Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas on the Farm and Other Historical Holiday Happenings 2014

I'm at the point where the sentimental nostalgia of the old-time Christmas's that I regularly write about here have become a reality, for I believe I spend more time celebrating Christmas past than I do Christmas present (see links at the bottom of the page). I am being serious here. Every weekend from Thanksgiving through the first weekend in January I am in period clothing and presenting Christmas's of long, long ago by way of living history inside historical structures, teaching the public about the social historical holiday norms no longer a part of our society, and singing the old carols from an era when Christmas was more about feasting and Christ than about toys and snow.
With that being said, I am hoping you will enjoy this week's post consisting of mostly photos (with my own snappy commentary) and a couple video clips showing some of my more recent  2014 Christmas past excursions. These are but three of the five or six Christmas time travel journeys I've taken so far this year, with more to come.
I hope you enjoy them:
Let's begin with Christmas on the farm...historic Waterloo Farm built in the mid-19th century way out in rural Munith, Michigan. I fell in love with this place nearly a decade ago and have been celebrating Christmas Past here for more than half that time.

As you can see, throughout the 19th century additions were added onto the original structure.

Many historical museums tend to align themselves with the gaudy or the "country living" style of holiday decore', but the fine folks at Waterloo decorate very tasteful with a strong dose of history, which I appreciate.

Since the sitting room was filled with spinners (women and their spinning wheels), fellow 21st Michigan member, Jackie, and I spent our time enjoying Christmas in the formal parlor. Usually our group is in the sitting room so this was a little different, but we enjoyed ourselves and spoke of the use of the formal parlor during special occasions such as Christmas, weddings, funerals, or for special guests or events.

Here are a couple of videos I took of a woman playing the pump organ and of the parlor itself.
Hearing the sounds emanating from a 130 year old organ in this old parlor is a time-travel experience in itself.
Okay, I realize the woman playing the organ is not dressed 100% accurate - mind you, she's not a living historian - but the musical pleasure she gave us far out-weighed any fashion inaccuracies you might catch, don't you think?
Plus, she was so very nice to speak with!

Off to the pioneer log cabin we go...
Just outside the house is a log cabin used to show the pioneering life of the settler family before the farm house was built. Again, the decorations were done very tasteful and, as far as I could tell, historically accurate.

I loved the dried fruit ornaments hanging from the cabin Christmas tree.

Christmas dinner preparation. Yeah...I'm thinking of Ma Ingalls here. How can I not? I imagine Christmas with the Ingalls family wasn't too far off from what you see here.

Over at historic Greenfield Village, I was asked to help with a Soldiers Aid Society presentation which took place at the Smiths Creek Depot (built in the late 1850s). This is the infamous depot where, in 1863, an angry conductor threw a young Thomas Edison off the train when the boy accidentally set the baggage car on fire while conducting a chemical experiment using phosphorus. 
For the wonderful Holiday Nights Christmas celebration, folks are taken back to roughly the same time of the Edison incident - the period of the American Civil War - and the good folks of town, mostly ladies, have gathered many items to send to our Yankee boys off fighting in the south, things such as canned goods, newspapers and magazines, crochet items, blankets, clothing, and even games. 
On the table are many items being prepared to be sent off as Christmas cheer to our northern boys fighting the southern rebellion. Underneath is one of the boxes being packed for shipping.

As you can tell by viewing the left side of this photograph, there were many boxes to be shipped. Our boys, all far from home, would have a very happy Christmas this year!

Mrs. Lynch was the head of our local Soldiers Aid Society, and she and her husband invited me to help with the preparation of items.

Besides revising my role as the local postmaster, where I explained to the visitors the importance of the mail to the men so far away, I also found myself in charge of the cook stove, which (of course) doubles as a heating stove! The room was toasty!

I also cooked the salted ham (a "gift" from the pigs of Firestone Farm) on top of the stove. It was pretty darn good!

The station master and his family lived here in the depot back in its hey day, and the folks at Greenfield Village decorated what was once the parlor in the same probable manner as may have been done in the 19th century.

Here is a silhouette of Mrs. Lynch. I took this photo from the outside window - it turned out exactly as I had hoped!

Here is the Soldiers Aid Society group of Friday December 5th: That's me on the left with Village historical presenter Stephanie next to me, followed by Mr. & Mrs. Lynch. We had a wonderful time that evening! I enjoyed myself immensely.

As many of you know, I head up a period vocal group known as Simply Dickens. Our specialty is Old World Christmas carols, and we enjoy performing the music that radio does not play. In fact, we've found that most of our audience are usually not too familiar with most of our music at all.
But by the end of our show, we - and the music we perform - have gained a slew of new fans.
Ladies & Gentlemen, meet Simply Dickens, purveyors of old-world Christmas carols such as (among many others) The Boars Head Carol, Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day, The Goucestershire Wassail, All You That Are Good Fellows, Riu Riu Chiu, The Wexford Carol, and Masters in This Hall.

This is Beckie. Say "Hi" to Beckie. ("Hi Beckie!!"). Beckie is a seamstress beyond compare. She made everything you see here but the muff. That new hood is simply awesome! Great job Beckie!

Since Simply Dickens sings about wassailing all over the town, a couple of us saw it fit to pose for a photograph with some wassailers (otherwise known as mummers). In this photograph you see Kim and I with our new friends.

Here is one of the old carols we do, Masters In This Hall:

Christmas has always been a special time for me; my love for the holiday comes directly from my mother, for she would begin the preparations, including decorations, and start to play Christmas music even before Thanksgiving which, in the 1960s and 1970s, was almost unheard of (unlike today when radio stations become full-fledged Christmas stations sometimes even before Hallowe'en!). And to be able to enjoy and celebrate in the manner that I do has been a life-long dream.
It really has.
I suppose I could say Ebenezer Scrooge's nephew Fred speaks for me in Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" novel:
I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -- apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that -- as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.  And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!"


The links below will take you to some of my previous Christmas past experiences, including loads of photographs.

Waterloo: Ghosts of Christmas Past 2011
Spirits of Christmas Past 2013
Fort Wayne 2013: An Immersion Experience: Christmas at the Fort 
A Christmas Eve Pictorial Through Christmas Past (Revisited)  2013
All You Have To Do Is Ask: Having An 1860s Christmas Celebration

Of course, I'm sure I'll have at least another post or three about Christmas before the season ends.
Stay tuned.


No comments: