Here in America and in most of Canada, we have funeral traditions that have stood the test of time for decades, even centuries.
But our traditions are vastly different from those in other countries and cultures.
This article looks at Amish funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about ancient Tibetan funeral traditions and Ghanaian funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
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The Amish live a simple and traditional lifestyle, and this is reflected in their funeral traditions. Their funeral rituals follow their Amish values of “simplicity, humility, and mutual aid.” Funerals are a simple and modest occasion rather than a decorated celebration. They take a reserved approach to grief and don’t openly show their emotions. Their beliefs focus around Gelassenheit, the submission to God’s will.
Amish Funeral Preparation
Embalming is allowed in most Amish communities. To prepare the body, the family dresses the deceased at their home in plain and simple white clothing. Makeup usually isn’t applied, and women are sometimes dressed in their wedding cap and apron. Community members also help with funeral preparations, like making food such as Amish funeral pie.
Amish Funeral Visitations
The Amish have three visitations: at home, the funeral service, and the burial. Family and friends can pay their respects at the family’s home before the service. They also can pay respects at the open-casket funeral service or at the burial service. Loved ones can choose to see and pay tribute the deceased at one or all of these viewing opportunities.
Amish Funeral Service
Amish funeral services are held within three days after the death. It’s held in a family member’s home, barn, or church. Having the funeral at home allows for a more personalized funeral service. However, there aren’t memorial decorations or flowers at the service. Sometimes there are kerosene lamps, but the service is kept simple. The service usually lasts about two hours and contains religious sermons and sometimes singing. After the funeral service, a post-funeral meal is usually held at the family’s home.
Most Amish are buried in an Amish cemetery in hand-dug graves. A wagon takes the casket to the cemetery and four close family members or friends are chosen as pallbearers. The preacher says a final prayer at the gravesite and the family throws sod onto the casket. The gravesite is kept plain and simple like the funeral service. Tombstones just have engravings of the deceased’s name, birth and death dates, and age. Children’s gravesites are usually unmarked or have a small flat headstone on the ground. There’s also no flowers or plants around the gravesite.