Saloma Miller Furlong
Author and Speaker

Amish Customs

 

Amish Church Singing

 

 

Loblied

The Loblied "Praise Song" is the second song of every Amish church service. It was written by the early Anabaptists, back in Switzerlend. It can be found on page 770 of the Amish song book called the Ausbund. I took this photo in Switzerland, near where the Anabptist faith was born.

 

Das 7. Lied

This song is found on page 46 of the Ausbund. I took this photo from one of the towers in the Castle Thun, in the Emmenthal Valley of Switzerland, where some of the early Anabaptists were imprisoned for their faith during the Protestant Reformation movement.

 

 

Lebt Friedsam

This is a farewell song called Lebt Friedsam (live peaceably) and is found on page 786 of the Ausbund. This photo is of my mother's funeral procession. 

This recording was by Ed Yoder, who grew up Amish. You can learn more here. 

The song is called Gelobt Sei Gott im höchsten Thron


 

An Amish Kopp and Bonnet

There is a great deal of confusion about the difference between an Amish woman’s kopp (hair covering) and bonnet. Likely the title and cover of my new memoir adds to this confusion, because the photo shows kopp strings, and the title is Bonnet Strings. My publisher, Herald Press, and I used this poetic license because “bonnet strings” flows off the tongue so much easier than “covering strings” or “kopp strings,” not to mention the fact that most people would not know what “kopp strings” are.

So to clear up this confusion, here are some notes on what Amish women wear for head coverings and for what occasions:

Most Amish women and girls wear a kopp indoors during their everyday lives. Girls, until they reach adolescence, will wear black in most communities, except for special occasions, such as funerals. (Though in most districts in Lancaster County, girls will wear no covering until they reach adolescence). When young women begin wearing a “front-closing” dress with pins, rather than wearing a dress that buttons down the back, she usually begins wearing a white covering for everyday and a black one for church on Sundays. The day a woman marries, she changes her black covering for a white one right after the wedding ceremony. Once married, she will wear a white covering the rest of her life. (There may be some variation from one community to another on this, but in most communities this is the case.)

 
A Geauga County Amish Kopp

 
A Geauga Amish kopp and bonnet

 

On the left is a kopp in the style of Geauga County, Ohio, where I grew up. On the right is the style bonnet worn over the kopp

The model is my niece, Leanna Mast, who also modeled for the cover of Bonnet Strings: An Amish Woman's Ties to Two Worlds and for the book trailer, created by Herald Press, which you can view on this page

 

 

When women and girls go out into public, it is expected in most communities that they wear a bonnet over the kopp. They don’t wear a bonnet instead of a kopp, but in addition to. In some communities it is becoming more common for young women during their dating years to go somewhere without a bonnet, except to church, weddings, or funerals. In the stricter communities, women and girls are expected to wear bonnets whenever they are in public.

 



Amish Naming Practices


Because the Amish don't have much variety in either first or last names, it is rare to have a unique first and last name in a given community. Even though Saloma was not as common as Katie or Sarah in my home community, I was not the only Saloma Miller. In fact, there was another girl in my Amish school with my name. So to differentiate, between us, our father's names were used before our own: I was called "Sim's Lomie" ("Simon's Saloma) and the other Saloma was "John's Lomie." The apostrophe is used for those who are not yet married. When someone gets married, she now takes her husband's name before her own, but the apostrophe is dropped, as if the husband's name becomes a prefix, rather than her belonging to him. So in the community I would be called "David Lomie."

The men also take their father's name before their own. However, there are times when one has to go back several generations. For instance, there were more than one Joe's Joes, one of them being my Uncle Joe. So he was called Mosa (Moses's) Joe's Joe. There are times when it is too cumbersome to go back that many generations, in which case the husband’s wife’s name is used as a prefix. There was a man in my community known as "Ada Joe" and his wife was known as "Joe Ada." 

There is another way that Amish naming practices differ from the mainstream culture. If I say “the Benders” meaning the Urie Bender Family, I am talking about the whole family, even though I don’t use an apostrophe in the name. But more often than not, within the community, people will use the first name of the father in the family and add an “s” to his name to indicate the whole family. So someone in the mainstream culture would likely say they are visiting “the Bender family” while the Amish would say they are visiting “Uries.”

 


 

Amish Circle Letters

(The Original “Reply to All”)

There is a letter-writing custom among the Amish that is largely unknown in the rest of the culture. It is called a “circle letter.” It works like this:

Someone writes a letter to a group of people, along with a list of addresses of the people who will be included in the “circle.” The person who starts it then sends it to the second person on the list, who adds a letter to the first one, and sends it to the third person on the list, and so on. Let’s say there are six people in the group. The sixth person now adds a letter and sends it on to the first person on the list. So now the circle has made one complete round, and there will always be six letters in the pack that is sent around the circle. Each person takes out their “old” letter and replaces it with a new one, so the news is “fresh.” If someone wants to stop participating she will write that, cross her name off the list, and send it to the next person.

Usually there is something the people in a given circle letter have in common. My mother was in a circle letter with her siblings, and so was my father. I participated in a cousin circle letter and another one with fellow teachers. It is not as efficient as email, but it reflects the slower pace of Amish life and therefore fits the culture well. Perhaps it was the original "reply to all" option we have in our modern emails.

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