The Rumspringa years

In her second article about growing up Amish, Anna Dee Olson describes her experiences during Rumspr

The definition of Rumspringa is running around. This term refers to young Amish people, anywhere from the age of 16 until they get married. It is the time of dating and getting together with other Amish young people that have not married and it is a chance to get to know one another. This is also the time for the boys to take the girls on dates. In my experience (24 years living as an Amish person) it was not okay for the girls to ask boys on a date, the boys always asked the girls.

For a young Amish person this was a very important and exciting time. Being part of the young folks group was something that everyone looks forward to. The young folks gather on Sunday evening for some fun. Playing volleyball in the summer or cards in the winter, singing and dating if you wish to. In my experience, if I was on a date I could stay up until 2:00 in the morning visiting with my date but those who were not on a date were required to be home by midnight. These rules were sometimes followed and sometimes not. I am sure this rule was implemented to try to keep those who were not dating from gathering for late night parties.

During the Rumspringa years, not all Amish communities allow their young people to have cars and street clothes. Most of the communities in the Midwestern United States did not allow this and it certainly was not an option when I was that age. Although I was a part of the group that gathered for late night parties with beer, cigarettes, and music, all of those activities were done in secret. If we had been caught we would have been in trouble or considered in sin and shunning would have been necessary.

When I tell people about my experience with parties some are shocked that Amish teenagers would ever do something like this. I always respond by saying, "We have to remember that the Amish are human beings just like the rest of the world and we all had shortcomings too."

Rumspringa did not mean that I had the option to wear street clothes, smoke cigarettes, own and drive a car, go to the movies, or go on dates on Saturday nights. In some communities this is the case but certainly not in every Amish community. The rules and practices do vary quite a lot from one church district to another but all Amish believe in adult baptism. Once you have accepted instructions and been baptized, you are expected to follow the rules of the church.

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“It was like a religious ceremony”: What happened at Big Ben’s final bong?

Both inside and outside Parliament, people gathered to hear the clock’s final midday chime before undergoing repairs.

“It’s just hacks everywhere,” a photographer sighs, jamming his lens through a gap in Parliament’s railings to try and get a closer look.

New Palace Yard, Parliament’s courtyard directly below Big Ben, is filling with amused-looking journalists, waiting for the MPs who have promised to hold a “silent vigil”, heads bowed, to mark Big Ben’s final chime before four years of silence while the tower’s repaired.

About four of them turn up. Two by accident.

It’s five minutes to twelve. Tourists are gathering outside Westminster Tube, as tourists do best. A bigger crowd fills Parliament Square. More people than expected congregate outside, even if it’s the opposite within the Palace. The world and his phone are gazing up at the sad, resigned clock face.


“It’s quite controversial, isn’t it?” one elderly woman in an anorak asks her friend. They shrug and walk off. “Do you know what is this?” an Italian tourist politely asks the tiny press pack, gesturing to the courtyard. No one replies. It’s a good question.

“This is the last time,” says another tourist, elated, Instagram-poised.

“DING DONG DING DONG,” the old bell begins.

Heads down, phones up.


It finishes the on-the-hour tune for the last time, and then gives its much-anticipated resignation statement:

“BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG. BONG.”

Applause, cheers, and even some tears.


But while the silly-seasoned journalists snigger, the crowd is enthusiastic.

“It’s quite emotional,” says David Lear, a 52-year-old carer from Essex, who came up to London today with his work and waited 45 minutes beneath Big Ben to hear it chime.

He feels “very, very sad” that the bell is falling silent, and finds the MPs’ vigil respectful. “I think lots of people feel quite strongly about it. I don’t know why they’re doing it. During the war it carries on, and then they turn it off for a health and safety reason.”

“I don’t know why they can’t have some speakers half way down it and just play the chime,” he adds. “So many tourists come especially to listen to the chime, they gather round here, getting ready for it to go – and they’re going to switch it off. It’s crazy.”

Indeed, most of the surrounding crowd appears to be made up of tourists. “I think that it was gorgeous, because I’ve never heard him,” smiles Cora, an 18-year-old German tourist. “It was a great experience.”

An Australian couple in their sixties called Jane and Gary are visiting London for a week. “It was like a religious ceremony, everybody went quiet,” laughs Gary. “I hope they don’t forget where they put the keys to start it again in four years’ time.”

“When we first got here, the first thing we did was come to see it,” adds Jane, who is also positive about the MPs who turned up to watch. “I think it’s good they showed a bit of respect. Because they don’t usually show much respect, do they?”

And, as MPs mouthing off about Big Ben are challenged on their contrasting reactions to Grenfell, that is precisely the problem with an otherwise innocent show of sentimentality.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.