In anticipation of February 14th, I passed this question along to John Stoltzfus:
Do Amish people do anything for Valentine’s Day? What are some ways they observe the day?
John’s response hints at differing attitudes about Valentine’s. The usual caveat about Amish being different in different places applies:
Valentine’s Day is a special day for our family, however in the last 10 years even the Amish try to be “politically correct” by discouraging any Valentine’s celebration, especially in the schools. The biggest reason is to create a barrier and control boy – girl relationships that “could” occur at a small age and in my mind is a huge mistake based on seeing how certain decisions have played out. The reason some parents discourage the Valentine’s Day activities is all based on a sexual view and especially anything that would mention “You’re Mine”, “I Love You” “Be Mine” , which some parents look at as “condoning intimate relationships”, etc.
In our school the children usually exchange decorated lunches and also exchange Valentine cards etc. The youth couples have always exchanged heart-shaped candy boxes etc.
I would guess there are a lot of grandparents that have kept their Valentine cards with their school paraphernalia. We would still have ours if we wouldn’t have lost them in a house fire 11 years ago.
Our family celebrates Valentine’s Day, where my wife and I go out for dinner with one of our close English friends. At home my wife started a tradition over 20 years ago cooking a Valentine’s Day supper and everything is pink or red, yes that includes the food, at first it was difficult getting pink corn, pink gravy, pink mashed potatoes and whatever else is cooked or made for dessert past the eyes and into the mouth.
I asked John one follow-up: If an English fellow forgets Valentine’s Day, he is in big trouble with his lady. Is that same expectation there for Amish?
Definitely for the majority 🙂 I forgot to add that 🙂
John Stoltzfus is a father of five and member of a Pennsylvania Old Order Amish community. John works in product design for a local farm supply company. In his spare time he creates computer-generated art, which you can view at Stoltzfus Digital Abstract Art.
Valentine’s candy hearts: morag riddell/flickr
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This surprised me.
I would have thought that “the Amish” would have ignored Valentine’s Day & kind of for the same reasons Mr. Stoltzfus gave for their attempting to discourage it now. Good story though.
Valentine's Day in other Amish communities
I would say the usual caveats and disclaimers apply (I just added the customary line on that above). If I had to guess in other communities little of the above happens. I don’t know how much that tells you though since there is such a range of doing things among Amish.
This also made me wonder if little signs of Valentine’s like candy and cards are more common in PA than in other “mainstream” communities in other states? I do know I have received Valentine-theme candy in Lancaster County when I happened to be staying in an Amish home on V-day.
You see signs of what we think of as English traditions such as Fourth of July sliding in in some places more than in others. However John’s comment about grandparents having Valentine’s cards from school seems to indicate that there is a significant history here.
I am very surprised that any Amish community would celebrate Valentine’s Day, with it’s openly acknowledged pagan origin, not to mention the emphasis on “dating” and “relationships.” As a mom whose children are just starting to be old enough to be aware of such holidays, this one (and Halloween) especially makes me cringe. Even Christmas this year left me with a disturbed feeling of how difficult it would be to keep Christ and avoid Santa and commercialism. Recently I have been doing some reading and am growing increasingly uncomfortable with all of our holidays that are attached to significant dates for pagan/satanic practices.
Valentine's innocent or a threat?
I think it’s one of those things where people see the innocent side of it and don’t worry so much about the roots. Though I can understand the concern over the dating and relationships emphasis. That’s kind of what I would think concerning the school children. Perhaps that aspect is downplayed though, John I’m sure would know more.
Your comment made me recall a good discussion we had on the roots of Halloween and its prevalence in English society.
On the pagan holidays I don’t know how much it matters at this point that Christmas in the 21st century falls on such and such a day which was also a pagan date many years ago. For example I’m not sure what changing the date at this point would accomplish. I think the way you observe it is most important. And yes for many it is a purely commercial and non-religious holiday.
Come to think of it I think I’ve actually been along to one of these Valentine’s theme dinners, a few years ago in Lancaster County, with a large group of family present. There was some kind of pink or red Valentine theme dessert if I recall. I think you can look at it as deviant if you get into the origins or as an excuse to honor another person. And like anything else it can be taken too far.
When looking for a photo of Valentine’s candy hearts for this post I discovered that the candy makers have gotten more creative with the messages they put on the hearts. Suffice to say “Be Mine” is pretty innocent compared to some of the messages I saw.
I remember a few years ago that one of the parents brought a copy of the Valentine story, where he was martyred because of his faith, I don’t know if this is the reason to celebrate Valentines Day or not.
I don’t know where this started amongst the Amish, however like I said initially, there are grandparents in their 80’s that still have their Valentines in a box in the attic.
The biggest thing for us is that the children have an extra activity at school which is important this time of the year, all of the Holiday’s are over and this is like a mid term break.. It is our responsibility that it doesn’t become a boy/girl issue, by being a part of their activities. Our schools discourage boy/girl teasing and is reported to the parents of those children.
Being right or wrong will always be the question, however the most conservative People and Church districts have a lot higher rate of child molestation and other sexual issues etc…
Until just a few months ago, my husband and I also viewed holidays as days to be celebrated carefully, according to family values and not through consumerism. However, the combination a a few eye-opening events and some careful research has led us recently to have serious concern about a need for more separation. Both the Old and New Testaments make frequent references to ancient mystery religions (hidden knowledge, worshipping idols, making ritual sacrifices, etc.). We tend to think this happened a long time ago, but what if it is far more prevalent today than most people can imagine? What different choices would we make to distance ourselves?
My understanding is that sexual abuse has everything to do with power, and nothing to do with sexual desire. I have often wondered if the higher prevalence of all types of abuse among the more conservative communities is due in part to the greater control that ministers and bishops wield over their congregation members. Perhaps fathers who are made to feel like victims by the church leaders and greater community are more likely to be the perpetrators of abuse within their own families. The problem would then be passed down generation after generation.
I was wondering how to ask you a question? It really has nothing to do with the topic at hand, but you mentioned the 4th of July. And it got me to thinking. The Plain communites live there lives to what they see fit. I do appauled them for that. But how do they feel about the Military? I know they are not people of confertation, but to they respect and honor those that fight for there rights to live and worship as they do? I don’t want to be rude or disrespectful I just have alot of intrest.
What do Amish think about soldiers and military?
Robin the answer to that question is probably beyond what I can say here, but the Amish believe in a two kingdoms theology which in a nutshell says to respect the worldy government (worldly kingdom) while viewing oneself as separate from that kingdom, a member of God’s kingdom. The laws of God’s kingdom will always supersede those of the world.
Practically speaking I have heard strong dislike from Amish for the ways of war but a lot less in the way of disdain for the people who wield that force. Amish respect and appreciate law enforcement as well which we have seen in numerous recent situations where they have been the beneficiaries of that protection. To be frank your question is one I have wondered myself, how do Amish view those soldiers and warriors on a personal level.
These probably won’t give you a great answer but might shed a little more light:
Thank you Erik. I hope one day to get the nerve to talk to many and different Bishops if I can.And ask a few questions. lol But I will check out those sights. Again Thank you.
It is interesting to know how the Amish celebrate Valentine’s Day. I agree with them not wanting to emphasize boy/girl relationships too young. I think there is too much pressure on men & guys at Valentine’s Day to do something for their girl on that specific day. It matters more how you treat each other on a daily basis rather than if someone gets you a gift on a certain day.
Happy Valentine’s Day to Erik and all in the Amish America community. John S, I too have many of my old elementary school Valentines packed away.
Erik, you better not be the English guy who forgets his girl’s Valentine this year. I forget your girlfriend’s name, but I’ll cheerfully help her “hurt” you if you forget her. 😉
Re: boy-girl relationships, I’m glad that parents are vigilant that this school activity not become a pairing up until one is old enough to consider marriage seriously.
A lot of times parents don’t realize how important it is to let a child be a child, not some 6 year old dressed like a 14 year old or a 14 year old dressing like a 20 year old. Just my thought 🙂
All you need is love, love ...
I would have thought that the Amish would have taken the love theme of Valentines Day and take an effort to add Jesus’ love to it as a lesion on how to love unconditionally, because as a Christian community it would make sense to promote Christian love over that of romantic love, especially at an Amish school with impressionable younger students.
I hope everyone had a nice day today
(my co-workers gave me candy! And I didn’t expect it, I just wished the girls there a Happy Valentines [when I’m in its just me and 3-5 women at our location], so usually I’m out numbered)
We were visiting my boyfriend’s sister and her family (she is Amish, and my boyfriend used to be Amish) because they had just had a baby. We got to see their oldest boy’s Valentine box. Most of them were homemade, but there were a few cards he had gotten with horses and other animals on them. It was neat seeing how much effort they put into designing the Valentines and drawing/coloring/writing on them. There were no “Be mine” messages, but mostly cute 4 line poems and the like. It was pretty neat! They are from some of the ‘low’ Amish, so not what I expected!
I would expect that they do.. Amish arent above being pulled in by the commercialism of the world..
I see them at Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and every other store I seem to be in lately.. They are buying up Christmas goodies on clearance, same as me. I often see them in the clothing dept trying on English clothing.
I went to the Home & Garden show on Tuesday in Cleveland (oh) and about every 3rd person was Amish.. maybe more.. Their hands were full of all kinds of yummy goods, gotten, same as mine..
We sat thru a West Bend Waterless Cookware demonstration and half of the others sitting there were Amish.. They like the good stuff too.
The way I see it is that they are people too, who enjoy having fun like anyone else. Its like anything else.. you can either make too much ado about nothing, or just have some silly innocent fun.
The link to the Stoltzfus digital-art site is dead
Erik, you might take that down — or let JS know that he needs to put his site back up
Thanks – there was a link to a Facebook page as well, which I removed, as the page is totally gone. I decided to leave the site link b/c you can still somewhat see it beneath the overlay. But I’ll ping John about it anyway, good idea.
Valentine was a Christian saint
It’s amazing to me how easily people in general lose sight of the fact that Valentine’s Day is a Roman Catholic saint’s feast day and the implication of “feast” is not necessarily in reference to food. If I recall correctly, Valentine was a clergyman in the early Christian Church–I want to say 3rd century but would have to look it up. He was martyred during one of the ancient Roman persecutions of Christians, anyway, I’m sure there is something about him in Wikipedia if one is interested. It just so happened that his feast day became connected with an earlier pagan Spring fertility festival (I’m not sure which god or gods and goddesses were involved). For me that’s all St. Valentine’s Day means, a saint’s day no more or less than that of St. Patrick or any of the other thousands of saints each of whom has their particular day each day of the year.
I would like to respond to a few of the comments here. Although I am surprised some Amish recognize Valentine’s Day, 1. Paganism is not the same as Satanism. Our ancestors were pagan before they knew about Jesus, but Pagans usually had a main deity. 2. Sacrifices were common among the Jews (animal), so it’s not just an evil thing. Also, the day is Saint Valentines Day, who was a martyr. So, it’s another Christianized pagan holiday, like Christmas, Easter & Halloween.
To solve my curiosity. How to Amish keep their buggies warm in the winter when they’re traveling. There have been a lot of things brought up around here where I live in Kentucky people are wondering how they stay warm in those buggies when it’s been down below zero and they’re traveling