Amish enjoy games, sports, outdoor activities and social events
Amish life is not all hard work. Amish have numerous opportunities for recreation, although the boundary between leisure and ‘work’ can be blurred. What some Amish might consider enjoyable–shelling peas with sisters or working a team in the fields, for instance–a non-Amish person may see as drudgery.
At the same time, there are numerous activities Amish participate in one could classify as more unambiguously “fun”.
Amish enjoy a variety of leisure activities:
- hunting-Amish hunt for sport, food, and in some cases, to bring home trophies
- fishing-fishing allows outdoor enjoyment and possibly, dinner
- camping and other outdoor activities-family-oriented activities such as camping and bird-watching are highly popular among Amish
- sports-sports are enjoyed to varying degrees, yet remain controversial
- board games-board games may include Scrabble, Life on the Farm, and other traditional games
- card games-Amish do not gamble but enjoy a variety of card games for fun
- solo hobbies like reading or sewing
- letter-writing-letter-writing builds community and is a way of keeping in touch across distances
- visiting other Amish-visiting is perhaps the most common Amish leisure activity, and one that strengthens community
- auctions-auctions occur frequently in Amish communities and are a chance to socialize, support a good cause, and possibly get a good deal
Amish have fun together
As is true of most things in Amish society, typically, Amish leisure activities are shared. Getting together for a board game evening or heading out on a hunting trip with brothers is a way to get relaxation as well as spend family time.
Amish do enjoy solo hobbies such as reading, embroidery, and crossword puzzles as well. Leisure time is typically time spent with others, and for the Amish this means with a web of family and friends.
Hunting and other outdoor activities
Amish enjoy many outdoor activities involving nature and wildlife. There are many hunters among Amish men. Amish hunt deer, birds, and sometimes take trips to the west in search of larger game. Amish use both firearms and bows to hunt.
Fishing is also popular among Amish of all ages. An added bonus of these activities is the fact that a successful hunt or fishing trip results in food for the family, a plus for the practically-minded Amish. At the same time, some Amish do collect hunting trophies, and there is usually at least one Amish taxidermist in the larger communities.
Other outdoor activities include birding, nature walks, and boating. Many Amish are avid birders. Amish keep lists of birds spotted on the farm and may take trips to different areas in hopes of adding other species to their tally.
Camping trips are another family activity popular among Amish. Amish may camp in backyards or in some cases on a piece of land owned for recreation purposes.
Amish in some communities own small motorboats. In Northern Indiana, it is not uncommon to see a buggy hauling a light boat to one of the numerous lakes in the area. Sports like waterskiing are not common among Amish, however, though swimming is.
Amish have an ambiguous relationship with sports. Some Amish see little harm in sports participation. Others feel sports and games best left to children. Popular sports among Amish include softball, volleyball, basketball, and hockey. Some Amish may follow a favorite sports team. Read more on the Amish and sports.
Board and card games popular among Amish
Amish also play numerous family games at home. Traditional board games are popular, such as Life on the Farm, Scrabble, and Trivial Pursuit. Some card games are popular as well, such as Uno, Scum, and Dutch Blitz. Amish enjoy games such as Trivial Pursuit, and often make an evening out of playing a game. The point is in getting family and friends together and enjoying one another’s company. A bowl of popcorn or fresh fruit might be passed around as a snack and to provide energy for games that can sometimes last late into the evening.
Amish enjoy books and reading
Reading is also a popular pastime among Amish. Amish libraries often include numerous books on history, nature, biographies, as well as religious books. Some Amish read fiction. Others subscribe to an Amish and Mennonite newspaper such as the Budget or Die Botschaft, or may receive the local newspaper. A number of Amish subscribe to a national publication as a way of following the news of the world.
Letter writing is another popular way in which Amish spend free hours. Letter writing is a way to stay in touch with relatives, exchange advice, and maintain community. Sometimes it is the most practical way to stay in touch over long distances. Circle letters are communal letters which are added to and then sent on to the next recipient on a list. Circle letters may be maintained by family, or groups with similar interests, such as teachers, cancer survivors, or friends from a buddy bunch.
Visiting relatives is another common way of spending down time among Amish. Visiting may take place in the evenings but most commonly occurs on Sundays after church. It’s typical that one may pay a visit to a sibling’s family, or to a family in one’s church district with a new baby. Often these visits are unannounced, so an Amish family must expect to see guests at nearly any time on Sundays, even in the evening. Visitors may come for a coffee and a piece of pie and a chance to exchange news, catch up on happenings, and make plans for the next get-together.
A discussion of Amish forms of entertainment would not be complete without mentioning auctions. Amish frequently put on auctions, often to benefit a cause, such as the long-running Haiti benefit auctions, or to benefit a local parochial school.
Other auctions occur when selling items from an individual’s estate. Livestock and horse auctions are common as well. Well-known auctions include the Lancaster County mud sales, and the auction to benefit the Clinic for Special Children, also held in Lancaster. An auction is a popular place for the entire Amish family to socialize, eat good food, and purchase useful items for the home, farm, or business.
Amish have fun in different ways
There are a variety of ways Amish enjoy leisure time. Some activities may be more common or popular in some communities or churches. Some may not be sanctioned in others, such as some sports participation in more conservative communities. Regardless, Amish see leisure time as a time to both relax and to enjoy the company of friends and family. In this way leisure time serves to recharge batteries and strengthen community at the same time.
For further information, see:
Looking for more good reading on the Amish? Check out our list of best Amish books.