Rumspringa

From Academic Kids

Rumspringa, sometimes spelled rumschpringe, is a traditional rite of passage in the Amish religion, and describes a period lasting months or years during which adolescents are released from the church and its rules. The custom is part of the Amish belief that only informed adults can "accept Christ" and be baptized, along with the belief that the unbaptized cannot enter heaven.

After turning sixteen, Amish teenagers are allowed to live among the "English", or non-Amish North Americans, and experience a way of life outside of Amish culture. Traditionally, they are welcomed back in order to be baptized in the Amish church no matter what they do in this time, but once they do so they are bound to the church for life. Most of them do not wander far from their family's homes during this time, and an estimated 85 to 95 percent ultimately choose to join the church. However this number would vary from community to community, and within a community between more acculturated and less acculturated Amish. Swartzentruber Amish have for example a higher retention rate than the New Order Amish within the Holmes County, Ohio community. This figure was significantly lower as recently as the 1950s, and among the first colonial Amish families it is said that there was not one family on record where all the children in the same family were all baptized into the Amish church.

The nature of the rumspringa period differs from individual to individual and from community to community. In large Amish communities like in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Holmes County, Ohio, and Elkhart-Lagrange, Indiana, the Amish are numerous enough that there exists an Amish youth subculture. During the rumspringa period, the Amish youth in these large communities will join one of various groups ranging from the most rebellious to the least. These groups are not divided across traditional Amish church district boundaries. In many smaller communities, Amish youth may have a much more restricted rumspringa period due to the smaller size of the communities. In the smaller communities, Amish youth may be less likely to partake in strong rebellious behaviour since the annonymity offered in the larger communities is absent.

Sarasota, Florida is popular destination for Amish youth during the rumspringa period, as well as for Amish and Mennonite retirees.

Etymology

The word, literally meaning "running around" in Pennsylvania German, is a contraction of rum, an adverb meaning "around" (also used as a separable prefix as in the case of rumschpringe), and the verb schpringe, meaning "to run" or "to skip."

The word rumschpringe is closely related to the standard German word rumspringen, although the rum has more of the meaning of "around" than "about". Omitting the he syllable leaving only the rum is widely accepted in colloquial German and does not change the meaning of the prefix. The modern German word springen means "to jump" and bears no meaning in the form of "to run" anymore. In Swiss German, springe however does - besides meaning "to jump" - also mean "to run". In modern German "to skip" would rather be translated with the verb hüpfen. The German noun Herumspringen (literally "to jump around") correlates with the Pennsylvanian German word rumschpringe, describing a state of change or unrest, but bears no correlation to the Amish custom of rumschpringe.

Recent popular exposure

Rumspringa is the subject of the film documentary The Devil's Playground, as well as a UPN reality television series Amish in the City. The practice has also been the subject of plotlines on the TV shows ER, Las Vegas and Judging Amy, as well as being a part of the Abram's Daughters series of novels from Beverly Lewis. The Dutch band The Nits had a song named Rumspringa on their 2003 album entitled 1974.

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