The Amish, by A.M. Aurand, , at sacred-texts.com
Births.—Upon the birth of a son they make much ado, because he may be a plowman or a wagoner; if it is a girl there will be another one to milk the
cows, or a lass who will get herself a husband who will be a good Amish or Mennonite amongst them. "To fear God and to love work" is the first lesson they teach their children.
When a man marries he asks not of the girl: "How much dowry can you bring with you?" but "Are you fit to be a good, industrious housewife and mother?"
Bundling, or Courting in Bed. *—The late Thaddeus Stevens once remarked that for every case of "bundling" in Lancaster county there were twenty cases in Vermont. Perhaps Thad. was qualified to make the statement, having lived a full and complete life of his own. But we wonder whether his statistics are reliable. Perhaps he just wanted to be quoted.
Bundling was condoned in the Old Testament, if one takes the time to look up the Book of Ruth to prove it; and if it was the custom then among the Jews for "men and women to lie on the same bed, as lovers, without undressing," then we have little doubt but that our plain friends used the same methods for getting couples into a convivial mood and a convenient embrace.
Our New England friends said that "bundling" was an "economic necessity" we prefer to believe that their prudishness made them say that, when in their hearts they knew that bundling was economically "convenient."
The plain people could have safely used several methods prescribed for bundling boys and girls in bed
(Please turn to page 19)
(illustrations are placed at the back of the etext, see p. 15)
together before they were married, because these young boys do not start out in their love affairs with worldly ideas of getting "special favors from girls" before they are married.
Hence, when we have it on good authority from the Amish direct that they bundle, and from Mennonites that they bundle, then we suppose it is fair to presume that they do so.
Bundling in Mifflin County.—Referring to the author's pamphlet "Bundling Prohibited," (The Aurand Press, 1929), we note briefly that "Bundling existed in Mifflin county, Pa., in 1928." The girl sleeps under the covers; the boy on top of the covers. In the same neighborhood, should illegitimate births occur, not necessarily the result of any bundling episodes, the mother is required to go before the church body, and there confess to the various incidents of her past—with whom, when and where. (This compares with legal processes in courts today when the issue is without "benefit of the law and clergy"). Such confessions are made freely, no persuasion being necessary; it is said that marriages readily take place just after such confessions. There seems to be less of the "sinfulness" thus attached to an honest confession, than would be the case among non-Amish.
These people are human; they know the emotions and passions of life and the method of reproduction, and are they to be censored for an occasional misstep in nature, when others constantly are enjoying the conjugal bed without the benefit of "license?"
The authorities governing the church naturally attend to all these cases, and numerous others falling within the scope of their "meeting." The civil law is within reach of all of them, but the wise ones avoid the law as long as they can.
A Mennonite college professor told the author some years ago that bundling is practiced among his people, not only in the States, but also in Canada, and that they bundle in the "good old-fashioned way"—the manner of which we shall leave to the imagination of the reader.
What is true of Canada, goes for Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and other states. Bundling in the old manner is more difficult to locate nowadays than formerly, because the "professional bundlers," or the travelling salesmen are not visiting the sections where it may be found—hence the "news" is harder to "get out."
Blue Gates.—With reference to the "blue painted gates" in Lancaster county, there is a word to he said. Many persons speak of the "blue gate" as though they were speaking of a house of ill-fame, when they tell
you that "where the blue gate is, there is a marriageable (virgin) daughter." Perhaps there is, but it just wouldn't necessarily follow that every blue gate told the same thing.
The Mennonites and some of the Amish just cannot help having their homes, their yards and front fences looking spic and span. What else would keep the latter in better condition than fresh paint? Blue is a favorite color and it has religious significance. So where there is a blue gate there may be a girl eligible for marriage.
Bundling is a convenient way to court—not necessarily the "last straw" to get rid of a daughter. It is an honorable custom, and has been practiced in all countries and in all ages.
The custom at one time was to place the girls in bags and to allow their "fellows," or beaux, to crawl into bed with them. Certainly it must have been a lot more comfortable to "court a girl in bed" than on an old sofa or an old, hard, wood-box!
Marriages usually take place on Tuesday or Thursday, at the home of the bride. It is customary, although not obligatory, to announce a contemplated marriage usually two weeks before-hand, probably to afford her more time for removing "hope chests" and such other items as a plain girl would have collected, to her new home, and to allow her the extra preparations for the wedding dinner.
A wedding means, besides the marriage ceremony, a day of feasting and good times lasting into the night. This practice seems to conform to practices among the Jews. A sermon also is delivered at the wedding, at which time certain knowledge and information is imparted to the newly-weds. Now this is not an "invention" of these people!
The marriage feast should be a big one, and on occasion there have been prepared for a repast, as many as 10 turkeys, 10 chickens, 50 lbs. of beef, 100 pies, 10 cakes, besides the "extras" without number.
Sometimes games of several sorts are played in the house, or outside, preferably in the barn where the accommodations were sufficient for such large numbers. Since it is usually the younger element that likes its fun, and particularly in the barn, it was extremely fortunate that a wedding ceremony in Mifflin county involved an older couple, instead of a young one. Smallpox unfortunately came to this wedding, and had it been that younger folks would have attended in goodly numbers, and had they gone afterwards to the barn to play their exciting games, one can sec an epidemic among them
of telling effect. A number of people in the vicinity and elsewhere in the State and nearby states were affected.
An Amish Wedding in Mifflin county just a few years ago must have been interesting to behold, and we tell it as nearly as we can, as told to us.
Two weeks prior to the wedding the bride and the groom are "published" (wedding announced). From that time until the wedding the groom drives from farm to farm in his buggy, inviting those whom he wishes to have attend.
The marriage ceremony was held in a neighbor's home of the bride. The parents of neither the bride or groom attended the ceremony, according to ritual. The bride and groom were taken by the main preacher (who unites them in marriage), to a room by themselves and asked them questions—(would these have to deal with sex as we note to be the case with Jews?)—then in about fifteen minutes he returned with them to the room (singing taking place during the instruction period). Then following them were two bridesmaids and two best men.
The services lasted about three-and-a-half hours, and three or four preachers spoke, then called on different others. After that the big meal!
The meal, or dinner, is always at the bride's home; everything you want to eat or look at. The bride's table, of course, always has the nicest food, and more of a variety. They have what they call the corner table; after they are through with most of the eating (they sit and eat until 3, or 3.30 o'clock), the bride cuts her cake and sends pieces to her best friends at different tables.
For dinner they had roast turkey, chicken and duck.
They sing a lot from noon until 3.30. Then they go to the barn and play party games, similar to English games. After exercises of this kind they are ready for supper at 5 o'clock, when each of the "Dutch" boys leads a girl by the hand, to the supper. This meal is prepared with leftovers from dinner, but warmed; plus lemon pie and baked oysters (in season).
They sang during and after supper, which may last, as it did at this wedding, until 9 o'clock, then
they went to the barn again! Here they played games and sang until the wee hours of the morning.
The older folks do the work; men and women both wait on tables. They have committees, and each has its appointed work to do. In this case the father of the bride tended to the roast chickens.
Divorces Are Forbidden; but if one of a couple dies, the survivor may remarry.
14:* At the time this pamphlet was first issued it was impossible to obtain certain information relative to the subject of "bundling" among the "plain people," and particularly those included in our scope. Since the original edition, however, important phases on this subject have come to us, and they have been included in another pamphlet devoted entirely to that subject: "Little Known Facts About Bundling in the New World," (The Aurand Press). This admittedly interesting account (proved by the very large number sold), should readily silence the skeptic, for it recounts the "experiences and emotions" of one of the "plain people" who "bundled," but who now raises serious questions as to the methods practiced—morals, theology, etc., excerpted from one of their most important church papers.