The arrival of Spring evokes many thoughts and images. Warm weather, lush greenery, cool afternoon breezes and freshly planted vegetation are often associated with this time of year.
In this season of rebirth and transformation, the holiday of Easter also holds special significance, especially for the Amish.
As I’ve mentioned in some of my earlier posts, the Amish recognize many of the same holidays as other Christian denominations, including Thanksgiving and Christmas. The specific ways in which they observe these special days can be quite different from that of the other denominations, however.
In the many years I’ve spent working closely with the Amish, I’ve learned a good deal about how they celebrate Easter, and with this post, I’d like to share some of their more common practices.
The Amish are fully committed to separating themselves from the influences of the modern world. As one might expect, this very much applies to their observance of Easter. Therefore, the highly commercialized figure known as the Easter Bunny, like Santa Claus at Christmas, has no part in an Amish Easter celebration and is not recognized at all.
Traditionally, the Amish begin their observance of the holiday on Good Friday, which is recognized by all Christians as the day Christ died on the cross. This is a revered day for the Amish, and some of the older orders spend it fasting and reading scripture.
Amish shops are closed on Good Friday, but if you happen to visit one of their communities, you’ll see plenty of horse-drawn buggies moving about with purpose. These travelers aren’t going to work, of course, but to visit their families on this special holiday.
Outside of some necessary chores involving the tending of their livestock, the Amish don’t perform much labor on Good Friday. The atmosphere is solemn and reserved for those who are fasting. For those who aren’t, however, a large family gathering is held, usually complete with a feast.
Saturday is typically set aside for cleaning and other household chores, and it’s also used as a time to prepare the food for the next big meal, which takes place on Sunday.
Easter Sunday is recognized by all of Christendom as the day Christ was resurrected, and like Good Friday, it holds great significance for the Amish. While attending church is a regular Easter Sunday tradition for most other denominations, that isn’t necessarily the case for the Amish. They normally hold church services once every two weeks, and if Easter doesn’t happen to fall on a church Sunday, there won’t be a worship service that day.
Whether or not there’s a church service, Easter Sunday afternoons are usually spent celebrating with family and friends. Large meals are prepared, and while they don’t quite match the feasts of Thanksgiving and Christmas, there’s certainly no shortage of delightful Amish cooking.
The dishes vary from home to home, but one staple that can be found on nearly every dinner table is eggs. Most Amish families boil them for breakfast on Easter, and they’re also eaten at other meals on Sunday and Monday. As a symbol of rebirth and renewal, the egg holds a special place on the menu, as the Amish celebrate, honor and worship the risen Christ. In certain orders, some Amish families dye boiled eggs and hold Easter egg hunts.
Some of the older Amish orders recognize Easter Monday. Most Amish businesses are back open on this day, as carpenters and other skilled workers return to their labor after the long holiday weekend. But for those belonging to orders that observe Easter Monday, their day consists of another family gathering, recreational activities and a large meal.
Another holiday associated with Amish Easter is known as “Ascension Day.” Falling exactly 40 days after Easter Sunday, it’s recognized as the day Christ ascended into Heaven. The Amish don’t work or do business on this day.
Like all the other Amish holidays, it’s a day for feasting and spending time with family. If Ascension Day falls on or near a church Sunday, the Amish will attend worship services, as one might expect. Later that afternoon, recreational activities, such as fishing or baseball, are often enjoyed.
Much like the other traditional Christian holidays they recognize, the Amish observe Easter free from all forms of secular influence. They focus instead on the scriptural importance of Good Friday and Easter, as they celebrate these most holy of days in their own special way.