I always found traditions from different cultures incredibly interesting. Most of us enjoy at least a couple of them, but in the end they don’t rule or control our lives.
In my family’s case, the only tradition that we follow is my incessant need to travel and I’m not sure if that is even considered a real tradition. I have also added educational travel as a tradition. As you can see, traditions aren’t too high on my list of priorities for our daily life. It’s not because I don’t try, but because I never know which ones to instill.
That’s why traveling to a Bird-In-Hand, one of the many places in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where traditions mean everything for the locals, was one of the most educational and eye opening trips my family has yet taken!
Amish Traditions Up Close and Personal
Lucky for us, we were in Amish country just in time for the annual Lancaster County Carriage & Antique Auction. This was one of the highlights of the whole trip. It usually happens every year at the end of June. And it is a MUST if you are visiting the area during this time of the year.
I found people from all corners of the U.S. that travel here only to buy Amish goods. Some come every year.I guess that makes it a tradition for them!
What You’ll Find at an Amish Auction
- Handmade and carved carriages – Next to these Cinderella’s looks like a piece of scrap metal.
- Sleds – I bet you thought they didn´t exist anymore, much to my amazement and surprise they do. I think Santa shops here as well.
- Quilts – The Amish are known around the world for their handmade Quilts and they are beyond words. Each one is as unique as a fingerprint.
- Antiques of all shapes and sizes – I don´t know much about antiques but people that do, consider this auction as a place for secret treasure finds.
- Haystack Buffet – Amish Style – We had so much fun doing this! I would recommend coming here just for this. The reason why they named the buffet “Haystack” is because you put the food on as though it was a haystack. Super fun!
Educational Travel – Learning About Amish Traditions
If you want to fully understand the Amish you have to fully dive into their history, culture and beliefs.
History of the Amish
• Between 1644 and 1720 the Amish movement was founded. It happened in Europe by Jacob Amman.
• The movement started as a reform group within the Mennonites.
• The Amish base their beliefs and practices on the writings of the founder of the Mennonite faith, Menno Simons.
• Most of the Amish who split from Mennonites lived in Switzerland and in the southern Rhine river region.
• That was until they started migrating to the United States, starting in the early 18th century.
• A 1972 Supreme Court (Wisconsin V. Yoder) ruling deemed that Amish families weren’t required to educate their children past the 8th grade At the same time they were protected under the freedom of religion.
• Most Amish communities that were established in North America did not retain their Amish identity.
• The original split that resulted in the loss of identity occurred in the 1860s.
• When they arrived to the U.S. they settled in Pennsylvania. Other waves of immigrants became established in New York, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri Ohio, and extended to other states.
• The United States Internal Revenue Service agreed in 1961 that they did not need to pay Social Security-related taxes. In 1965, this policy was codified into law.
• The Amish are a group of traditionalist Christian church fellowships.
• They are known for simple living, plain dress, and reluctance to adopt modern technology.
• The most traditional descendants of the Amish continue to speak Pennsylvania German.
• As of 2000, over 165,000 Old Order Amish lived in the United States.
• There are two key concepts that they follow: 1) rejection to Hochmut (pride or arrogance) and; 2) the high value of Demut (humility).
• Bearing children, raising them, and socializing with neighbors and relatives are the greatest functions of the Amish family.
• All Amish believe large families are a blessing from God.
• The largest Amish settlements are in Holmes County in central Ohio and Lancaster County in south-eastern Pennsylvania.
• The Amish do not usually educate their children past the eighth grade.
• They also run their own schools.
• Amish church membership begins with baptism, usually between the ages of 16 and 25.
• The Ordnung (order) is the set of rules for each Amish community. It contains both religious and civil rules.
• Each community has one Bishop, two ministers and a deacon all of whom are male.
• The Amish believe in living a life separated from the non-Amish.
• Funerals are held in the home of the dead and coffins are plain.
• Belts, gloves, ties, sneakers are banned.
• Married men must grow their beards whilst mustaches are forbidden.
• Amish women cannot wear patterned clothing or jewelry and they are not permitted to cut their hair.
• Most Amish descend from the families of the 200 founders from the 18th century. Ss they have high rate of genetic disorders due to inbreeding.
• The Amish have suicide rates that are far lower (one third) the rate of non-religious people and 50% lower than other religious people.
• Only married men who are members of the local church district are eligible for a ministerial position.
History of Lancaster County
• Indigenous Tribes had occupied the areas along the waterways for thousands of years before settlers arrived.
• Right after settlers arrived to the area conflict over the territory started and lasted until the late 18th century.
• Originally called Hickory Town, the city was renamed after the English town of Lancaster by native John Wright.
• Lancaster was part of the 1681 Penn’s Woods Charter of William Penn.
• The first sizable group of Amish arrived in Lancaster County in the 1720′s or 1730′s.
• Lancaster County was part of Chester County, Pennsylvania until May 10, 1729
• Lancaster is the fourth county that was created in the state.
• Scotch-Irish settlers from Pennsylvania began moving into this upstate region in the 1750s.
• During the American Revolution, it was briefly the capital of the colonies (1777).
• In 1780 Col Buford was defeated by the British after the fall of Charles Town.
• There is a site with memorials to those who died in the Revolutionary War in Lancaster.
• The county was formally formed in 1785, and it was originally part of the Camden District.
• The Lancaster County Courthouse was designed by Robert Mills in 1825-1828.
• Since 1960, the Amish population in Lancaster County has almost tripled.
Fun Facts to Know
• Lancaster County was named after the city of Lancaster in the county of Lancashire in England.
• It is often called The Pennsylvania Dutch Country.
• Today there are over 25 different Amish, Mennonite, and Brethren church groups in Lancaster County, all holding to slightly different traditions and their own interpretations of the Bible.
• The farmlands of the Pennsylvania Dutch Country are among the most productive in the nation.
• The Amish are very devout in their faith. They believe in the literal interpretation and application of Scripture as the Word of God.
• They do not permit electricity or telephones in their homes.
• By restricting access to television, radio, and telephones, the Amish are better able to keep the modern world from intruding into their home life.
• The Amish have a strong sense of community spirit, and often come to the aid of those in need.
• There is no single governing body for the entire Old Order Amish population in the U.S.; rather, each church district decides for itself what it will and will not accept.