I wrote about the Old Order Amish tradition of rumschpringe in my latest newsletter. I mail out a hard copy version of my e-newsletter to those who don’t have computers, and so that list includes several Old Order Amish families. I received thank yous from the Plain community about that article and decided to post that article here.
Rumschpringe is the Pennsylvania Dutch word for “running around.” It’s a time during which Amish young people decide whether or not they’ll join the faith. It usually begins around sixteen years old, and although there isn’t an exact time it’s over, parents encourage a decision to be made during the early twenties. The community begins to feel leery of a young man or woman who remains among them but doesn’t join the faith by the mid- to late twenties. Although none of what I’ve said is written as part of their faith, it is in line with what is expected.
There seems to be a lot of misinformation out there about what a rumschpringe is. Those writing about it often state something to the effect of “The Amish raise their children strictly. Then, when those children turn sixteen, they let them run wild, letting them indulge freely in drinking, drugs, parties, sex, etc.” That is absolutely not true.
I was staying with an Old Order Amish friend last spring (and again in the fall) when an Amish holiday rolled around. Everyone had the day off, and the parents did their best to provide an outlet for the teens to get together and have fun among plenty of chaperones. The parents chipped in and bought pizza and drinks. Someone drove their horse and buggy to an agreed upon spot where the pizza man was willing to meet them to deliver the pizza. Since it was pouring rain, the parents set up volleyball nets inside a huge warehouse-type building.
This is typical of the Old Order Amish. The parents want to offer freedom and fun for their young people as well as a safe, controlled environment. They allow the teens to express their personalities. They give leeway for their energy and provide opportunities to bond with other Amish teens. Although the parents have large families and their days are spent trying to meet the needs of all their children, they do a remarkable job of providing guidance and protection for those in their time of rumschpringe.
Will some teens, regardless of how they’ve been raised, break free of all their parents hold dear? Yes. Does that mean the parents threw open the door to the “world” and encouraged their children to sow their wild oats while they could? No.
The true purpose of the rumschpringe is to provide a bridge between childhood and adulthood. The rumschpringe is meant to give freedom for an Amish young person to find an Amish mate. They are usually free to date anyone during this time, but it is the parents’ desire that they only date other Amish. In spite of that fervent desire, most parents give their young people the chance to see what the world outside the Amish community is like, which means those who are in rumschpringe can date non-Amish people, though their parents may or may not know about it.
We live in a free country. At eighteen, any American is free to leave home and do whatever he or she wishes as long as it isn’t illegal. In a way, the rumschpringe honors that law while providing a loving home environment in which parents pray their child will choose to join the faith.
The contest for the Amish-made wall hanging is still in progress. I’ll visit my Amish friends in May, and attend their Amish School Auction/Sale. While there I’ll purchase a wall hanging similar to the one below. It won’t have the same pattern, but the overall look will be similar. If you’d like a chance to win the item, just leave a comment below.