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20 March 2008updated 27 Sep 2015 5:44am

The Rumspringa years

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

By Anna Dee Olson

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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