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What Holidays Do The Amish Celebrate
Holiday Celebrations

What Holidays Do The Amish Celebrate

The Amish are a traditional Christian group known for living simple, technology-free lives in rural communities across North America. With their distinctive customs and attire, the Amish stand apart from mainstream American culture in many ways. One area where Amish practices diverge is around celebrations and holidays. Like other traditionalist Anabaptist groups, the Amish carefully consider which observances align with their values and faith. While eschewing certain popular holidays, they still find meaningful ways to mark seasonal changes and special events.

Religious Holidays

The Amish follow a liturgical calendar of religious celebrations rooted in their Christian faith. Key dates include:

Advent and Christmas

Advent marks the four Sundays preceding Christmas. Amish families may light candles or use Advent calendars to count down the days. On Christmas, they focus on the biblical story of Jesus’ birth. Some gather to sing carols or hear scripture readings. The day involves special meals without modern decorations or Santa Claus. Gifts are simple, handmade items. The Amish view the commercialization and consumerism around mainstream Christmas as conflicting with Christian ideals of humility and simplicity.

Good Friday and Easter

During Holy Week, Amish communities reflect on Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. They abstain from unnecessary work and gather for three-hour long church services on Good Friday. Easter is met with great celebration and joy as they break the solemnity of Lent. Amish services emphasize the triumph of life over death.

Ascension and Pentecost

Forty days after Easter, the Amish commemorate Jesus’ ascension into heaven on Ascension Day. Pentecost then occurs 10 days later with readings about the Holy Spirit descending onto Jesus’ followers. Amish services and sermons emphasize spreading the Gospel.

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Harvest Home

After the fall harvest, Amish congregations come together for a communal meal during Harvest Home. It doubles as a religious celebration to give thanks for plentiful crops and God’s provision. Some districts also practice the traditional European custom of “Vorlauf” where youth visit each home to sing hymns.

What Holidays Do The Amish Celebrate

Secular Holidays

The Amish separate from certain national holidays due to roots in patriotism, politics, military, or non-Christian themes. These include:

Independence Day & Memorial Day

The Fourth of July and Memorial Day have strong patriotic overtones which the Amish avoid due to their peace position. Military service and nationalism conflict with Amish values of nonresistance. Instead of Independence Day, some may celebrate “Half-Century Day” on July 2nd to mark 50 years since a historic Amish schism.

Halloween

Halloween’s pagan origins and connections to the occult are concerning to Amish faith. Trick-or-treating and costumed parties also promote vanity which they shun. Amish parents may plan modest fall activities on October 31st to occupy children.

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving’s link to American civil religion causes some Amish to ignore it. Others may still choose to gather for family meals that day without patriotic overtones. They focus purely on faith, community, and gratitude rather than Pilgrims or American history.

Christmas and Easter Monday

The Amish typically reject the widespread practice of observing Christmas or Easter on the following Monday when these holidays fall on a Sunday. Their observance sticks to the traditional dates.

Weddings and Family Events

Amish social life revolves around the community, so weddings and other rites of passage are big events.

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Weddings

Amish weddings happen Tuesdays through Thursdays during the fall and winter months. The celebrations may involve several hundred guests at the bride’s home. Activities include a traditional meal, singing from the Ausbund hymnal, games, and socializing.

Youth Sundays

Twice a year, Amish congregations dedicate a service to honor their graduating youth who are joining the church. Girls wear white capes and bonnets while boys don black suits and broad-brimmed hats for the first time.

Family Gatherings

Outside of structured church functions, Amish families find other reasons to celebrate. Reunions, barn raisings, hunting camps, and quilting bees all revolve around food, fellowship, and traditions. Birthdays are typically low-key events with small gifts and favorite meals.

Rumspringa: Amish Teenage Years

For Amish youth approaching adulthood, the teenage period known as Rumspringa (“running around”) brings exposure to non-Amish holidays and customs. Starting at around age 16, teens gain more social freedom when not working or attending school. As they decide whether to join the church, some may dabble in mainstream pastimes like Halloween parties, Christmas celebrations, and Fourth of July events during their wild years. However, most still choose baptism and the Amish way of life.

Changes Between Amish Communities

With distinct affiliations and Ordnung (rules) between Amish sects, practices around holidays vary slightly between different districts and settlements. Certain groups have become a bit more progressive in embracing certain secular traditions. Some may hold annual Fourth of July baseball games or allow small Christmas gifts. But the Amish still heavily prioritize faith over American cultural events. Their focus remains on a simple Christian lifestyle, family, and community.

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What Holidays Do The Amish Celebrate

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