sticking to the old ways, I would have to say the Schwartzentruber or Troyer Amish. I am not 100% familiar with these groups, and I don’t know about every group. I am Old Order Amish, and that is the group that I know the most about.
From Amy: Schwartzentruber and Troyer Amish are similar in beliefs. Neither have running water/indoor plumbing in their houses. They have outhouses and it has been reported that they only bathe once a week. I have yet to discover the dividing line between the two. If anyone has information on this, please feel free to share. Thanks!
Do Amish people barbecue? Yes, we love to grill. My family has the Big Green Egg (my husband is serious about his barbecue) and we use it quite often. Also, when we have auctions and big events, we grill chicken and sell it by the piece or as chicken dinners.
Do you shave your legs/arm pits? Yes, I shave my legs and arm pits on a regular basis just like you would. And I buy my razors from Walmart- yes, we shop at Walmart.
What are the different types of Amish that are in your area? In my area, we have Old Order Amish, which is what I am, New Order Amish, and Spring Garden Amish Church. We also have Eastern Mennonite, Brethren Mennonite, and Bethel Mennonite church.
How do the Amish deal with gay people in their community?
Hey, this is Amy. I talked to Sadie about this and we decided that I would write the answer to this question. This is a sensitive matter and Sadie and I both want to make sure that the answer was easily understandable.
Being gay in an Amish community is very different than being gay in the English community. Nowhere is being gay accepted among the Amish. If an Amish person thinks that they might be gay, they would go to sessions to help them get rid of what is considered ‘sinful thoughts’. They might even go away to get help.
We know that in the English community there are some who are more understanding and accepting of alternative lifestyles. Someone ‘coming out of the closet’ could be accepted or rejected by their family and friends. But in the Amish community, there is no acceptance. Their choices are change or leave. (I don’t mean this to sound harsh, just simply these are the only two options.)
Imagine having something that you want/need/believe and the only way you can carry through is to leave behind everything you know and risk never seeing your loved ones again. What would you choose? Most would want to change in order to remain in the community. If a person doesn’t want to change, then they would have to leave in order to carry through with their different lifestyle.
How do the Amish deal with children who are deformed or have mental illness? I have heard there is a house for imperfect people to stay in Virginia. I was curious if this was true?
We take care of our own. For example, if we have elderly parents that cannot live alone anymore, they would live with their children two weeks at a time. After the two weeks is up, they would move in with another one of their children. If an accident leaves a child paralyzed or mentally not the same, we would have nurses come to the house to help with care but the ultimate care would be on the parents. I have a friend whose two brothers were severely injured in an accident. They have 24-hour nursing care in the home but the parents also help with care and make the decisions about the level of care. If someone is having emotional challenges or they need extensive help, we do send them away to receive care but they return to the community when their therapy is completed. Since I live in PA I am not familiar with the way things are in Virginia, but there is a home near me that could care for someone who needs it. Most of the time the family takes care of the person.
May I ask what names you use for your mother, father, grandmother, etc. I have read many Amish fiction books and they differ. There is Mamm, Mammi, Grandfather, Grosmammi, Mom, Dad, etc.
My sisters are both in their 40’s and their generation uses Mamm and Datt for mom and dad but the younger generations use Momma and Daddy. For grandmother and grandfather we all use Mommy and Dawdy. The spellings and words will vary by state.
What do you think of Amish fiction? Do you have a favorite author? I like reading fiction, especially romances. I don’t care if the characters are Amish or not. I just want the author to be a good writer and share a good romance. If some of the Amish details are not correct I don’t mind because I know I am reading fiction. No, we don’t always sit home doing laundry, cooking and cleaning, or churning butter. I do not always have a fresh pie available to offer a visitor who stops by. But if an author wants to put those details in a fiction book then that’s ok, as long as the story is well written and people realize it is fiction.
Of course Amy is my favorite author and I love helping her with the Amish details in her stories so she can make them as authentic as possible. But I love her books the best because she is an expert at writing romance and her stories are always so good.
What I don’t like though are things like Amish Mafia. The part I don’t like is that they act like what is on that show is true and real. If they said it was all made up and produced like a fiction book, I wouldn’t mind. But I don’t like that people who watch it and don’t know about the Amish will believe that stuff happens. Supposedly the show is filmed in my neck of the woods and I have never seen a buggy being blown up or heard an explosion.
What do the Amish families do at night after supper for relaxation and entertainment?
My husband and I do a lot of reading, sometimes Bible stories and sometimes fiction books. We also read stories to our children. Often times in the spring and summer we go for a walk after we eat. On the weekends we will get together with other families and visit. My dad lives the next farm down with my brother and my sister lives the next farm over so we often walk to their houses and share a snack or just sit and chat. My favorite time of night is after my children go to sleep and my husband and I can just talk. He works outside the home so I do not see him all day.
I just love the way Amish live and worship God. My question is are Amish allowed to have pen Yes, we are allowed to have pen pals. It is just hard for us to write sometimes because our spoken language is not a written language and we sometimes have a hard time getting down on paper what we want to say in English. But we would never NOT be allowed to have a pen pal. I think people think we don’t socialize with non-Amish people, but Amy and I are very good friends and her assistant and I do things together all of the time. In the end, we are all women and all share the same feelings, concerns, challenges, and worries.
Do you like gardening and working outside? I do enjoy gardening and working outside. I have a vegetable garden where I plant corn, beets, potatoes, onions, lettuce, and carrots. I also have many flower beds around my house. I enjoy going to the greenhouse in the spring and choosing my annuals each year. My children and I spend a lot of time outside in the spring and summer.
A reader recently visited Amish settlements in Oklahoma and came away with a few questions.
Why are buttons allowed on some garments and not others? I can’t speak for other Amish settlements other than my own which is the Old Order Amish in Lancaster, PA. We allow snaps on our dresses although some women don’t use them. But, we pin our aprons. It is not that snaps are not allowed on aprons, in fact some women do snap their aprons, but most use pins. The reason is that it is easier to adjust the apron when pins are used. If we are doing chores that require a lot of bending and twisting, we may pin our apron a bit looser that day to allow for the movement. Also when we are pregnant, we can adjust the apron as our bellies grow.
We ate at a marvelous buffet. We noticed that a tub of margarine sat on the buffet rather than butter. Is there a reason for that? Is it due to shelf life or transportation or how a product sets up? Though most everything we ate was delicious, we definitely noticed the change in taste from butter to margarine and wondered why it is used, when butter is so readily available. I can’t speak for the restaurant or for the Amish in Oklahoma but where I live, we use butter. Restaurants use butter too although margarine is offered if a customer prefers it. If the restaurant you ate in is a chain, they probably offer both since it caters to many people. Plus, just because a store/restaurant has “Amish” in its name or description does not necessarily mean it has anything to do with the Amish. I live next to my brother who is a dairy farmer, so we always have homemade butter in the refrigerator. But there is no rule that says someone can’t buy margarine if that is what they would rather have.
Does every Amish woman like to sew? If not, who do they get to sew their clothes?
No, not every Amish woman likes to sew. I do not like to sew. My niece loves sewing so I buy material and she sews my girls’ dresses for me. She also sews dresses for me and shirts for my husband. We can also go to Amish-owned stores to buy clothing. Our head coverings are often purchased rather than made.
When do girls start wearing a prayer covering in your area?
All girls, regardless of their age, wear coverings to church. It isn’t until a girl turns 13 that she wears one all of the time. That is why when you visit a school, only the 8th grade girls have coverings on.
What is your favorite chore? Your least favorite chore?
My favorite chore if you call it a chore is cooking. I love cooking and baking and entertaining friends with food. My least favorite chore would be sewing and mucking out the horse stall.
How did you celebrate Thanksgiving?
Sometimes we have a wedding to go to on Thanksgiving but this year we did not. But, one of my sisters did. My husband and I took our children down to my brother’s house where my dad also lives and we had a big meal together. My other sister, who lives about an hour buggy ride from us, will sometimes take a meal to someone less fortunate in her area.
Do the Amish like to write letters?
Some do and some don’t. I personally do not because it is hard sometimes to get the English words and sentences down on paper. It is much easier for us to speak in our language than it is in English so having to speak it and then write it down on paper is very time consuming for us. I would much rather talk on the phone.
Do the Amish send Christmas cards?
Yes, we do. I also include a letter in mine that I make copies of to let everyone know what has happened in my family’s life the past year. Like I said before, it is sometimes hard to write long letters so I write one that everyone I send cards to can read. Our cards would look just like yours but we would not have Santa on them.
Are there any deaf Amish/Mennonites?
Yes, we have deaf in our community as you would. They would go to a special needs school. There are 4 or 5 kids and one teacher. Sometimes the church district in the area of the special needs school will collect money to help out the students at the school. When I was in growing up there was a deaf boy in my youth group and we all learned sign language so we could communicate with him.
Is it true that your children are only allowed to play with faceless dolls?
I am Old Order Amish and in my community I don’t know of anyone whose children play with a faceless doll. In fact, American Girl dolls are what a lot of the girls play with. There are often tea parties held where the girls bring their dolls and have tea together with their friends. There are also some Amish women who make Amish clothing to fit the American Girl dolls.
Do the Amish allow pets in their home?
Just like with the non-Amish everyone is different. Some of my friends and family members allow pets in their home and some do not. My sister has three dogs and several cats and they all stay outside on the porch or in the barn. I have a poodle who is our family pet and he stays in the house with us.
Are the Amish allowed to adopt children?
Yes, we are. Some couples are not blessed with children of their own and choose to adopt. A friend of mine from church is now trying to adopt two English girls who are sisters. We also take in foster children.
I know that some Amish have propane gas and have propane gas appliances. Why don’t they have gas dryers for use in the winter time?
Our people are putting in spinners now so their wash spins to almost dry to cut down on the drying time. Also some people are getting electric washers like the non-Amish have that operate off of air. Both of these get the clothes much drier than our wringer washers do. So in the winter we can hang out clothes inside if we need to and they won’t be dripping wet like they are with the wringer washers. Wringer washers are almost becoming antique. The reason why we don’t use dryers is because they would need electricity to operate along with the gas because of the heating element. It would also be very costly to operate and I would not want that added expense.
Do Amish/Mennonite allow non-Amish/Mennonite to be buried in their cemetery?
We only bury Amish in our Amish cemeteries. The Mennonites have church houses so their cemeteries are located behind their church house. Amish cemeteries are on land that is part of someone’s property. Our cemeteries are usually 3-7 miles away from where the family of the buried person lives. A husband and wife are usually buried next to each other.
I would like to ask Sadie if they are allowed to read the whole Bible themselves?
No one can restrict us as to how much we can read our Bible. We can do whatever we want as far as that is concerned. My husband and I choose our own devotions. We have a Bible in German and a Bible in English. We read the Bible in English. We don’t take our Bibles to church but our service is in German.
I recently heard a story about an Amish woman who opened her own business quite a few years ago to support her two daughters after her husband left her. I’m happy to say her business is thriving. I have a few questions: Is that unheard of that Amish husbands leave the wives? If so, are they shunned? Are the wives shunned? Would she be able to remarry if there is such a thing as divorce in their community?
Yes, Amish husbands leave their wives. We often have many of the same problems as non-Amish people do. I have a friend whose cousin had that happen to her recently. The wife would not be shunned, but if the husband leaves the church and does not return he would be shunned for leaving the church. I feel that some Amish fiction books do not represent shunning the correct way. We do not just go around shunning people. Shunning is used as a last resort after the church tries to help the person get back on the right track. If all other means of help do not change the person’s behavior then a shunning may be in order to help the person. It is not a punishment like most books make it out to be. If a husband leaves his wife, even if he becomes English and never returns, the only way she could get remarried is if he would die. We take marriage very seriously and most likely the wife would not ever want to remarry.
How long is the courtship before marriage?
The courtship time can vary depending on the couple just like with non-Amish couples. For example, if both people are baptized and begin dating February and feel they are ready, they could get married in the upcoming fall wedding season. However, if they need more time, they can wait a year. Some wait even longer. It is a very personal decision.
Do the Amish ever become pen pals with the English?
The Amish could become pen pals with the English. We interact a lot with the English. In fact, two of my closest friends are English (Amy being one of them). I can see if I know anyone that would be interested in being pen pals with you.
How do you celebrate a birthday?
Just like a lot of things, the way we celebrate is a lot like the non-Amish. Depending on the time of year and how busy we are, we may make a big deal out of a birthday or we may not. Some families celebrate every family member’s birthday in a very special way and some families don’t really celebrate at all. We usually celebrate children’s birthdays more than adults. Recently I had a tea party at my house for my niece who turned four. Gifts were given to her from the guests and we had cupcakes and tea. I am taking my sister out to breakfast at Shady Maple soon for her birthday because she did a lot for me this past year. But last year I didn’t really do anything for her birthday. I started a new tradition this year within my own family that when it is someone’s birthday they get to pick what I make for dinner that night.
Why are the patterns so simple on a quilt?
The patterns on a quilt may look simple but they are not. They can get very detailed. Here’s one square from a quilt my sister is making for her daughter’s wedding quilt.
Do you quilt or crochet?
Actually, I do not like to quilt, crochet, or sew. A lot of people think that every Amish woman sews, but that is not the case. Many of us do not like to sew or do not have time so we may get one of our sisters or nieces to sew for us or we may pay someone to make our clothing.
How close is the Amish life to the books we read?
Every Amish community is different. Even neighboring church districts in Lancaster County differ. But I will say that many books romanticize our life. We do not stay home all day cooking, sewing, and reading the Bible. We have very busy lives too. We also do not do our laundry only on Mondays. The bulk may be washed on Monday, but I have to do several loads throughout the week in order to keep it all clean. Our children are allowed to have dolls with faces. In fact, I do not know anyone whose daughter has a faceless doll. We also have many of the same problems that the English have. It’s how we solve the problems that truly differs.