What is a Circle Letter?
Have you ever heard of a circle letter? Circle letters are very common in Amish communities, especially family circle letters.
And an Amish circle letter is simply a pack of letters that get sent around to every person included in the correspondence.
When someone starts a circle letter, they make a list of addresses of everyone that they wish to include in the circle. The first person writes a letter and sends it to the second person on the list.
The second person will read the letter, add a letter of her own, and send it on to the third person on the list. And this continues until everyone on the list has received the pack and written a letter.
The last person on the list will send it back to the first person. She will remove her old letter from the pack and add a new one. And the pack of letters just keeps on circling.
Many times it takes several months for the letters to complete the circle, and the news may seem stale. But typically it's a way of keeping in touch with family or friends that you don't see very often.
In our modern world, letter writing is almost a thing of the past. And we call it snail mail because it's a slow way of communicating.
But the Amish don't keep in touch via text, social media, or even phone calls. So letter writing is still a common way for them to communicate.
If there is urgent news to deliver, they will use a telephone. (Many of them have a phone shack at the end of their lane or on a neighbor's property.) But you would probably also be surprised how fast news can travel without the use of modern technology.
My Amish Family Circle Letter
I grew up Amish in Lancaster County, and most of my cousins are still with the Old Order Amish. And for the past several years, I have been included in a circular letter with my dad's sisters and nieces (my aunts and cousins).
One of my Old Order cousins started the group, and she included both of my sisters that are conservative Mennonites. I don't think she was going to include me, but my sister sent it to me anyway. (Sometimes others in the group can include someone that they think would be interested.)
Several times I've thought about dropping out because I never know what to write (my life is so different from theirs). But it's a nice way to keep in touch with them, beings I haven't seen most of them for many years.
There are twelve letters in the pack when it arrives. (My dad only had two sisters. So there aren't as many as some families have.) So I usually sit down and read them. But then it may be another week or two until I get around to writing a letter and sending it back on its way.
Conservative Mennonites Circle Letter
One of my brothers is still Amish, but most of my immediate family are conservative Mennonites. And we still have a circle letter in our family as well.
Despite the fact that everyone has cell phones and can text or use WhatsApp, etc., we still keep up the traditional family circle letter.
And honestly, I don't have a lot of contact with most of my family. So I always find out some stale news from the pack of letters that arrives about twice a year.
My husband has also been in a circular letter with some of his Mennonite cousins. And since the cousins do the writing, some of the letters are written by the men.
And they seem to have some good humor going on in their letters. So interestingly enough, I find the men's letters a lot more entertaining. The women often just write about what they've been doing, etc.
Why Would Someone Start a Circle Letter?
As mentioned, it's very common to have a family circle letter (especially if the family is somewhat scattered in different areas).
Sometimes ladies that were good friends as teenagers will have a circle letter. And really, anyone who wants to stay in contact with a group of friends might start a circle letter.
Occasionally you will find a circle letter with a group of people who have experienced a similar hardship in life (maybe a child died of cancer, etc.) And sometimes they don't actually know each other in person, but someone connects them.
An Amish circle letter can be started because of common interest.
And there can be numerous reasons why a person would start a circle letter and connect a group of people. But they are usually started as a way to keep in touch or to support each other.
And sometimes the men get involved as well, but it is more common among the ladies.
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New Order Amish vs. Old Order Amish
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