Jane/Susannah/Sadie here, home for a short while before my next big adventure …
In last month’s post I mentioned that I was going on a trip to Amish country on a work trip. Well, I can report that I had an outstanding time…and my wonderful employer paid for it, LOL! I met a lot of friendly, engaging people on the tour, both the tourists and the Amish people we encountered. I would go back again, anytime.
This tour started in Cleveland, and we traveled around the countryside of Holmes County, Ohio for several days. There are villages, of course, but the majority of
Holmes County is farmland, still green at the beginning of October, with rolling hills and livestock grazing and big red or white barns. Holmes County is home to the second-largest Amish population in the country (after Lancaster in Pennsylvania). If you get the chance, I highly recommend Amish Heartland Tours. You will not be sorry. Shelly, the owner, is a wealth of knowledge, and she has relationships with many Amish people who will invite you into their businesses, as well as into their homes–and some of them will even feed you!
But rather than give you a travelogue, I thought I’d give you some facts and myths about the Amish. So here goes:
The Amish are Protestant Christians, technically part of the Anabaptist movement which began in Switzerland in the seventeenth century. They were highly persecuted, and moved to Pennsylvania at the invitation of William Penn. The underlying tenet of their faith is the belief in adult baptism. Babies and children are not baptized, but wait until they are ready to join the church of their own free will, usually around the age of 20 or so. At that time they may marry an Amish spouse.
Today, there are no Amish in Europe. They all live in the United States and Canada in communities from Maine to Florida and even in Colorado and Montana. There’s even an Amish community called Pinecraft, a suburb of Sarasota, Florida, where Amish snowbirds congregate in the winter. The Amish population is doubling every 20 years, so communities are expanding where there is farmland to be had.
The Holmes County Amish serve peanut butter spread (sometimes called church spread) at many meals, including their after-church meals. This is a mixture of equal parts creamy peanut butter, marshmallow fluff, and light corn syrup (although an even more delicious version I tasted at one home used part maple syrup, part corn syrup). It will keep at room temperature indefinitely, and can be stored in a squeeze bottle. Delicious on anything you’d put peanut butter on–homemade bread, crackers, apple slices, or a banana. Seriously, make some and try it.
Amish women wear prayer Kapps and pin up their hair underneath them. These are white or black and shaped differently depending on which community the woman is in. A traveling bonnet (a big, black, very stiff headpiece) goes over the Kapp when a woman leaves the home–although I saw plenty of women not wearing them too. Amish women’s clothing is fastened with straight pins–children and men wear buttons, though.
Amish men grow beards after they marry, and do not cut them. They shave their mustaches though. The reason is that the Amish are pacifists and mustaches are historically associated with the military. (Additional, non-Amish fact: my grandfather, a farmer, always grew a mustacheless beard starting in October and wore it through the cold winters of New York State. He said the beard kept his face warm while he was hunting or doing chores, but his nose breath caused ice to form in his mustache, and that’s why he shaved it off)
Have you ever been to Amish Country? Which area? Do you have any questions about the Amish? I’ll do my best to answer them.