Amish Pucker UP

Bet you aren’t aware of it. Those who yearn to imitate – or become – Amish, prepare to do it. For me, just knowing about the required act is enough.

There’s a “greet one another with a holy kiss” Bible verse (Romans 16:16). The verse is one of many the Amish use to mandate a behavior.

A Biblical scholar I am not, nor do I wish to debate the translation or context. I do believe what was meant, in the Apostle Paul's original letter, was referencing the common custom in his day;
a kiss on the forehead, lips, or hand as a greeting, affection, or sign of respect. It’d be similar to us today saying, “Internet hugs,” or “Kisses to your family,” rather than a literal embrace or kiss.

“Harvey," I asked my wonderful son-in-law, "Did the people in your Amish church kiss?”

“Only the preachers and the bishop,” he answered.

So I had a discussion with one of my fave groups of those who left Amish. Wanna listen in?
We did this ONLY in the mornings of the Church service . . . I don't remember if it happens at funerals and weddings, it’s been too long, said one.

Our ministers and especially bishops would do it anytime they met each other, even in town, added another.
I’ve seen some of the older dedicated bishops do it anytime they meet.

It's a requirement in the New Order Amish Church after one becomes a member. In some communities everybody did it. And I mean everybody who is a member.

Hey guys, help me understand. Are you saying the holy kiss was a full frontal lip kiss . . . men to men and women to women? I asked.

Quickly the replies abounded, In our Old Order the preachers and married men would kiss on the mouth.

I remember there being an older girl who’d 'turn the cheek' (as they called it) and a few of the ministers’ wives thought she was snobbish for doing so.

Where I grew up it was required if you were a member. You got in trouble with the church if you didn't make lip contact. There was this one guy who would always lick his lips right before.

Nothing like watching a bunch of Amish men and women kiss each other on the mouth.

Oh you guys, I added, You have the best wit and sense of humor.

I'm remembering a girl who'd kiss like a fish - you could hear the smack clear across the room, came a response.

The younger men do the "cheek bump,"
explained another.

While Amish, I practiced the holy kiss. This one lady always stuck her tongue out. Talk about wanting to spit after being kissed! One Sunday morning I saw her own mother turn her cheek. From then on I turned my cheek to her too, confided a third.
Fifty years ago, the Beechy Church I was part of then, did it. And yes, sometimes there was 'something extra' and sometimes there was urgent scrambling to avoid greeting some people.

One girl who’d bump the lips so hard that once another lady had a sore on her lip and it started bleeding! If you had a sore, you didn't have to, wouldn't have wanted to have a sore all the time but, sure was nice to smile sweetly and gesture towards the lip so they know, no kissing today!

I think it's just wrong to make someone do it, but if two people feel its proper and is a meaningful way of greeting, I think they should have the right to kiss. Just like a hug in today's culture.

I can say I’ve seen it happen. BTW, this Amish holy kiss thing, I DO NOT MISS IT!

Thanks to my "new English" pals, I'm learning first hand authentic, intimacies about the Amish!

I appreciate the practice of warmly greeting church members; after all they're our spiritual family. We need to show and receive love, and exhibit unity. But I draw the line at full-on lip kisses. Hey, I don’t even like sharing the same communion cup. What do you think and would you practice this literal “holy kiss” with others?   ~ Brenda

(c)Copyright 2013, Brenda Nixon.


  1. I don't think girls of my era were given the tools -- or even the okay -- to deflect unwanted advances from guys, whether inside or outside the church. We were expected to be "nice." I certainly wouldn't have wanted to give guys another chance to do as they please! I have too many painful memories of trying to hide from creeps in a place where I should have felt welcome and safe -- in a church worshipping God.

  2. One small group in San Antonia Texas like 25 years ago stumbled upon those Bible verses and they decided as a group to put it in practice. They had no Amish or Mennonite to ask how to do it, so they took every word literally and kissed everyone male and female alike. You can only imagine the scoffing we did when we visited them. I asked how do know it is not something more they want with men kissing women? They said, "You can sense it in the handshake and the kiss." But they did change their holy kissing and men did only men and women did women. That community has long ago dispersed.

    1. Yes Nancy you make a valid point.

      Interesting comment Katie.

      My daughter, who is a RN (and married to a former Amish), just about creeped out when I shared this post with her. All she could think of was the myriad germs being spread!

  3. I had no idea about these things, and I grew up with one foot in Amish country. My grandmother had even taught in a one room Amish schoolhouse. Apparently we still only got the visitor's vantage point, and since Gram died last month I can't ask her if she'd seen more when they lived and worked there (around Sugarcreek, mid century).

  4. I had not fully considered the implications of kissing in the church today. Adds a new dimension to the already frustrating cultural oddities that often exist in churches. Thankful that its not more widely accepted!

    1. Good observation Rachel. Most people who "know" the Amish or have Amish friends staunchly claim they understand this culture but, as you astutely observed, "we still only got the visitor's vantage point." Amish are skilled at privacy. People with extended family members who are Amish tell me they don't really know them.

      PS Dosa, thanks for your comment. Hope you'll come back again or take time to read the previous posts and interesting comments.

  5. This would be true, and even most of the horror stories likely are. It is one the shameful interpretations made by the Amish/Conservative Mennonite culture that refuses correction.

  6. It's really only recently that kissing on the lips was considered to be ONLY for lovers. It was common for friends and family members until the 1930s...

    1. Perhaps. This post refers to a sect within the Amish that misunderstands and abuses scripture in an effort to be righteous. Thanks for reading.