As spring gets ever closer, the Inn is gearing up for a welcome season of visitors arriving for secluded romantic getaways and rustic vacation retreats. The birds and the bees are in the air, reminding us that spring is a time of love, fresh energy, new beginnings, and new life. It brings to mind the Amish concept of Rumspringa (or Rumschpringe), which signifies the years of adolescence when adolescent members of the community expand their boundaries beyond childhood, begin to define their adult character, and enter into a phase of courtship and the search for a spouse.
While not all Amish sects use the term, it’s an old Pennsylvania German word that literally means “running around” and in many Amish communities the teenagers are afforded a certain degree of freedom to learn and explore the non-Amish world. For the first time in their lives, they’re able to spend more time with others of their own age. Natural teenage rebellion is tolerated to a degree as the elders get a good-natured chuckle at the impetuous rumpsringa of the youth in their communities. It’s a time roughly during the ages of 14 to 16 when the young man or woman is no longer a child but has not yet taken the baptism rite into the church. Therefore, caught somewhere in the middle, they represent more liberal membership of the community during this time of life, often wearing modern clothes, opting out of group prayer, or venturing into town.
It’s an important time for formal courtship in the community as well. This courtship, as you might imagine, is still very formal and closely observed by parents and church elders. The Amish are a close-knit community and take these rites of passage very seriously. The Rumspringa is important because the only two ways out of childhood in the Amish community are to either accept the baptism and all the formal obligations of the church and community, or to leave the community entirely. Very few members opt to leave, of course.
Traditional Amish courtship is not so different from the more conservative varieties of dating in secular society. A young man courting a young woman will often drive her to and from community events in his buggy, not unlike the proud kid with Dad’s car picking his girlfriend up for a date. The casual dating and courtship eventually progresses to a formal proposal of marriage, assuming both youths decide to take the church baptism.
The ways and culture of the Amish people are a fascinating feature of Ohio’s Amish Country and we get asked about their way of life all the time. Spring is a great time to get out there and tour the back country roads and talk to some of them yourself. Local Amish families are exceptionally friendly and kind-hearted, usually more than willing to discuss their way of life, which means so much to them. Even the Amish teens going wild in the season of Rumspringa have a pride in their heritage and an openness to visitors.
Come out for a visit and breathe the fresh air of spring. We could all use a little “running around” to shake off the hibernation of the cold winter months.