rumspringa by paul richard james

Rumspringa [room-spring-uh] (German: ‘jumping around’) generally refers to a period of adolescence for some members of the Amish, a subsect of the Anabaptist Christian movement, that begins around the age of sixteen and ends when a youth chooses baptism within the Amish church or instead leaves the community. The vast majority choose baptism and remain in the church.

Not all Amish use this term, but in sects that do, Amish elders generally view this as a time for courtship and finding a spouse. Wenger Mennonites youth go through a period of rumspringa between ages 16 and 18. It is sometimes referred to as a period to ‘sow wild oats.’ As is the case in many societies, Amish adolescents may engage in rebellious behavior, resisting or defying parental norms. In many cultures, enforcement may be relaxed, and misbehavior tolerated or overlooked to a degree.

A view of rumspringa has emerged in popular culture that this divergence from custom is an accepted part of adolescence or a rite of passage for Amish youth. Among the Amish who use this term, however, rumspringa simply refers to adolescence. Some Amish youth do indeed separate themselves from the community, even going to live among the ‘English,’ or non-Amish North Americans, experiencing modern technology and perhaps even experimenting with sex, alcohol and illegal drugs. Their behavior during this time represents no necessary bar to returning for adult baptism into the Amish church. Most of them do not wander far from their family’s homes during this time, and large numbers ultimately choose to join the church.

Groups of Amish adolescents may meet in town and change into ‘English’ clothing, and share tobacco, alcohol and marijuana; girls may put on jewelry and cosmetics. They may or may not mingle with non-Amish in these excursions. The age is marked normatively in some Amish communities by allowing the young man to purchase a small ‘courting buggy,’ or — in some communities — by painting the yard-gate blue (traditionally meaning ‘daughter of marriageable age living here’; community members however are expected to use reasonable caution, because sometimes a blue gate is just a blue gate. There is some opinion that adolescent rebellion tends to be more radical, more institutionalized (and therefore in a sense more accepted) in the more restrictive communities.

3 Responses to “Rumspringa”

  1. what are the copyrights to this picture?


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