How do the Amish celebrate Easter and Good Friday? Do they even celebrate it? Several years ago I wrote a blog post answering those questions. This post is an excerpt of the earlier post, in which I share my practicing Amish experiences of various aspects of this holiday weekend — from the Easter bunny to Easter egg hunts to church services.
(Scroll to the end or click here for the audio/video version of this post.)
Before I get into the details, you should understand more about the Amish religion. The Amish fall under the Protestant branch of Christianity. Within that, they fall under the Anabaptist category that grew out of the Protestant Reformation in 1525, sparked by Martin Luther’s protest against the Catholic Church in 1519.
It’s also important to understand that when it comes to celebrating or observing religious holidays, there’s no universal Amish law . . .
. . . that says whether non-religious (or secular) activities or practices are allowed. Every community is different and even within each community, what is practiced or prohibited varies from family to family.
The Amish Easter tradition celebrates Good Friday (the day that Jesus was crucified, according to the Bible) with a fast all morning, reading the Bible, and praying. But the fasting, Bible reading, and praying is only required of baptized members, not unbaptized children and teens. As soon as the clock passes the noon mark, the fast is over. I have vivid memories of my birth parents talking about how hungry they were and eyeing the clock all morning to see when they’d be allowed to eat again. I dreaded the thought of ever having to be forced to wake up with an empty stomach and go until noon with no food lest I’d end up in hell for breaking that Amish religious law.
I much preferred keeping our particular family tradition for unbaptized members on Good Friday and Easter Sunday mornings. That was eating shredded wheat. Even as I’m writing this, I can feel the crunchy texture of the wheat bales on the outside and the softer strings on the inside when I crushed the bale into my stainless steel bowl. Easter was the only time of year that we kids were allowed to have shredded wheat. The rest of the year we had cornflakes, the cheapest store-bought cereal at the time, and homemade grape-nuts or granola.
Good Friday was the only religiously mandated non-Sunday day off of the year besides Christmas. There was no school and no work (except for feeding the animals and milking the cows or goats). It’s possible that some Amish communities also celebrate the Monday after Easter; I have to fact check this but all I remember is Friday and Sunday as the days required to observe the resurrection story.
Easter Church Services
Most people aren’t aware that we traditional Amish don’t have church buildings (with the exception of one or so of the oldest communities). We have services in our homes.
We attend church every other Sunday and we don’t have services on Easter itself, unless it falls on our “church” Sunday. That said, people who live in a community with more than one church district will often attend services in another district if Easter falls on their “in between” Sunday. We hear about Good Friday and Jesus’ resurrection on the Sundays before Easter if we don’t have church in our own district that day. Like Good Friday, baptized members are required to fast all morning and read the Bible.
The Bible verse below, or the first line of it, is often used during the Easter season as an opening to written letters. Similar to Christians posting this verse on social media, many Amish women and girls reference this verse in their letters during the Easter season. I say “women and girls” as opposed to men or boys because the majority of letter writing is done by the former.
He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: "The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again." - Luke 24:6-7
Easter Eggs, Easter Bunny, and Other Secular Traditions
When I was younger, my birth mother would sing the song “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” during Easter. But when we moved to a community that allowed more material conveniences (e.g., phones in barns), we were no longer allowed to sing secular songs. The punishment for [click here to read the rest].
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