If you've ever traveled to rural parts of the U.S., you may have noticed a lot of homes with large metal stars (some are constructed out of wood, too) on them. They're referred to as Amish Barn Stars, Barnstars, and Pennsylvania Stars, and there's a lot of myth and superstition surrounding this prominent exterior decor. One of the wildest urban myths is that the metal star is a code for the homeowners identifying as swingers, which isn't true — at least, not universally.
The rumor seems to have started in 2007 when someone started a thread on stripersonline.com claiming that the metal star means the homeowners are swingers, and the conclusion seems totally arbitrary. "My wife and I decide to start a rumor - the star means you are a swinger," the user wrote. According to the New York Post, there are several "secret signs" that a homeowner is a swinger, and all should be taken with a grain of salt, as none of these signs have been substantiated. For instance, pampas grass, pink flamingos, and pineapple decor also allegedly means that you're in the midst of a family of swingers.
What do metal stars on houses actually mean?
These metal stars allegedly originate from German settlers who came to Pennsylvania between 1727 and 1775, all of whom emigrated from the Rhine region of Germany. These immigrants belonged to the Amish, Mennonite, and Lutheran groups. Some of these folks brought with them various symbols and patterns to put on their barns, but over time, these symbols simplified and became a more unifying star. The stars became more popular after the Civil War, as they were believed to be patriotic and they also represented barn builders. The original stars were believed to manifest good fortune.
According to Pioneer Thinking, the original settlers "painted colorful geometric patterns on their barns. Many were floral designs, birds and, stars, many of them look[ing] like a quilt patch. The people assigned specific meanings for each symbol. Somehow through time the geometric symbols evolved through the Pennsylvania Dutch farmers as ‘hex’ signs. They were to bring the families good luck.”
Residents who live in a home with a Barnstar shared, via The Voice of Pelham, “They are everywhere in Vermont, and that is where we spend a month in October. We inquired when we purchased a few while in Vermont, and were told that the star signifies ‘Welcome.’ In Vermont where there are old barns everywhere, the stars on the houses or barns are more rustic than the one I painted on our house. They are usually a rust color. I know that they date way back to horse and buggy days.”
It's also believed that the history of the metal stars go back even before the Amish. It's possible they come from China and were considered "good luck stars." One woman states, “The people at the store told me they started as Chinese good luck stars and were later adopted by the Amish with the same meaning,” per The Voice of Pelham.
Nowadays, some homeowners paint their stars, as certain colors are believed to represent various meanings. According to metalbarnstars.com, black means protection, blue means protection, peace, and calmness, brown means earth and friendship, green means growth and fertility, orange means success in career, red means emotion, passion, and creativity, violet alludes to something sacred, white represents the power of the moon, and yellow means health.
Now ya know!