From New World Encyclopedia
Two Amish girls in traditional attire, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

Rumspringa also spelled Rumschpringe or Rumshpringa, translated from originally Palatine German and other Southwest German dialects to English as "jumping or running around," is a rite of passage during adolescence, used in some Amish communities. For Amish youth, the Rumspringa normally begins at age 16 and ends when a youth chooses either to be baptized in the Amish church or to leave the community.

The Amish, a sub-sect of the Anabaptist Christian movement, intentionally segregate themselves from other communities as a part of their faith. The rumspringa experience allows teenagers to spend some time, with various amounts of freedom, to experience life outside their community. It is also a time during which courtship occurs, often leading to the decision to marry. Since Amish youth are given this time to choose their faith and lifestyle, their decisions are made in a mature fashion with serious commitment to their chosen path. It is notable that the large majority of Amish youth choose baptism and remain within their church community.


Rumspringa is a Pennsylvania German noun meaning "running around." It is a cognate of the Standard German verb rumspringen.[1][2] This expression is closely related to the Standard German verb (he)rumspringen meaning "to jump around or about." However, in Swiss German as in some other southern German dialects, springen – besides meaning "to jump" – also means "to run."


Rumspringa is the period when the young Amish person, having reached the age of 16, is regarded as having reached maturity. They are then permitted to attend the Sunday night "singings" that are the focus of courtship among the Amish. According to Amish sources, a youth who dares to attend one of these events before the age of 16 might be force-fed warm milk from a spoon, as a good-natured reminder to observe the lines of status.[1]

At this time Amish youth join "gangs," which function as youth groups. The nature of the gang has great impact on their rumspringa experience. "Plain gangs" are conservative, staying close to the standards of behavior of the community, while "Fancy gangs" provide more of an "English" (non-Amish) experience.[3]

Amish elders generally view rumspringa as a time for courtship and finding a spouse.[4] The decision to marry in the Amish community requires that both members of the couple are first baptized, making the commitment to follow the Amish customs, bound by the Ordnung as adult members in the church.

Amish youth groups may visit Behalt

Amish youth groups may visit Behalt as part of their preparation to make the decision of whether or not to join the church. Behalt, displayed in the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center in Berlin, Holmes County, Ohio,[5] is a 10-by-265-foot (3.0 by 80.8 m) cyclorama painted by Heinz Gaugel in the late twentieth century.[6] The name comes from the German word behalten: to hold onto or to remember.[7] The work illustrates the heritage of the Amish and Mennonite people from the beginnings of Christianity.

Relaxing of restrictions

A popular view exists by which the period is institutionalized as a rite of passage, and the usual behavioral restrictions are relaxed, so that Amish youth can acquire some experience and knowledge of the non-Amish world. Among the Amish, however, rumspringa simply refers to adolescence. During that time a certain amount of misbehavior is unsurprising and is not severely condemned (for instance, by Meidung or shunning). Adults who have made a permanent and public commitment to the faith are held to the higher standards of behavior defined in part by the Schleitheim and Dordrecht confessions.[8] In a narrow sense the young are not bound by the Ordnung because they have not taken adult membership in the church. Amish adolescents do remain, however, under the strict authority of parents who are bound to Ordnung, and there is no period when adolescents are formally released from these rules.[9][10][11]

Not all youth diverge from custom during this period; approximately half in the larger communities and the majority in smaller Amish communities remain within the norms of Amish dress and behavior during adolescence.[4]

However, during rumspringa only a minority of Amish youth diverge from established customs.[4] Some may be found:

  • Wearing non-traditional clothing and hair styles (referred to as "dressing English")[12]
  • Driving vehicles other than horse-drawn vehicles (for communities that eschew motor vehicles)
  • Not attending home prayer
  • Drinking and using other recreational drugs

Some Amish youth separate themselves from the community, even going to live among the "English," or non-Amish Americans, experiencing modern technology. Their behavior during this time does not necessarily prevent them from 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 (85%–90%) ultimately choose to join the church.[12] However this proportion varies from community to community, and within a community between more and less acculturated Amish.[13]


Not all Amish use this term; for example, it does not occur in John A. Hostetler's extended discussion of adolescence among the Amish.[9] However, for all communities adolescence is a time for young Amish to have the freedom to make their choice as to whether to be baptized and fully commit themselves to their faith and lifestyle, or whether to leave their community.

For Wenger Mennonites, rumspringa occurs mostly between ages of 17 and 21. These youth go through a period of rumspringa starting at age 17 and typically ending at marriage, a few years older than the Amish do. Since most of the youth get baptized when they are ages 16 to 19, they typically do not get into the type of serious offenses of the most "disorderly" of the Amish youth.[14]

As among the non-Amish, there is variation among communities and individual families as to the best response to adolescent misbehavior. Some Amish communities hold views similar to Old Order Mennonite, and Conservative Mennonites in seeking more productive, spiritual activities for their youth.

In some cases, patience and forbearance prevail, and in others, vigorous discipline. Far from an open separation from parental ways, the misbehavior of young people during the rumspringa is usually furtive, though often collective (this is especially true in smaller and more isolated populations). 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"; this custom is noted by Aurand, along with the reasonable caution that sometimes a blue gate is just a blue gate).[15]

The nature of the rumspringa period differs from individual to individual and from community to community. In large Amish communities like those of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Holmes, and Wayne Counties, Ohio, and Elkhart and LaGrange Counties, Indiana, the Amish are numerous enough that an Amish youth subculture exists.[4] During rumspringa, the Amish youth in these large communities will join one of various groups, or "gangs," ranging from the most rebellious to the least. These groups are not necessarily divided across traditional Amish church district boundaries, although they often are.

In many smaller communities, Amish youth may have a much more restricted rumspringa, and likewise may be less likely to partake in strong rebellious behavior, as they lack the anonymity of larger communities. Similarly, in the most conservative communities, venturing outside of the community during rumspringa is frowned upon. For example, most of Swartzentruber Amish, one of the largest and most conservative sub-groups of the Old Order Amish, do not allow teenagers to leave the community during rumspringa at will.[16][17]

In popular culture

Levi Miller's 1989 novel Ben's Wayne describes the rumspringa of an 18-year-old Amish youth in Holmes County, Ohio, during the fall of 1960. According to Richard A. Stevick, the novel is a realistic portrayal of the rumspringa of that time.[18]

Rumspringa is the subject of the film documentary Devil's Playground (2002), which was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary and for three documentary Emmy Awards—Best Documentary, Editing, and Direction.[19]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Joe Wittmer, The Gentle People: Personal Reflections of Amish Life (Educational Media Corporation, 2001, ISBN 978-1930572133).
  2. Donald B. Kraybill, The Riddle of Amish Culture (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001, ISBN 978-0801867729).
  3. Abigail King, What do Amish, Mennonite, rumspringa mean? A guide to terms used in Lancaster County's Plain community Lancaster Online, September 13, 2019. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Tom Shachtman, Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish (North Point Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0865476875).
  5. Behalt Cyclorama Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center. Retrieved May 24, 2022.
  6. Heinz Gaugel Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center. Retrieved May 24, 2022.
  7. Susan Biesecker-Mast, Behalt: a rhetoric of remembrance and transformation Mennonite Quarterly Review 73(3) (July 1999):601–615. Retrieved May 24, 2022.
  8. Carl F. Bowman, Brethren Society: The Cultural Transformation of a "Peculiar People" (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995, ISBN 978-0801849053).
  9. 9.0 9.1 John A. Hostetler, Amish Society (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993, ISBN 978-0801844423).
  10. Brad Igou, The Amish in their Own Words: Amish Writings from 25 Years of Family Life Magazine (Herald Press, 1999).
  11. Steven M. Nolt, A History of the Amish (Good Books, 2016, ISBN 978-1680990652).
  12. 12.0 12.1 The Amish American Experience, PBS, February 21, 2012. Retrieved May 24, 2022.
  13. Charles E. Hurst and David L. McConnell, An Amish Paradox: Diversity and Change in the World's Largest Amish Community (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0801893995).
  14. Donald B. Kraybill and James P. Hurd, Horse-and-Buggy Mennonites: Hoofbeats of Humility in a Postmodern World (Penn State University Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0271028668).
  15. Ammon Monroe Aurand Jr., Little Known Facts About The Amish And The Mennonites: A Study Of The Social Customs And Habits Of Pennsylvania's Plain People (Literary Licensing, LLC, 2011, ISBN 978-1258027162).
  16. Charles E. Hurst and David L. McConnell, An Amish Paradox: Diversity and Change in the World's Largest Amish Community (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0801893995).
  17. Joe Mackall, Plain Secrets: An Outsider among the Amish (Beacon Press, 2008, ISBN 0807010650).
  18. Richard A. Stevick, Growing Up Amish: The Rumspringa Years (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014, ISBN 978-1421413716).
  19. Devil's Playground (2002 film) Awards IMDb. Retrieved May 24, 2022.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Aurand, Ammon Monroe, Jr. Little Known Facts About The Amish And The Mennonites: A Study Of The Social Customs And Habits Of Pennsylvania's Plain People. Literary Licensing, LLC, 2011 (original 1938). ISBN 978-1258027162
  • Bowman, Carl F. Brethren Society: The Cultural Transformation of a "Peculiar People". Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995. ISBN 978-0801849053
  • Hostetler, John A. Amish Society . Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993. ISBN 978-0801844423
  • Hurst, Charles E., and David L. McConnell. An Amish Paradox: Diversity and Change in the World's Largest Amish Community. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0801893995
  • Igou, Brad. The Amish in their Own Words: Amish Writings from 25 Years of Family Life Magazine'. Herald Press, 1999. ASIN B007652QRW
  • Kraybill, Donald B., and James P. Hurd. Horse-and-Buggy Mennonites: Hoofbeats of Humility in a Postmodern World. Penn State University Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0271028668
  • Mackall, Joe. Plain Secrets: An Outsider among the Amish. Beacon Press, 2008. ISBN 0807010650
  • Meyers, Thomas J. The Old Order Amish: To Remain in the Faith or to Leave Paper presented at the American Sociological Association meetings on August 20, 1992, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Retrieved May 23, 2022.
  • Meyers, Thomas J. and Steven M. Nolt. An Amish Patchwork: Indiana's Old Orders in the Modern World. Indiana University Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0253217554
  • Miller, Levi. Ben's Wayne. Good Books, 1989. ISBN 978-0934672771
  • Nolt, Steven M. A History of the Amish. Good Books, 2016. ISBN 978-1680990652
  • Shachtman, Tom. Rumspringa: To Be or Not to Be Amish. North Point Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0865476875
  • Stevick, Richard A. Growing Up Amish: The Rumspringa Years. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014. ISBN 978-1421413716
  • Wittmer, Joe. The Gentle People: Personal Reflections of Amish Life. Educational Media Corporation, 2001. ISBN 978-1930572133

External links

All links retrieved December 22, 2022.


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