We’ve got the second batch of answers to your questions on the Amish, courtesy of Merlyn Yoder in northern Indiana.
If you missed it, here are Merlyn’s replies to the first 17 questions. Below, you’ll find responses to 16 more.
Today’s questions cover everything from waking up early to celebrating Christmas to tracking the weather to former Amish clothing.
Thanks to everyone who asked a question, and a special thanks to Merlyn for his time and thoughtful answers.
Ask an Amish Person: Your Questions Answered (Part 2)
Char N: Can you explain the difference between a gma and a Freundschaft? Are either (or both) of those words interchangable with “Church District”? Also, what is a “dale”?
Merlyn: Gma, church district, and dale are synonyms. Gma can be used as “the church” in general, and also refers to church services as in “to have church.” Dale is more like a division where one “dale” grew too large and it was divided into two dale(s). Freundschaft is usually referring to relatives, as in extended family.
Sherry: On television, the Amish are portrayed as foul-mouthed, disobedient individuals that are in complete rebellion of their old life of being Amish. Is there a “wild side” to the Amish that I have missed all these years?
Merlyn: I do not watch TV so I do not know how “wild” these actors are. There is a small percentage who go way out of bounds. But for true members to be in such scenarios should be impossible. Remember, the entertainment industry loves shocking and distorted material.
Diane W: Whenever I read about the Amish I hear that their children get up at 4 or 5 am to help with the milking or other chores. I think this a good thing for them to work hard at an early age. My question is: How can these children get up so early and still function happily all day?
Merlyn: Children are given more responsibilities as they age and thus required to get up earlier as time goes on. Amish 13-year-olds can also be attached to sleeping. Even having a few pets to feed can help with motivation to get going.
Veronica: What do you believe the top 5 things we can do in the English world that you Amish do to save money and lower our financial responsibility?
Merlyn: A few things that you have and we don’t are cable bills, internet, higher phone bills, auto insurance, life insurance, and much higher health insurance. We have our own health care plan. Yet I don’t see how you could function without most of these. In buying groceries we may get more case lots for a better unit price. Believe me we are also trying to cut costs!
Abe: How much attention do you pay to how outsiders view the Amish? I remember how much my identity as Amish was based on the way we were seen by “English.” Is there less expected out of Amish people now?
Merlyn: I think we as a people are still concerned about public opinion, especially when an Amish mug shot appears in the paper. But ultimately what does God think of us?
Polly: Do Amish celebrate Christmas?
Merlyn: Yes, we observe Christmas. There are multiple family gatherings to attend–such as immediate family, Mom’s side, Dad’s side, sometimes cousins, sometimes close friends. There is almost always a large meal, socializing, and often some singing (German and English). Gift exchanges are common. But no Santa Claus!
Mike Sparks: With the heavy influence of the current modern world on young people (Cell phones, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), what do you attribute as the most telling reason Amish young folks are retaining their culture and not being pulled away to the modern world around them?
Merlyn: I think that as children grow and observe satisfaction and contentment shown by the parents, grandparents, and general neighborhood, a somewhat intangible desire is formed. Some but not all experiment with the items mentioned. For each baptism, many, many prayers are answered. May all the glory be to the Lord.
Gary Griffith: I live in a heavily Amish populated area and would like to start a business serving the Amish community. Any suggestions?
Merlyn: The first thing that comes to mind is a taxi service or delivery service. Advice–charge a fair wage and absolutely learn to say no.
Karen G: How do the Amish keep track of the weather when there is no TV or radio? It seems the weather is getting more violent as the years go on. Do the Amish know what to look for when it comes to the weather especially during planting and haying time?
Merlyn: Trust me, weather is one of the most talked-about subjects. Many of us read the newspaper. If a delivery man or the milkman comes, weather will be a topic. Also at the feed mill, in town, etc.
Joanne: A Mennonite widow has the passion to remarry and share her God given gifts with an Amish man. Can she remarry and be accepted into his Amish community?
Merlyn: Yes I believe that is possible.
Deb: Do you know of any Amish businesses that make and sell tables for the kitchen? Looking to buy direct from someone, not from one of the retail businesses.
Merlyn: There is a smaller shop 40-50 miles southwest closer to Bremen. His phone number is 574-773-7930 (ex. 3) and he knows wood.
Linda Laird: Is High German considered to be the actual German language from Germany itself and the Low German the dialect that the Amish speak?
Merlyn: Complicated subject. I believe Germany itself has quite a few different dialects. I believe our High German would work, kind of, in some parts of Germany. What you refer to as Low German I take as meaning our everyday speech which is more a spoken language than a written one. Geographical separation causes our speech to evolve differently. It is always amusing to listen to a visitor’s dialect.
Celi: Is it possible to do a tour to the Amish community?
Merlyn: Tourism is a large industry among the greater-sized Amish settlements. Perhaps this website can help you.
Christine Cherepon: Although plot lines are fictionalized, how authentic is information about Amish life in most of the Amish novels? Which authors are recommended by Amish readers of Amish fiction? Finally, why aren’t novels considered too worldly for the Amish?
Merlyn: I don’t do novels. I should, as I think a mind stays more creative when stretched. I would defend upbuilding novels. But can you imagine what a task it would be to screen a whole library to create a forbidden book list? The reader must use discretion. (Ed. note: Christine, you might find further info in these posts on Amish fiction authenticity and readers, or in the book Thrill of the Chaste: The Allure of Amish Romance Novels by Valerie Weaver-Zercher).
Sandy: How do the Amish view someone who is English, or no longer Amish, dressing as though they are Amish? This seems to be a trend with some of the shunned Lancaster ex-Amish. How is it handled with the children? Not to mention it confuses us English thinking someone is Amish, but they are really not anymore.
Merlyn: It is always disturbing to me when someone makes a decision to leave. From a neutral viewpoint this may be a transitional phase. Hopefully they will stay with a plain church. I imagine it would be confusing to children if they are old enough to grasp the situation. Sadly, two generations later there is no resemblance of any Amish background.
Alex: Are you aware of all the terrorists acts in the world and what do you think about it?
Merlyn: I see this stuff in the newspaper and my heart goes out to the victims. Yet my mind remains calloused as it is almost daily news and it is so far away.