Why Are Mennonites Called “Nappers?”

Mennonites are a small denomination of Anabaptists that are often associated with the Amish. Despite their differences, there’s a lot of discussion around their similar belief systems and practices, and some of that has yielded interesting “nicknames” for each group — like “schmelly.”

But there’s another popular name, specifically for Mennonites, that some people call them.

Nappers.

This may sound odd to someone who hasn’t experienced Mennonites as a culture first-hand. After all, why would an entire group of Christians be known for “napping,” of all things?

We have some of the answers (plus some other interesting details) below.

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What Makes People Call Mennonites “Nappers?”

The short answer is simple: Mennonites have a reputation in some areas for napping through Sunday church services.

The long answer is a little more complicated.

As we stated up top, Mennonites have a number of reputations in pop culture. But they also have a set of reputations among those who know Mennonites (or are Mennonite) as well.

One of these qualities is that Mennonites like to take naps.

This may not sound significant, but it’s not just about sleeping.

Instead, it goes hand-in-hand with the concept of a Mennonite work ethic, that being a concept of spending many hours of manual labor completing a task to its natural end-point instead of phoning it in, postponing work, or leaving something unfinished.

Naturally, this would make anyone tired — including Mennonites. And because Mennonites work like that every day (in theory), they’re frequently tired.

That means they take naps on their day off — commonly Sunday.

However, Mennonites also attend church on Sunday, just like almost every other denomination. But when you’ve been working that hard every week, it can be equally hard to stay awake during church service.

As a result, you might find some Mennonites napping in church on Sunday.

You might also find that Mennonites fall asleep easily during leisure time, especially if they have blue collar occupations.

Personally, I can attest to the fact that family reunions, church functions, and holiday get-togethers had a few nappers when I was growing up. I never though much about it until I heard someone call Mennonites “nappers” in my public school.

But this is more or less a stereotype, kind of like calling Mennonites “schmellies.”

So where can you actually hear this said?

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Where Are Mennonites Called “Nappers?”

Generally speaking, Mennonites are called “nappers” in areas where there is an intermixed Mennonite and non-Mennonite presence.

Lancaster, PA is a prime example of this. Lancaster is home to several Mennonite denominations, and it also has an enormous non-Mennonite (and ex-Mennonite) population.

As a result, this is an area where you may hear someone call Mennonites “nappers” as a fun jab.

Other areas with mixed populations of Mennonites and non-Mennonites can experience the same phenomenon, especially if there are any predisposed notions held against Mennonites.

(There usually aren’t, but stereotypes can still exist.)

It’s also worth noting that Mennonites can call other Mennonites “nappers” since it’s not necessarily a derogatory term — it’s more of an observation.

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Do Mennonites Really Nap That Much?

There’s not any kind of statistical analysis that’s gone into whether Mennonites truly nap more than the average person.

But I can speak from personal, anecdotal experience in this case since I was raised Mennonite.

From that experience, I can definitely say that I’ve seen my Mennonite family and friends take naps much more often than non-Mennonites I know.

That could be on a Sunday afternoon during a football game or a random afternoon on a weekday.

Essentially, if the occasion allowed for it, I’d say that the Mennonites I knew back in those days took the opportunity to nap much more often than non-Mennonites.

This was more true for older men than any other demographic of Mennonites I knew, though some teens also napped pretty often.

I can’t really say why — and I never heard of the “napper” nickname until I stopped being Mennonite. So at the time, it didn’t really strike me as strange.

But in hindsight (and possibly with the error of biased perspective), I think the “napper” nickname definitely fits.

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We often write about Mennonites, Lancaster, and other topics about Southern Pennsylvania, in particular.

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