Do Amish celebrate the 4th of July?

Independence Day celebrations will be happening across the country today.  Do Amish take part?

A few years back I wrote a short piece on Amish and July 4th, and on “Plain patriotism”.  As you’d expect, Amish observance of the holiday varies.

On a related note, each year Topeka, Indiana holds a buggy pull race following the the town’s 4th of July parade.  By the videos posted online, it looks like contestants include Amish youth, both male and female (plus some English folks too), and a mixed Amish and English crowd.   Here’s a 30-second clip of the unusual event:

A happy 4th to all American readers (and a belated Happy Canada Day to everyone north of the border)!

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    31 Comments

    1. I only celebrate 5th of July, my birthday… 😉

      1. Jerry

        The Amish in my area do not celebrate the forth. It was almost life as usual. I did notice that a few Rumspringa teens packed fertilizer ( amomia nitrate in to old tea containers, mixed it with aluminum powder and shot it with 30.30 to create a large bang.

        Those boys are very adventurious. I saw that yesterday.

    2. Al in Ky.

      I’ve found that some Amish stores are open on traditional
      American holidays like July 4th and Labor Day, and some are
      closed. I had assumed they’d all be open because I didn’t think Amish observed traditional American holidays. I’ve also found that I need to keep track of Amish religious holidays like Epiphany and Ascension Day. One day a few years ago I drove 50 miles to buy produce at an Amish farm where I often go. When I arrived, there were two sawhorses across the driveway with a sign “Ascension Day — Please no visitors.” So, I learned something new about Amish culture and turned around and went home!

    3. Richard

      Happy independence day to all……………. I wouldn’t say that there are any Amish doing anything but watch an event, i mean i would too even if i were not celebrating a particular holiday. Since we fought the British to gain our independence and it involved war, its unlikely any plain person will observe July 4. Unless the meaning has become that lost like for some “Christmas” for example. The Amish do get involved in other ways in the community like volunteer in the fire dept, when i went to a event a few weeks ago quite a bit of its fireman and maybe even a few woman as well were Amish. I’m not sure of the exact numbers of Amish woman who volunteer in fire depts., but id guess it would be almost zero in actually fighting a fire. Maybe this is a new topic for me to tackle at some point, and you know what i just might. Richard from the Amish community of Lebanon Pennsylvania.

    4. Tom

      Al, I know the feeling. Just this year the same thing happened to me.

    5. Robin Wyatt

      I think everyone should celebrate certian holidays, Memoral Day, 4th of July,Labor Day, Veterns Day, Theses are all non-denomantion Holidays, The battles that were fought, the military that fought and some lost there lives, and those that helped build this country, all did it so we all could live the way we see fit. They gave us the right to be free in religon, marry whom we wanted, and live with out fear of persacution. That encludes everyone. I do understand that the “Plain Communities” are against war,violance ect, But because of the wars and such they are free to live as they want, and keep there beliefs moving forward. I don’t like war, my husband server 20 years in the U.S.Marine Corps, and I know he did it so we all can have our freedoms, so I celebrate for that reason alone.

    6. It’s been a cool and rainy Canada Day weekend here. Epiphany and Ascension are holidays in all the pre-Reformation churches, but I think only the Amish and the Eastern Orthodox keep them as a day off from work. As Plain but non-Amish people ourselves, we don’t participate in patriotic holidays ourselves.

    7. Matt from CT

      >Since we fought the British to gain our independence
      >and it involved war, its unlikely any plain person
      >will observe July 4.

      I wouldn’t consider July 4th a martial day such as Memorial or Veterans Day that can’t be separated from war. We’re not celebrating October 19th (surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown) or April 9th (when King George signed the Treaty of Paris).

      As John Adams put it contemporaneously:
      “The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

      Congress being as Congress always is…didn’t get around to actually finishing the task till two days later.

      Now it is the celebration of the State — and that patriotism maybe too worldly for Amish (I don’t know), but I think that would be a stronger argument then saying it celebrates war.

    8. Tamara

      Thanks for the video clip. It looked like great fun, although the crowd seemed a little flat. I still love things like sack races and such – they can usually bring out the playfulness in most adults. It took a few seconds to realize those were people doing the pulling!

      I learned last Christmas that the nearest Plain community to us (Old Order Mennonite) does not celebrate Christmas, not even the Old Christmas in January, or whatever it’s called. They say that they celebrate the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Since we don’t know when His birth was anyway, they choose to recognize it everyday! Plus, as you might expect, they don’t approve of the hoopla surrounding Christmas.

    9. Tom

      Pacifism

      I have always wondered if the philosophy of pacifism could ever work. I believe it would take the whole world being in agreement before it could. The most famous objection to pacifism was Nazi Germany. If the world did not fight in World War 2, Hitler and his army would have taken the world and continued the holocaust. I have spoken to the Amish and old order Mennonites and they claim Matthew chapter 5 verse 9 as a bases for their belief in pacifism. The verse states ” blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God”. They also hold to the traditions of the early Anabaptist who practiced pacifism. I believe they gather strength from the Martyrs Mirror. But the Old Testament is filled with the accounts of Israel and the battles they fought in establishing, and re-establishing their nation. I am not a warmonger. As a veteran of a war, I know first hand the struggles armed conflict can bring. But I am also skeptical of fully embracing a full pacifist philosophy. War can sometimes be necessary, especially when faced with the Hitlers of the world.

    10. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      Happy 4th to all our American Amish America pals. Today was such a lovely day in S-O. I’m not good with temperature math, but the Fifth of July is supposed to get up to 30.

    11. ANNONYMOUSE

      I DONT KNOW IF THEY DO OR NOT BUT IF IT WERE NOT FOR US “ENGLISH” THEY WOULD NOT HAVE A PLACE TO HAVE FREEDOM TO BE AMISH !!!!!oR A COUNTRY TO DO SO ..

    12. OldKat

      Thanks to Tom and the spouse of Robin Wyatt (and all other veterans; peace time or war time) for their service to our nation.

    13. kristin jager

      Do Amish Celebrate the Fourth of July

      Erik,
      I really enjoyed your clip of the buggy race. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    14. Kristin, Tamara, and all, glad you enjoyed it, and I hope everyone had a happy 4th! And I see this has brought up an interesting discussion. Coincidentally, we have an interview with John Gingerich today, in which he touches on some of the same issues of patriotism among Anabaptist heritage churches and the separation of church and state.

    15. Amish and the 4th

      The 4th of July made possible the Amish’s religious freedom. Peace and Freedom take continual nourishment to keep them growing.

      They have to understand that Germany would have chosen to exterminate them and that, even if they did’t take an active part in a war, they should support people fighting a “just” war. The Amish were responsible for the amazing humanitarian effort to supply food to a war-torn European farmland. If not for their bounty, millions in Europe would have starved. For that they have to be commended.

      I think, the way it was described in “Amish Grace,” the Lancaster Amish must have learned something from the local Police force, that the local authorities were not stormtroopers whose aim is to continuously harrass them, that the Police were upholding the Amish rights to privacy. The Amish were surprised then.

      I wonder if their surprise has led them to more of an understanding that America is “on their side,” and that Americans celebrate the anniversary of their own independence from oppression.

      Can someone enlighten me to the main Bible verses they lean on most heavily as justification for being total pacifists, since I always thought the Bible [old testament] had incredible violence, a lot of committed it in God’s name.

      PS: The Indian masacres that took lace just above Reading (I think it was the French and Indian War) when, after being baracaded in their log cabin, they just chose to walk out to their deaths because they didn’t believe in self defence because it was violence; that all made no sense to me.

    16. Tamara

      The Amish are Christians. They try to emulate Christ and follow His teachings. In Matthew 5:39, Jesus says, “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (KJV).

      What I find even more surprising than the fact that they do not participate in military action to defend their country, they are taught to not even defend themselves, even when someone overtly attacks them in any way. I’ve never seen an Amishman/woman under attack. Has anyone else? Do they have the strength to turn the other cheek? Is this also why they do not participate in litigation, or does that have too much to do with rubbing elbows with the outside world?

      Actually, I realize that the Bible gives specific instructions on how to handle disagreements with others in Matthew 18:15-17. Perhaps that’s all they need.

      1. Jerry

        Last Tuesday, July 1st, I went to my usual Amish produce/farm stand and I saw about 30 Amish walking in the area. I stopped to buy produce and they told me that about 20 were from Lancaster and the rest were from from Kish Valley. They were ther to visit for the week. Two English were with them. The English were talking on cell phones about the $2.00 grape vines that the Amish had for sale. They said they were visiting realitivies. The three Amish teen age boys were on bikes, with cut off sleeve tee shirts. I guess they were in Rumspringa and perhaps looking for girl friends. They arrived by vans. They older folks bought Jars of honey.

    17. Lance

      After consulting the Dortrecht Confession and 1001 Questions and Answers on the Christian Life, I found the Amish refer to these scriptures in regard to the doctrine of nonresistance (in no particular order):
      Mt 5:38-45,6:14-15,7:12,26:51-52; John 18:36; Isa 2:4,9:6; Micah 4:3; Zech 9:8-9; 1Pet 2:20-24,3:9; Rom 12:14,17-21; 1Cor 6:7, 10:11, 2Cor 4:2, 10:4; Prov 16:7; Ex 20:13; 1John 3:15; Eph 4:31-32; Luke 6:31

      Don’t have a Bible handy? Copy the above scriptures and go here and paste them into the search box: http://www.biblegateway.com/

      Amish usually prefer to use the King James Version when they read the Bible in English.

    18. Amish after September 11

      A little addendum to this post–I ran across this bit on Brad Igou’s excellent Amish Country News site, about the Amish reaction after the 9/11 attacks:

      “The local Lancaster paper had a short article on the “Amish reaction” to the shocking events of September 11, 2001. They were as horrified as anyone else. Indeed, the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania went down in an area partly populated by Plain folk. Most of what they knew and saw came from newspapers and magazines, not TV.

      A few flags did appear in windows, although the church did not condone such shows of “patriotism”. There were auctions here organized by non-Amish, to which Amish donated many valuable items. While they do support the government, many wished there could have been a non-military solution, and surely prayers were offered for those who lost their lives on both sides of the conflict.”

      http://www.amishnews.com/amisharticles/peopleofpeace.htm

    19. Keith B. Johnston

      two notes

      I was in Shipshewana, IN. on the 4th and everything I saw was open including Amish stores, as this is a big time for sales (the Flea Market is always open on the 4th) and the Amish are off from the factories, etc.
      As regards the Bible and nonviolence, it may help some to know that for the Amish (as for Mennonites also) the New Testament takes priority over the Old and Jesus’ teaching takes priority over everything else in the New. So the Amish aren’t as concerned about warfare in the Old Testament as to following Jesus’ teaching literally in the New Testament. Hopefully some will find this helpful in understanding where the Amish are coming from.

    20. Lindsay

      I think most Anabaptists tend to perform service in different, though non-violent ways. One of my friends in Chicago’s family is of a Brethern order (not sure which, but not buggy or plain). He said during WWII his grandfather planted trees. I know some of my Mennonite friend’s grandfathers were medics during WWII. I don’t think you have to hold a gun to be a patriot…each duty serves its purpose for the greater good.

    21. Tom Geist

      It looks like this discussion is way old, but my two cents.

      The few Amish I talked to said that they would have been willing to work in hospitals instead of direct combat roles. In my mind that is still part of the war process. Most in war are not on the front lines they are the support team.

      And how dare the Amish look to God to be their savior rather then man. What are they thinking?

      Tom…LincNebr@hotmail.com

    22. Tom Geist

      Amish or English?

      Today (11-11-13) a friend of mine pointed out that the following site had an interesting listing.

      http://freebies.about.com/od/freefood/tp/veterans-day-free-meals.06.htm

      It listed specifically:

      “Mary Yoder’s Amish Kitchen Veterans Day Free Meal (Monday, November 11, 2013)”

      When I am at the site I don’t see a specific listing for a free meal. I wonder if Amish own the place. I would not have thought they would promote this.

      Tom Geist LincNebr@hotmail.com

    23. The 4th Weekend

      My Amish family live in Yoder, Kansas, and a handful of them were traveling to Mt. Hope, Ohio for July 4th and 5th Horse Progress Days. The Official Program for it was in The Budget Newspaper, lots to do, but no mention of the 4th of July. We have Yoder Days Celebration August 23 in Kansas and there are fireworks in the evening.

      1. Tom Geist

        Hi Susan,

        How involved in the Yoder Days Celebration are the Amish? Do they work on some committee(s) or do some of them just attend?

        Thanks…. Tom Geist

        1. Yoder Days

          The Amish work on almost all of it. The night before (Friday night) we have a night before Yoder Days with mostly all Amish. The businesses on Main St (Bulls Eye, Yoder Hardware, the new Pizza place) chip in and donate hamburger, hotdog, drinks, ice cream bars that we have in the covered main street area for dinner. After that we sit in the bleachers (that are set up for Sat) and watch (and play) crazy games. Last year was a build a shed contest with two men to a team. Shockingly fast! Auctioned off all of the sheds after, We’ve done string a blanket down the middle of the road, barefoot wives show their feet on one side, husbands try to pick out their wife! Pizza eating contest. On Saturday, the Amish and English together cook for the pancake and sausage breakfast, some Amish are in the parade, they always cook for the afternoon meal (sandwich, chicken and noodle, coffee), they do a lot of the buggie races. Amish women typically run the quilt auction, just not the talking part – the auctioneer does that. So much fun! It’s August 23 this year. We have our reunions coincide with Yoder Days.

          1. Susan that was the best pitch for attending Yoder Days that I’ve ever seen!

            1. Tom Geist

              I agree with Erik… nice job of pitching the event Susan! Looks like I need to start making plans to be in Yoder on the 23rd!

              If you see a flyer for it, or have a web site please pass the info along.

              Thanks!

              Tom in Lincoln, Ne

              1. Yoder Days

                I don’t have a flyer, but it has a website…just google yoder days and you’ll see it.

                Sorry, not really tech savvy, don’t know how to put a link on. Must be genetic.

    24. Tom Geist

      I found it Susan…thanks.

      http://www.yoderkansas.com/calendar-of-events/yoder-heritage-day/

      Tom in Lincoln