Amish Coming Of Age Traditions: Rumspringa

Rumspringa is a rite of passage during adolescence, translated in English as “jumping/hopping around”, used in some Amish and Mennonite communities. The Amish, a subsect of the Anabaptist Christian movement, intentionally segregate themselves from other communities as a part of their faith.

For Amish youth, the Rumspringa normally begins around the age of 14 to 16 and ends when a youth chooses baptism within the Amish church, or instead leaves the community. Rumspringa occurs between ages 16 and 21.

For Amish youth, rumspringa, usually translated as “running around,” marks the intermediary time when they finally have unsupervised weekends away from family and are yet to be under the authority of the church.

When Amish teenagers turn 16, they are encouraged to explore the world and experience life with the hope that their venturing out will ultimately drive them back to a commitment with the church. An individual’s rumspringa ends when he or she decides to get baptized and commit his or her life to the church and the Amish community.

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.

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. Their behavior during this time does not necessarily prevent them from returning for adult baptism into the Amish church.

While Amish communities adhere to incredibly strict rules, rumspringa is intended to remind the youth that their being in the community and church is voluntary. Though it varies from community to community, rumspringa offers Amish children the chance to experience worldly pleasures, often for the first time.

For some this means relatively benign changes such as buying more modern street clothes or purchasing a DVD player, though for others it means little more than performing s-e-xual acts and indulging in drugs or alcohol.