tombstonesAlthough funeral practices vary across Amish settlements, all reflect the core Amish values of simplicity, humility, and mutual aid, as family and friends yield to eternal verities.

The community springs into action at the word of a death. Family and friends assume farm, business, and household chores, freeing the immediate family. Funeral plans involve food preparation, seating arrangements, and accommodations for a large number of horses and carriages.

Well-established funeral rituals relieve the family of difficult funeral choices. In some settlements, a non-Amish undertaker moves the body to a funeral home for embalming. Within a day, the body, without cosmetic improvements, returns to the home in a simple, hardwood coffin. Family members of the same sex dress the body in white. Deceased women may wear the white cape and apron worn at their wedding.

Friends and relatives visit the family and view the body in a room on the first floor of the home for two days prior to the funeral. Meanwhile, community members dig the grave by hand in a nearby family cemetery. Several hundred guests attend the funeral, which is held in a barn, a shop, or the family’s home. During the simple hour-and-a-half service, ministers read hymns and scriptures, offer prayers, and preach a sermon.

The hearse, a large, black carriage pulled by horses, leads a long procession of other carriages to the burial ground. A brief viewing and graveside service mark the return of dust to dust. Pallbearers lower the coffin and shovel soil into the grave as the bishop reads a hymn. Small, equal-sized tombstones indicate the place of the deceased in the community of equality. Close friends and family members then return to the home for a meal.

Additional information

  • See pp. 247-49 of chapter 13 in Donald B. Kraybill, Karen M. Johnson-Weiner, and Steven M. Nolt, The Amish (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013).
  • See chapter 8, “A Big Valley Amish Funeral,” in Stephen E. Scott, The Amish Wedding and Other Special Occasions of the Old Order Communities (Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 1988).

About the site

Amish Studies is an academic website developed by the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College to provide reliable information on Amish life and culture. Designed to assist scholars, students and the general public, the site was developed with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Amish population statistics are updated annually in the summer. Other information is updated periodically.

For more in-depth discussion about the Amish:
The Amish book cover

Authors: Donald Kraybill, Karen Johnson-Weiner, and Steven Nolt (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013; paperback, 2018)

Recent books

In partnership with the Johns Hopkins University Press, the Young Center Books in Anabaptist and Pietist Studies publishes innovative and creative scholarship. The latest volume in the series explores the roles and experiences of Amish women:
The Lives of Amish Women book cover
Author: Karen Johnson-Weiner (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020)