Saturday brain dump: St. Michael’s Day, taglines, and what the “Am” in Amtrak really stands for

A few thoughts that have been on tap lately:
  • This blog needs a tagline.  Previously, the description which appeared below the big Amish America title in the upper left was: “Plain Insights and Observations from Pennsylvania to Oregon“.  For a couple of reasons, one of which is length, I’ve abandoned that one and am searching for something new.  It should capture what the site is about but be relatively snappy.  Any ideas?  Feel free to help me out in the comments section.
  • I am working on the Illinois Amish State Guide entry, on the suggestion a couple of you made in the “brain dump” of 2 weeks ago (thank you Amy and Alice Aber for suggesting IL, and all others who offered ideas).  Will take suggestions on the next one as well!
  • Just 2 days until the 5 winners of Sherry Gore’s Taste of Pinecraft Florida Amish cookbook are announced.  If you haven’t entered or would like to read a super interview with Sherry, try this link: Taste of Pinecraft interview with Sherry Gore.  Thanks to Sherry, I now know what a “Fried Alligator Nugget” is (and based on the popularity of Sherry’s cookbook, I expect Florida-area McDonald’s will be carrying a “McNugget” version shortly).
  • Over at the “Amish holidays” entry in the Amish Online Encyclopedia, Marilyn asked a good question about what St. Michael’s Day is, and what meaning it has for Amish.  Thanks to readers David and, fittingly, Michael, for helping to answer.  Depending on the church, St. Michael’s Day is celebrated on different dates in the autumn (Catholics, Lutherans, and Anglicans observe it on September 29th; the Greek Orthodox church on November 8th).  St. Michael, warrior archangel, is in fact a Catholic saint, so Amish celebration of a day devoted to him may seem odd.  Brad Igou at Amish Country News explains a bit more about Amish observance of this holiday.  Amish in fact celebrate the day 2 weeks later than Catholics do, on October 11th. St. Michael’s Day is a holiday with roots reaching back to the Old Continent.  Brad writes that when in Europe “many of the Amish and Mennonites were tenant farmers. Much of the land was owned by the church or aristocrats. Farmers paid a percent of their profits to the landholder every year. The date set by the churches and monasteries in Germany for the farmers to pay their tax was St. Michael’s Day, October 11th. This date fell after the harvest, when the profits and resulting tax could be most accurately assessed.”  Brad explains that many Amish might not be aware of the roots but that St. Michael’s nonetheless remains a special day.  Amish traditionally rest and fast on this day.  Thanks to Brad for this explanation.  And if you haven’t read it yet, Brad recently shared some heartfelt remembrances of Abner, an Amish historian and bookbinder he knew well.  Definitely worth reading.
  • Featured photo: Amishmen inspect an Amtrak train at the station in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Rail travel is a common way for Amish to cross long distances;  could the “Am” in Amtrak really stand for “Amish”? (more on how Amish travel):

amish train

Photo credit: Rob Sinclair

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    1. “Plain Living in America” is an idea that came to mind, but you already said “America” in the title.

      I see there are already a couple of books out there with the words “Plain Living and High Thinking” in the title. I’m not sure that High Thinking is a good fit, anyway.

      “Plain life on the rolling land” is probably not right, but in some of my bike riding and other travels on America’s flattest lands, I’ve wondered there aren’t any Amish people there. Usually they live in land that is at least gently rolling. Even on the Michigan prairies, the Amish people seem to live along the edges, while highly mechanized non-Amish farming takes advantage of the flattest plains.

      1. Jos

        Unless you wanted to abandon the Plain theme altogether Erik, there’s always
        “Plain speaking”.
        Referring more to what a Blog does, it could still appeal on the two levels of the geographic as well as one of no-nonsense discussion, while still being short and snappy. (Perhaps rather too short and snappy, but only until readers ‘get’ the geographic connotation).

    2. Carolyn Kirk

      “Plain Life in a Complicated World”
      “Discovering Simplicity”
      “Society of Simplicity”
      “Simple Amidst Complicated”
      “A Different Life”
      “A Unique Lifestyle”

    3. Matthew

      Plain Insights, Interviews and Information

    4. Mrs. Miller

      I don’t think the Amish celebration of St. Micheal’s Day as ‘odd’ since we Roman Catholics still celebrate the feast day also. The Amish and Mennonite churches are ‘Protestant’ (Ana-Baptists) who split from the Catholic church. It seems quite natural that many of those original customs would be continued through the years. Menno Simons (founder of Mennonites) was a former Catholic priest. There are other traditions which stem from the Catholic traditions including the well known “Old Christmas” on the Catholic Feast of Epiphany ans “Ascension Day”, to name a few.

      Respectfully, Mrs. Miller in Holmes County OH

    5. Matthew, Carolyn, Spokes, I like the way you’re thinking as we try to tease out a tagline…thanks and keep them coming 😉

    6. Alice Aber

      My tag suggestion is “Living the Good Life” as I believe they really are. Having a “good life” is not and should not be based on material things. As one worldly saying goes, “they’ve really got it going on”, LOL.

    7. Amish, St. Michael's Day, Non-resistance

      Mrs. Miller, glad you brought that point up. You are right it is not so odd when you consider historical roots.

      In one sense however, it does strike me as, let’s say “interesting”, that Amish celebrate a day dedicated to one of the more violent figures in the Bible (Michael of the “fiery sword”, and at least in the Catholic tradition considered patron of both the enforcers of the state–policemen–as well as paratroopers) rather than say a Saint one might imagine would, at least superficially, better “connect” with Amish (perhaps St. Francis? St. Isidore, patron of farmers? of course these titles are not from Anabaptist tradition but the Catholic one, so not really a relevant point–but interesting to think about nonetheless).

      And to be sure holidays are often rooted in tradition and celebrated for reasons disconnected from the original meaning or figure being honored.

      Thanks again Mrs. Miller for checking in from one of my favorite spots on earth-Holmes County 🙂

    8. How about Amerikana?
      Of course, that means “Amish a la Erik.”

    9. I love it Mike!

      Hear hear Alice 😉

    10. Paula


      It’s so nice that you asked us to brainstorm a tagline!

      Hm, on a more serious note, how about something along the lines of “Amish America-Exploring Amish Culture, Coast to Coast”

      On a more lighthearted, comedic note, how about “Amish America-All Amish, All the Time” 🙂


    11. Amy

      Since I enjoy these brain dumps so much I started to offer some really silly and not really appropriate names having to do with Erik’s brain dumping ground or something… anyway, maybe no subtitle is ok, too – ya know, simple and plain… I like Alice’s suggestion but, ya know the Helen and Scott Nearing books on their lives and living off the land (as opposed to their political dealings)… ok – enuf, must have the ‘Saturday chats’ or something. Hey, now there ya go – “Amish America: Chats Plain and Simple” 😮 I don’t think so!

    12. Amy

      ooo, Paula, I really like that last one!

    13. Amy, silly is perfectly ok! So in future I think feel free to fire away (I guess as long as they are mostly PG or PG-13 rated!) By the way I thought about no tagline but for some reason it has felt a bit naked up there so maybe a compromise of a simple and plain tagline 🙂

    14. And Paula hmmm…I actually think your first one might be heading in the right direction. But am definitely open to other thoughts.

    15. Katie that’s a good point, I’m not sure if it is observed in all communities.

    16. Katie Troyer

      I grew up Amish but totally missed St Michael’s Day. I never knew there was such a day until reading this.

    17. I also had never heard of St Michael’s Day before. My guess is it’s something maybe only Lancaster and it’s daughter settlements observe.

    18. Michelle V.

      Hi E – How ’bout – “their way across the USA”
      Still thinking …. Loved the Pinecraft “series”
      Michelle V

    19. Michelle V.

      Erik … Thanks! now this challenge will not leave my brain … I got this !
      “plain perceptions in(or from) an outsider’s world”
      “believers in a seekers world”
      “the essence of plain simplified”
      Ugh,make it stop !!!
      All in good fun,
      Michelle V

    20. Hi Erik – Can’t wait to put my brain to work on this one! On another note and totally off topic, if someone has a website that they enter when they leave a comment, it underlines their name in the comments section, but if I click on any of them, it won’t let me go to their websites and I was wondering if anyone else was having that problem? I can get to yours when I click on your name when you leave a comment but no one else’s. Maybe I’m doing something incorrectly. Thanks bunches ~

    21. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      “The horse and buggy along the information superhighway”
      “Shining an online light on a faith not known to be online”

      Also I checked out St. Michael’s Day in two copy’s of Robert B. Thomas’ “Old Farmers’ Almanac” and it’s listed as “St. Mitch” in a “bootleg reproduction” copy I bought this spring representing the publication in 1810 (in that year “Almanac” was spelled “Almanack”), and is the September date for this year’s edition. In 1810 it was a Saturday…

    22. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      [I mean to say it’s in September in both versions, just to be clear] 😉

    23. Michelle, and it is fun, thanks 😉

      Beth, glad you let me know about that issue, all I can say is…AAAARRRGGHH 🙂 I had this problem before, and thought it was fixed. Does it say something like “405 error” when you click the person’s name? I will have to ask some smarter people to help me b/c it has been doing that off and on it seems.

    24. Shom very interesting…like the St. Mitch abbreviation. Also, always wondered why and when we dropped that “k” off the end of Almanac.

    25. MaryEtta Mullen

      How about “The Road (or the Way) Less Traveled

      1. Fran

        That’s a good one.

    26. Hi Erik – Yep, it says “Method Not Allowed” Error 405. However, when I clicked on a couple above, I could go to their’s, but the others I couldn’t. I wonder if it has something to do with a blog vs. a .com website? I’m clueless – just trying to sound smart. Have fun and as long as we can all read yours I think we’re fine. 😀

    27. Missy

      Those Amishmen almost look more like German Baptists…

    28. Matthew


      Just occurred to me – why not put the tag line in Pennsylvania Dutch (add a translation if you wish)?

    29. plain lady

      After hearing of the great lengths some Amish go to to avoid being worldly and to remain Plain, I have decided that their lifestyle is one of ‘complicated simplicity’. How about “The Amish-complicated and simple”?

    30. Beth, thanks–when I get a chance I will investigate. Annoying, these computers and their ! Thanks for letting know though.

      Matthew–nice idea. I will mull that one.

      Missy–I was wondering what suggested the GB idea? interesting…but as most GB drive cars, except for the Old Order GBs, which is a pretty small group…it seems less likely they’d be Amtrak users. Visually though, they often look very alike, it is true.

      plain lady–there’s certainly truth in that one!

    31. Monica

      tagline ideas:
      Amish culture, beliefs, and current events.
      Home of the Amish Encyclopedia
      An Amish Information Resource

      Just a thought- I’d stay clear of using the word “plain” since no one can agree on what it means in the context of conservative Anabaptism, and it commonly describes a wide range of people. It even sometimes describes conservative Mennonites with cars and computers (cough cough). 😉

    32. Monica, sounds like someone knows of which she speaks 😉 good point on “plain”, I guess you could say the same (at least to a degree) for “Old Order”, as that is applied in some cases for Mennonites with cars as well…thanks for your nice ideas!

    33. Monica

      I hear you, Erik. I tried to think of a tag line that included the phrase “horse and buggy” but couldn’t come up with anything that didn’t sound clumsy.

    34. Eddie

      ‘ Amish mash, of ideas ‘ if you’ll pardon the pun.

    35. Fran

      How about something a little more aspirational ?
      ‘ … saving civilization ‘ ,

      if that would be in line with your purpose.

    36. Kristina

      Amish America

      Life in the Amish ecosystem.