I attended the funeral of an Old Order Amish man while in the Holmes County settlement over the weekend. A few observations:
- Around 200 attendees, mostly Amish, with all four major affiliations represented: Old Order, New Order, Andy Weaver (aka ‘Dan church’) and Swartzentruber.
- There were only a handful of non-Amish present–mainly consisting of a few plain Mennonites.
- The Amish funeral takes place in the home, shop or often a barn, as they can be quite large. Although customs vary between groups, it typically resembles a church service, with two preachers, one of whom delivers a sermon of around 20 minutes with the second lasting around an hour.
- Differed from a church service in that there was no opening singing, and only one song was sung at the close, mainly by a small group of men.
- Before the funeral began, men and boys proceeded to greet each other by walking around a circle and shaking hands and then taking their places at the end of the circle, forming an ever-increasing ring (as is done before church service on Sunday).
- The mood in the circle was surprisingly festive, with a good bit of visiting, smiling and laughing going on. One of the Amish men whom I drove to the occasion said he was quite looking forward to it, reflecting the function of the event as a social occasion as well as one in which to pay respects to the deceased.
- At the end of the funeral, attendees filed past for a final brief viewing. Few tears were shed; an Amish father raised his five-year-old boy up by the arms for a look into the coffin.
- The service was followed by a meal, served ‘cafeteria-style’, which allowed more people to be fed, more quickly. This apparently is the customary way to do it, as funerals typically have from 300 to 500 attendants and even up to 1000 (This one was on the small side).