Amish Customs: “Fast” vs. “Slow” Time

Daylight saving time (DST) kicked in yesterday, so if you haven’t tweaked your clocks yet, here’s a reminder. I mean, of course, your non-computerized timekeepers, those grandfathers and cuckoos and analog wristwatches, since these days the ones in our phones and laptops do our remembering for us.  Also your alarm clock, though if you had to be at work today, it may be a little late for that.

In honor of the “longer” days, here’s a photo I took in the Holmes County Amish community around sunset, which officially starts an hour later now. You’ll find more below (technically I think most were taken in Wayne County).

Farm Sunset

I haven’t asked anyone lately, but last time I did, I found many Amish are not fond of Daylight Saving Time.  Why?  The folks I queried in northern Indiana said it had to do with being up til dusk, either working, or kids playing, and then having to get up for early factory shifts.  Odds are it’s also no good for your electric bill.

“Fast” vs. “Slow” Time

Amish in other places with different occupation patterns may not notice it as much.  And some don’t recognize DST.  In a piece from The Amish Struggle for Modernity, Donald Kraybill had this to say about the Holmes County Amish:

The Amish have historically not adopted “fast” time (daylight saving time), preferring instead the traditional slow time.  This not only enforces Amish separation from the world, but also symbolizes their preference for a traditional pace that rejects what some Amish call “crazy time” and avoids “the rat race.”  This measure of separation from the world is also eroding.  The Swartzentrubers, however, continue to reject “fast” time and the Andy Weaver group preaches against it and holds its church services on slow time, but as a result of their involvement in nonfarm work some members are following “fast” time.  The Old Orders and the New Orders, with their growing entanglements in the larger society, have for all practical purposes adopted “fast” time–even for their church services (p. 60).

In other words, the way Amish think about time can vary depending on how traditional a group is and what work they do.  This change had already been occurring in the mid-90s when the piece above was written.  I’d have to think the crazy time of the rat race has only increased for Amish in the nearly 20 years since.

Daylight Losing Time?

By the way, I did the math and found Daylight Savings lasts nearly 8 months (this year, from March 10 to November 3).  With our clocks set one way 2/3 of the year, doesn’t that period then become the default?  Shouldn’t we just call DST “Regular Time”, and rename the 4 odd months something else?  We could call November-mid March “Daylight Reduction Time”, perhaps? Or maybe “The Season of Sad, Short Days”?

Are you like some Amish, who dislike Daylight Saving Time?  Or are you more like me, who cheers the longer day and dreads the hour lopped off in fall?  It may not make economic sense, but it sure is painful seeing the December sun vanish at 4pm. In any case, here are some more views from around the Holmes/Wayne County settlement.

Holmes Co Amish Farm Dusk

Amish Home Evening

Phone Shanty Holmes County

Wayne County Amish School Sunset

Winter Shocks

Holmes Co Cemetery Hill

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    1. Claire
    2. Galen


      Thanks for posting those great pictures Erik. And yes, I had to “Spring forward” my Isaac Kauffman clock (Ronks, PA) but I usually forget to do the car so I’m not sure if the time in it is accurate now, or needs to be adjusted. I know the Amish do their banking and other business dealings with the English, so one would think that those who don’t adhere to the time changes could run into a little trouble. It’s not as dark for the A.M. milking yet I remember last summer eating at Miller’s and watching the young boy plowing the fields into the night. He must have used the fire flies to light the way.

    3. New York State of Mind

      I love your pictures. I prefer day light savings time. I like the longer hours with light. Standard time is for the birds. It is dark so much longer. Actually, I wish they would pick one and stay on it all year around.


      1. Jean Junkin

        Daylight Savings Time

        I agree with Marilyn, I wish we had one time all year around.

      2. Margaret

        Me too! It’s so hard to change. All this scientific stuff about how many days in a year there are and exactly how old you are when you die…etc. it’s for the birds. Your born, you live and then you die (hopefully after a good many years)

        I just don’t think that it is so important that we science messes with people to this degree. I vote pick one and then stay with it year round.

        With all these extra days every four years I lived an “extra” 13 days so far. To me the trade off isn’t worth it. I mean who really cares at the end of the day if you lived X number of years, so many months and the days are “off” by 2-4 weeks?


    4. My experience is that it takes some time to get the animals to adjust, as I could never train them to read clocks, even digital ones.

      1. Keep trying Magdalena!

        Actually it wouldn’t surprise me to hear a dog had learned to recognize the hands pointing on an analog clock in a certain arrangement to signify an owner coming home…I wonder if it hasn’t been done.

    5. Roberta

      “Cutting a foot off the top of your blanket and sewing it on to the bottom of your blanket does not make your blanket longer.”

      My animals HATE day light saving time and so do I.

      1. I think farmers appreciate too the sun up at an earlier hour around milking time.

    6. Kevin L.

      Im not a big fan of DST either, and would rather stay on slow time. I dont adjust well physically to the change.

      As an Amish aside, the first time we had arranged to meet some pen pals who were Amish, we set up the time by letter. Then it dawned on us we didnt know if their community observed DST or not, or even if their county did or not. (at this time it was up to each county in the state). Finally we werent exactly sure if they were on eastern time or central, as that line also snakes through Indiana! So we could have either been 2 hours early or late! It all worked out though, and we showed up at the right time. But it was a little bit of a dilemna for a while!

      1. It does get confusing in Indiana, or at least looks that way on the map. I’ve always wondered how towns on either side of a time border interact. Seems you’d need to pick one and stick with it.

        1. A friend lives in State Line, Indiana, and the town truly runs on the two time zones, depending on which side of the town you’re on. Very confusing, I’d think!

    7. Alice Mary

      Not nice to fool Mother Nature!

      I’m in agreement with all who just want to leave well enough alone! Whatever was “good enough” for our ancestors when this country was founded, year-’round, would be fine with me.

      I’ve heard many statistics over the years about how, when we lose an hour in the spring, accidents (and not just auto-related)increase for at least a couple of weeks after the change is made. I wouldn’t mind it getting darer earlier in the summer, as I love to see the night sky, too, and the longer it’s “light” out, the less time I have to do that (then get ample sleep & wake up to go to work the next day).

      Bring back “natural” (“slow”) time, and respect Mother Nature!

      Alice Mary

    8. Erin

      Thanks for posting this, Erik. I was just wondering about this yesterday!

      I do enjoy longer evenings, but those first few days of DST are challenging with small children!

      I love the pictures, especially the one with the corn shocks in the field and the red barns in the background!

    9. julia

      Daylight Saving Time

      I enjoy DST in the summer. It gives us a chance to enjoy our time together, on the porch, at the end of a busy day. But as for the school children, I hate to see them walking to and standing at their bus stops in the dark.

    10. Eli

      I say set it foward a half hour and call it good.

    11. Tom Geist

      When I am King.....

      When I become King, which I am sure is just around the corner, I plan to make it stay light longer in the winter. Light until 7-8pm? Yes indeed!

      Having said that…

      I just don’t get all that worked up over DST, like it sounds like some here do. I don’t mind the variety of the time change.

      Tom in Lincoln….

    12. Al in Ky.

      I remember when Daylight Savings Time began in the 1960’s in our
      farming community. The farmers were against it and saw it as something that favored city folks. The sentiment was pretty much,
      “the city folks just want another hour to play golf after they get
      off work”. On our farm during sping, summer and fall, we paid more
      attention to the sun rather than the clock and worked outside
      from sunup to sundown. That’s what I experience amongst my Amish
      farmer friends, too.
      Concerning time zones. Look at the time zone map in central and western Kentucky. It zig-zags. Many times when I’m going to a location in central or western Ky., I have to look at the map to
      see just what time it is where I’m going to.

      1. OldKat

        Al. that is the way I see it...

        I work outside until I can’t see anymore, so what tme it is is not so important to me. Where that becomes a rub is working outside until dark, going inside cleaning up and going straight to bed & setting the alarm for 3:15 AM.

        Feels sort of like burning the candle at both ends, if you know what I mean. Two years and 35 days from now it won’t matter anymore! (At least not to me)

    13. TOM-GA

      daylight saving time

      Eli has it wright!! DST started out to save America energy, but data shows it cost.

    14. OldKat

      Yawn ...

      I really don’t care which system we use; time is time no matter how you slice it. That said, I do dislike switching back and forth. One year when I was in college, circa early to mid-1970’s we stayed on DST nearly the whole year. I’d have to look it up, but I think it was about 1974 or ’75 or so and we only switched to Standard Time for probably a month or two.

      That winter I had an economics class at 8:00AM, in a large auditorium where the temperature was about 80 degrees regardless what the outside temps were. Combine that with a boring old prof who spoke in a monotone voice and the fact that it was still dark outside well past 8:00AM on rainy, overcast days and it was extremely hard to even stay awake. May explain my grade in that particular class. Along about that time I think I would have agreed with the Amish that dislike DST.

      BTW: I refer to Standard Time as “Daylight Wasting Time”, but only as a way to mock the “Saving” part of DST. Time is time, no matter how you slice it.

    15. Carolyn B

      I prefer Daylight Savings Time but I could be wrong about it. All I know is that I favor not getting out of bed with no dawn in sight. Going home in the dark from work stinks too.

      I’m one of the poor souls that get the winter blues, Erik, so I agree to your labeling it “The Season Of Sad Short Days.”

    16. Elizabeth Snoke

      Daylight savings times

      When I was very young and living in states that observed DST–including 5 years in the 70s in Pennsylvania, DST didn’t bother me much other than having to change my clocks. I did enjoy longer daylight and being able to get around after work in that.

      Now I live in Arizona which keeps regular time all year round. All we have to do is be sure of time in other states–especially on East Coast when we are going to call a business or family. And being further south in the U.S. we have longer daylight in spring-summer seasons.

      I think the Amish are right in just keeping their old schedules–except being aware of English business hours like the abovementioned banks.

    17. Sadie

      It doesn’t matter too much to me — I’m not one to be up before the sun either on standard time or daylight savings time! I do like it, though, during the summer when it stays light out here until at least 9:30 pm, sometimes full darkness doesn’t even fall until about 10 pm. It’s nice to be able to work in my garden after dinner, or sit and talk with friends or family, outside. Just have to be careful of mosquitos — they don’t like me, but some people they really do!

    18. Annette

      I have to laugh at the idea that by changing the clocks we’re somehow “fooling Mother Nature.”

      Time is largely arbitrary. Whether we call a certain time 6 am or 5 am or 7 am, it matters not a whit to the mountains, clouds, birds, soil, etc.

      Clocks are a measurement, they don’t actually change nature.

      It’s like (it’s not a perfect analogy by any means, but still illustrates the concept of “measuring”) saying that measuring temperature by centigrade somehow messes up fahrenheit measurements. They’re just measurements.

    19. Robert


      I dont like dst. I would rather be on standard time all year long.

    20. Linda

      I have heard the terms fast time and slow time. But the Revised Pennsylvania German Dictionary gives a term new to me. For Standard Time, which is slow time, it also calls that Gottszeit (God’s time) and langsami Zeit (slow time). Plus it says that Deifelszeit (literally devil’s time) = schtaricki Zeit (fast time) = Daylight Saving Time. No wonder some Amish churches stay with slow time!

      1. Very interesting Linda. That is intensely descriptive. I think I still prefer Schtaricki Zeit despite its alternative name.

        Most in Europe have already said goodbye to DST as of this past weekend.

    21. Slightly-Handled-Order-Man

      So, did everyone adjust well to the Fall Back routine of early Sunday morning this time around? I changed my clocks before I went to bed so that I didn’t have to worry about it.
      I toyed with the idea of keeping one time piece on “slow time”, but didn’t.
      At work the receptionist changed the clocks back, even before I got there and wasn’t thrown off. At home I checked my cell phone when I woke up this morning to see if had automatically went, and when I glanced at the time I noticed it was on the old time then I saw the display change. But I wasn’t late for work so I was pleased.

      1. Where I am, I just had to start turning lights on here at 3:30 pm. Quite a change from Florida days! It’s not dark out yet, but with the clouds, it’s getting there.