Amish Customs and Culture for Funerals and Burials, Death and Dying

The Amish interest people because their lifestyles are so different to ours. Or are they? How different are the Amish to us? What are their customs,  culture and religion like, especially for funerals and burials, death and dying?

A large percentage of Amish live on homesteads in Lancaster County. Homesteading is what they have been doing for centuries. For those who are not Amish , their customs and traditions intrigue. We have an article for you on an Amish funeral and what takes place.

These are simple ceremonies that take place involving the immediate family and the Amish community who go about preparing the funeral plans. These are ancient Amish customs that have been practiced for hundreds of years. The Amish way of life and the customs that they follow are very different to those of other religions.

For the Amish, when a person has died they are no longer there. Instead they have gone to be with God in the afterlife. Therefore, an Amish funeral will focus on the goodness and praise for God, rather than focus on the person themselves.


Usually, when a person in the community dies, he is buried 3 days after his death. The bodies are only embalmed if the state they are living in demands it. Otherwise, various members of the community are involved. While some may help with the preparation of the body, others will help build the coffin, sit with the body while the grave is being dug, help hand-dig the grave or help prepare the food for the meal after the funeral.


Upon death the body is washed, and clothes used to dress the body are usually made by the family. The men are dressed in a white vest, white pants and white shirt. The women are dressed in a long white dress, cap and apron. Often the cap and apron where the same ones she wore on her wedding day. At no time is make-up applied to the body. The dresses are plain, simple and unadorned.


The coffin is also simple. It is handmade by the Amish, usually out of pine, and has no handles or any veneer. It is simple in its construction and has no padding inside. The final resting place for the coffin will usually be in a local Amish cemetery.


People are able to view the body on three separate occasions. The first is when it is lying in an open coffin in a suitable room of the house. The room has first been stripped of all furniture and decorations before it is fit for the first viewing. A small service will take place here. The second viewing takes place at the funeral itself. Some branches of Amish do not have formal churches, so this could take place in a barn or in the deceased's house. The third viewing is at the graveside before the body is interred where a final service takes place.


4 good friends of the deceased will be chosen to carry the body from the house to the black, horse-drawn hearse, to the place of the funeral and then finally to the graveyard. If the person was single, then single friends are chosen. If married, then the bearers will be married.

It is these 4 friends who are responsible for getting the room ready to receive the coffin, digging the grave and getting the hearse ready to transport the coffin.


3 days after the death the person is buried. 3 Amish women dressed in black at an Amish funeral This is because Amish customs are that it takes 3 days to hand-dig the grave. The service is attended by friends and family, and all the mourners where black. The immediate family will wear black for a year. Their grief is private and they do not show their emotions.

The 2 hour funeral service is delivered in Pennsylvania Dutch, a form of Dutch, and is used, not as a time to focus on the deceased and to praise him, but rather to give thanks and praise to God. The deceased is show respect but there are no eulogies.    
An Amish Cemetery  - Courtesy Cindy_FL

 At the end of the service the deceased's name is mentioned, his birth date and his death date. That's all.

The pine coffin is left plain. There are no photos or flowers on the coffin. During the service there are no sung hymns. A hymn may be read out, and the Lord's Prayer is said. However the basis of the funeral is a sermon and prayers.


The preacher who led the funeral will lead the mourners to the graveyard. This is either an official Amish burial ground or at a home plot on a farm. A final prayer is given before the coffin is closed for the last time.

Ropes are used to lower the coffin into the ground by the bearers and members of the family take turns to throw sods of earth onto the coffin before the grave is filled in with spades by the bearers while the mourners watch.

Traditionally, Amish tombstones are plain and fairly uniform, with a simple epitaph that states the name, birth and death dates and age in years, months and days. The plots are bare, and usually no foliage is planted or flowers placed on the graves. Children usually are buried in unmarked graves or have small headstones that lie flat on the ground. In some communities Amish customs are that the tombstones are not inscribed and the elders maintain a map of the cemetery to identify occupants in each plot.


After the burial Amish customs dictate that the mourners will go back to the house of the deceased to have simple Amish food.

Friends and family will continue to visit the mourning family every Sunday for a year. They may also visit during the week as well.


If you enjoyed reading this article you may also enjoy reading about the
Amish way of life or try a genuine Amish friendship bread recipe . And, if you are feeling industrious then have a look at our Amish recipes covering a range of meals.

For just $4.99 (American Dollars) you can access more than a 200 authentic Amish recipes . You will be able to download the Amish recipes as an e-book in .pdf format for a quick download from a 3rd party provider and secure network.

Amish Recipes and Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking
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