Friday, January 15, 2021

The End of the Season: An 1860s Christmas Afterglow

Covid has not only knocked the crap out of  many people physically,  but it also has collateral damage---including those of us who love doing living history.  Reenacting was hit pretty hard;  nearly every reenactment across our Nation was cancelled in 2020,  and the first part of  '21 looks to be more of the same,  to some extent.
We'll see how the second half of the year goes.
Now,  before you come at me with a snarky  "boo hoo"  for missing my favorite hobby,  remember that we all have our right to complain because it has affected and continues to affect us in different ways in dealing with it.   However,  contrary to the way so many think these days,  this does not mean I have no sympathy for others.
Throughout 2020 I've found numerous opportunities to wear my period clothing without official reenactments,  whether due to my many visits to Greenfield Village,  attending private events with limited participation,  or even something as simple as creating a small event in my own home.
And with Christmas reenactments cancelled,  that's what I did here.
Now,  you may recall the large membership gathering the 21st Michigan Civil War reenactors usually have at the annual Christmas party held at the old 1872 school house.  Well,  it was not to be this year.  However,  I came up with an alternate plan:  why not have a small period-dress gathering of my own?  And it could even be held at my house!  Unfortunately,  I could not invite everyone,  though I did have those few who I see often take part. 
This is how it turned out:
Our rather small Christmas afterglow gathering.
Only seven of us but we certainly had a  *nice*  time.

For some,  like my wife and Candy Cary,  this was their first
time wearing their 1860s clothing in a year or more.

Carrie and Larissa~
We spoke of some of the past events we participated in
and have high hopes to be able to resume our hobby
again this year after the break of 2020.

Here in mid-January our Christmas decorations are still up.  The Christmas season seems to go so fast that we have a tough time taking them down,  but the day after this little gathering,  we began the undecorating process.

Jim & Jackie~

Jim & Candy~
As evening rolled around,  out came the candles.

Jackie & Larissa~
I would've loved to light the candles on the tree,  as I did earlier in the season,  but it is so dry now that I dare not take a chance.  However,  below is this same tree when it was freshly cut and the candles were glowing beautifully:

Taken December 6

Now,  alas,  Christmas is over.  Our trees are down,  and so are our wreaths and ceiling garland & lights.  And this little gathering of friends,  which was a quiet affair,  was exactly what I meant it to be,  and was the end of it all for this season.  Just as it should be,  it ended with friends getting together to talk history,  to remember reenactments past,  and speak of a hopeful future.  It was uplifting and,  dare I say,  a bit therapeutic during these horrid times.
So,  maybe this ending is a sign of good beginnings for the year of  '21.
I pray it is so.

Until next time,  see you in time.

 ~   ~   ~   ~

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Celebrating Christmas & New Year's Past at Greenfield Village 2020

Christmas celebrations usually continue in my household until mid-January.
And why not?  We enjoy the holiday and,  with January such a dull gray month,  it adds a bit of brightness.  With 2020 being the year that it was,  brightness is welcome.
So there will be one more Christmas posting---coming up next week.


Welcome to Christmas Past...
As a kid I always looked forward to watching one of the myriad of filmed versions of  Charles Dickens  "A Christmas Carol"  on TV.   In those days before DVDs and VHSs we had no choice but to wait and watch whatever the TV stations scheduled.
No matter,  because whichever version they showed I watched intently,  and fully engulfed myself in the story,  for top hats & bonnets,  horses & carriages,  and candles & oils lamps epitomized the kind of Christmas I sorely wanted to be a part of.  I didn't necessarily dream of a white Christmas as much as I dreamed of finding myself in those earlier Victorian days,  moving about the gas-lit brick or cobblestone streets and hearing carolers or even a loan fiddler performing  "God Rest You Merry Gentlemen"  or  "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"  echoing somewhere in the distance.
That  was what I was dreaming about.
But when one was a teenager back in the 1970s,  it was just that - a dream.
When I met the girl who would one day become my wife,  I told her of this Christmas fantasy I had.  Believe it or not,  she loved  my idea.  We just didn't know how to make it a reality.
It was during the Holiday Season of 1983 when I began making my first attempt to experience an old-time Christmas by taking my date to Greenfield Village for their evening program,  which at that time consisted of a horse & carriage  ride out to the 1831 Eagle Tavern  (presented as 1850),  being greeted by top hat-and-bonnet-wearing presenters,  dining on a scrumptious repast of cornish hen,  vegetables,  desserts,  & hot cider on candle lit  tables,  and enjoying period carols  as performed by a string band.  Then,  when it had all ended,  we walked along a lantern-lit  pathway back to the village gatehouse  (now the ticket building).  The current Holiday Nights event was not even a glimmer in the eye of Greenfield Village at that time.  In fact,  aside from the Tavern festivities and the lantern walk back,  there was no other nighttime Christmas function there whatsoever  (though they did have their daytime Christmas activities back then).
But that night's evening program was enough to fill us with the old-time Christmas spirit like we'd not felt before.  My dream of celebrating this festive time of the year,  in the way I desperately wanted to do,  was finally coming to pass,  and this magical night at Greenfield Village's Eagle Tavern was the initial catalyst of all of my old-time Christmas's yet-to-come.  And here in the 21st century my wife and I not only continue to visit Greenfield Village during the holidays,  which has become a tradition for us,  but,  having been a living historian for nearly 20 years,  I have been able to fulfill  my dream of  not only witnessing,  but participating in Christmas past...
Greenfield Village has over 300 years of history,  and each century is represented.
The early 20th century comes to life as we move past an 1870s farmhouse.

The hustle and bustle of the early 1900s is all around. 
City sidewalks,  busy sidewalks...
Photograph courtesy of Kristin Wells Browning

Holiday Nights is truly like a living picture print by Currier and Ives.
Photograph courtesy of Kristin Wells Browning

Over by the courthouse,  they're starting to unwind...
The Logan County Courthouse from 1840 where
Abraham Lincoln once practiced law.

Photo courtesy of  Kristin Wells Browning

At one end of the Village we see the Liberty Craftworks area where visitors can watch 
as talented artisans weave on 18th & 19th century looms,  work pottery into plates
and mugs,  and create amazing works of art through glass blowing.

Photo courtesy of  Kristin Wells Browning

Continuing on to the far end of the Village,  we come to the section known as Porches & Parlors,  where the houses of the past sit stately in a row.  Our first stop was to the home of John Giddings,  built in the mid-18th century in New Hampshire.
Chocolate was initially a treat for the wealthy,  but soon was available to the every man.
By the early 1770s,  the demand for chocolate in the colonies resulted in the importation of over 320 tons of cocoa beans,  which made drinking chocolate affordable to all classes of people and was available in most coffee houses,  where colonists would gather to talk about politics and the news of the day.
However,  if one had the means,  such as a man of the stature of shipping merchant John Giddings,  one could have afforded to hire a chocolateer,  who would make it right there in the kitchen to impress and entertain the guests for a party…perhaps a New Year’s gathering.

I always have to make a visit to the rural farming home of Samuel and Anna Daggett,  built around the same time as the more urban Giddings.  
The horse and carriage moves past the silhouette of the Daggett house.

The night we were at the Village,  December 28,  was just one day before the moon turned precisely full.  
In other words,  it was a full moon to the naked human eye.  
Photographer Ed Davis saw a beautiful opportunity,  as you can see in his picture below:
I have been wearing my period clothing to Greenfield Village for nearly 20 years,  and I never tire of it.  And since wearing such clothing in the evening there is especially rare,  I enjoy the different aspects the darkness can add to the overall scene,  as you can see one example of what I mean in the following picture:

The 18th century lives...

My camera does not always grab the light like I'd hope it sometimes would.  However,  for many photos,  such as this one,  it's quite alright,  for it amply shows the naturalness of the nighttime in a colonial home.
 I took this picture from the side window of the Daggett Great Hall as presenter Gigi spoke to visitors through the front window.
Due to a rise in covid cases,  no one was allowed inside the houses this year but
could look through the windows instead.

This is the Cotswold Cottage,  which was originally built in England around 1620.
I believe it is the oldest of any structure inside Greenfield Village.

Inside Cotswold Cottage we see American soldiers during WWII who are set up to
celebrate the Christmas holiday while stationed in England.
Growing up with WWII parents,  I personally remember the artifacts the WWII reenactors had set out,  for many of these objects were still around in the 1960s when I was a tiny tot.
Photograph courtesy of Emily Marchetti Photography

The Susquehanna Plantation,  representing the year 1860,   gave off an interesting appearance from the side.
In the kitchen,  a wonderful actress named  Madelyn Porter portrayed a slave who went by the name  (I believe)  Camilla.   Ms.  Porter's portrayal so touches the heart and soul of her audience like nothing else - not even protests - can do.  It is unfortunate that the picture I took of Madelyn did not turn out,  so I have a photo that I took last year here:

And directly below is her telling of her life as Camilla:

Unfortunately,  the door to the early 18th century Plympton House was locked,  but that didn't prevent me from getting a couple of pretty cool pictures.
Every picture tells a story...and if there was a story to tell in this picture,  it would
probably be of me preparing to leave to celebrate New Year's Eve.

Though there were plenty of illuminations about,  it was still a dark evening in December.  I always enjoy when my camera can capture the realness of the nighttime.

A warming fire was blazing near the 1780 McGuffey Cabin - - - 
It was not bitter cold on this evening,  but there was a slight breeze that made it feel much colder than it was.  My wife asked me numerous times if I was cold wearing my colonial clothing and wool cloak,  and I always responded the same:  I'm fine.  My historic clothing I wore on this night - knee breeches,  shirt,  waistcoat,  coat,  and knee stockings -  were mostly wool or cotton,  and my cloak was a thick wool,  so I was pretty toasty. feat inside the leather buckle shoes,  did get a mite cold. 
Patty,  on the other hand,  with her modern coat and clothing,  had a harder time
staying warm.  She should have dressed period...
That all being said,  since we were not allowed to enter the buildings with the
roaring fires in the hearth,  the various bonfires throughout were a welcome sight.

Because guests were not allowed inside the historic buildings,  due to covid,  our stay was not quite as long as usual,  and I did not take nearly as many photographs as I usually do  (many thanks to the photographers who allowed me to use a few of their pictures!),  though it was still a very fine visit indeed,  so I am not complaining.
Alas,  however,  I had to take my leave of Greenfield Village on that December evening... 
My journey home...
It will be my last visit until  (God willing)  April. 

So---my Christmas-past celebrations continue on.  I have yet to celebrate Christmas with some of my 1860s reenacting friends this season;  yes,  that is still on the horizon for a few of us since all of our Christmas reenactments had been cancelled for 2020.
Oh,  but I have a few other time-travel experiences planned for the near future as well.
I must say,  considering how it all could have turned out for 2020,  I have a deep appreciation for the Greenfield Village decision makers deciding to keep the Village open,  not just for Holiday Nights,  but open in general during this virus-filled year.
As for the future:  I gotta feeling '21 is gonna be a good year...
(By the way,  before you get on me about not wearing a mask---I was...except for the picture poses)

Until next time,  see you in time.

To learn how Christmas was celebrated in Colonial times,  click HERE
To learn how New Year's was celebrated in Colonial times,  click HERE
Ten years of Christmas reenacting - colonial and Victorian - click HERE

~ . ~ . ~ . ~

Friday, January 1, 2021

Living History Photo Challenge for the Month of December 2020

Tara,  the Dickens' servant girl,  after reading his newly written novelette,  A Christmas Carol:  
"How do you do that,  sir?"
Charles Dickens:  "Do what?"
Tara:  "Make a world come alive?  I could almost see and hear them people."
(from the movie,  "The Man Who Invented Christmas")


As living historians,  this is our ultimate goal:  to  "Make a world come alive."
And when it does happen,  there's little else that can compare.
Nearly every picture posted for this month has something to do with Christmas,  for this time of year,  when most reenactors are taking a long winter's nap from the hobby,  I - and a few others - are actually more active making that world of the past come alive than in the summertime.
Here...take a look - - - 

As I prefaced my photos with on Facebook:
To change up the news feed and help get away from all of the harsh and getting harsher doom & gloom of our modern time,  here is my daily Living History Photo for a new month,  December 1:  and it's Day 250 I've been doing this!----and I ain't stopping until whenever I decide to stop.
December 1
I've done a lot of research on the Daggett House and its namesake family who originally lived there back in the 18th century.  In fact,  I have a wide D-ring binder 
filled with nothing but Daggett information.
So what is my fascination with this house and original occupants that has me so attracted to it?
Well,  first off,  the era;  built in 1750,  it's from the period I love most in our great American history and focuses on the average American family of the time.  The Daggetts were farmers,  as were my own ancestors,  and the more I read and research,  they seemed to epitomize the a-typical New England family of the 18th century.  Patriarch Samuel was a jack of all trades:  besides the full-time work as a farmer,  he also built houses,  mended many items for neighbors  (carts,  wheels,  spinning wheels,  etc),  and also made yokes,  helped to build a road,  made cider,  and even pulled teeth.  Matriarch Anna ran the home and cared for the family.  She planted a kitchen garden,  prepared and preserved food;  spun and dyed yarn,  spun flax,  made clothing,  towels and sheets,  gave the children their earliest lessons in reading and writing,  was the family doctor,  made soap and candles,  and helped her husband with the farm animals.
Their children learned of running a house and farm from their parents:  Asenath and Talitha learned the skills of  "housewifery"  from their mother,  and Isaiah would have spent most of his time learning  "husbandry"  (farming)  and the other skills 
from his father.
Like so many families in the colonial times,  the Daggetts used,  sold,  or traded items they made for those they needed.  Farm families did not farm to make a profit.  They farmed to flourish as a family.
To imagine farm lives three centuries ago,  we must return to a time when family life and the economy blended to a degree unknown today.
And that,  my friends & family,  is why this house holds such a strong attraction for me;  it's in my own bloodline - it is the me of the 18th century  (had I actually 
been around then).

December 2
Since 2009 a core group of us have been celebrating an 1860s Christmas every year.  We've portrayed a city family inside a home at Detroit's Historic Fort Wayne  (picture number 1),  and a farming family at historic Waterloo Farm in Munith,  Michigan  (picture number 2).  These two living history events have always been about as special a time as one can have replicating a Civil War era Christmas.  
At Christmas at The Fort in Detroit we still celebrate a period Christmas inside the Commander's house at Fort Wayne  (though,  unfortunately,  not this year).   And it's here where we apply our 1st person mannerisms and portray an actual family of the 1860s.  To us it is Christmas Eve 1861 and we go about our daily activities as such,  which includes decorating our table-top tree,  read Christmas stories,  sing the old carols while the pump organ is being played,  visit,  play parlor games,  and even eat a Christmas meal  (more on that in a couple weeks).
As for Christmas on the Farm,  the realism was not solely about the sights and sounds of our rural surroundings,  by the way.  There were other little things that added to the experience,  such as the odor of kerosene from the oil lamps,  the smell of wood burning in the stoves upon entering the home,  the scent of baking emanating from the kitchen where women were busily making Christmas confections,  and even when we had to venture outside to the icy cold to visit the necessary  (outhouse/bathroom),  which was quite a ways from the house,  as was usually the case.
Again,  we were family and friends celebrating this joyous holiday together.  It truly was a wonderful period atmosphere.
Though our time celebrating on the farm ended a few years back,  the memory is strong and solid for us,  and it is in the works to hopefully have us back there next year.
These two events are about as real a period Christmas as one can have,  and we as a group have been doing it for so many years that,  to be honest,  we have the same type of real memories as those who actually celebrated in the 1860s.
Oh,  we certainly do!
And being inside the 19th century homes is what brings the past to life for us in such 
a real way.

December 3
Black Friday for over a decade now,  and have always dressed in my period clothing while doing so.  Most times a few friends will join me.
This year was no different.
Three of us - Charlotte,  Ken R.,  and myself - teamed up and ventured out on this gray day,  donning our Revolutionary War-era clothing,  including our winter-wear,  and strolled leisurely amongst the historic buildings - the most unique collection of Americana anywhere - taking in all of the wonderful history being offered.
Here you see us in front of the home built in Exeter,  New Hampshire back in 1750 by shipping merchant John Giddings.
Imagine...this house was around during the French & Indian War,  the Revolutionary War,  the signing of the Declaration of Independence,  the Constitutional Convention,  and all that came after.  In fact,  in 1789,  which was during the time of the home's 2nd owner,  Joseph Pearson - who was the Secretary of State for New Hampshire - George Washington was in the town of Exeter,  and that he most likely had dinner with a group of prominent citizens,  which would have included Mr. Pearson.
Oh,  if these walls could talk...

December 4
My period vocal group,  Simply Dickens!
Christmas carols:  most of us love 'em,  but there a quite a few who do not.  Mostly because they hear they same dozen tunes repeatedly from before Thanksgiving through Christmas Day itself:  Last Christmas,  I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas,  Holly Jolly Christmas,  Jingle Bell Rock,  Rudolph,  It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,  All I Want For Christmas Is You,  Grandma Got Run Over,  et al.
Well,  if you tire of  these carols pretty quick,  then you must  meet Simply Dickens,  perhaps the finest purveyors of old world carols anywhere - simply beautiful vocalists - - - - the carols we perform are from the old world,  and there are even a few from the new world,  though from a couple centuries ago - - - carols such as  All You That Are Good Fellows,  Masters In This Hall,  Riu Riu Chiu,  In The Bleak Midwinter,  The Wexford Carol,  The Boar's Head Carol,  Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day,  The Huron Indian Carol,  The Gloucestershire Wassail,  God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen...and plenty more along these lines,  all bonafide historic carols from 
days of old.
Of the more well known carols,  we sing with the original lyrics - yes,  Jingle Bells and Deck The Halls had a few different words when first written.  And have you ever heard Silent Night sung in German?
After one of our performances,  a newspaper reviewer wrote of our show:  "It was fantastic,  I was pleasantly surprised.  I thought it was  (going to be)  a barber shop group,  but I was misinformed.  It wasn't until we were sitting in the parking lot and my wife said it was old-fashioned Christmas carols,  and I thought,  'well this is going to be boring.'  But I was really surprised." 
We have performed at the Holly Dickens Festival,  at Greenfield Village,  at Comerica Park,  and for numerous office parties,  historical societies,  tree lighting ceremonies,  and living history groups all around southeastern lower Michigan.  
Even on Fox 2 News!
Unfortunately,  due to covid-19,  we have only two performances lined up for this year...but,  God Willing,  in 2021 we will be back better than ever!

December 5
A winter’s evening during the Holiday Season.
Moving about from room to room,  our colonial ancestors brought their light with them,  just as I had brought my own light into the parlor looking for playing cards,  checkers,  and other games to play on such a cold and dark December night.
Buried in nighttime blackness in the wintertime reduced the once family-sized home into a single room in many cases,  for many families closed off the parlors to decrease the amount of warming space.  With a dim glow,  life centered around the hearth or stove for warmth and possibly a candle for any of the limited activities of which they may have partaken.  Activities were limited to things that didn’t require the best vision,  and storytelling – including Bible stories & family history tales - were popular.

December 6
Living History Photo for December 6:  Day 255----
and I ain't stopping until whenever I decide to stop.
Today I celebrate my wife's birthday.
In this picture you see the two of us at the premier of the Daniel Day-Lewis movie  "Lincoln,"  where a group of us dressed in our period clothing to view it---yes,  we were at the movie theater!
Now,  if we were actually back in 1865 - the year the movie takes place - she would have been born in 1810 and I would have been born in 1806,  so you go on and figure out our current ages  (no,  Patty's not one of those who is shy about her age).
Anyhow,  Happy Birthday to my lovely wife - I hope you like your gifts! lol - - 

December 7
Though I had been inside the 1760s Daggett Home at night plenty of times  (during Holiday Nights),  it was not until this particular day that I was in my favorite of all the structures at Greenfield Village during the very late afternoon in deep autumn.
As the daylight waned,  accented by the thick gray clouds,  I had such a feeling of calm as the surrounding shadows grew long upon the floors and walls,  knowing if I was truly in the 18th century,  only the fireplace or a candle would be my light..
Feeling and seeing the past in such ways rarely gets any better.
Remember - if the only light and heat comes from candles and fireplaces because of a power outage at your house,  it is frustrating and annoying - but inside a colonial house,  it is charming and peaceful. 
When I first posted this on Facebook,  one of the former Greenfield Village presenters who worked at Daggett left this comment:
Out of all the years I worked there and of all the days and nights spent at Daggett,  there are a few that stand out above the rest.  One Holiday evening in particular back when the Village was open during the day,  sometimes we would work a different shift time than normal.  One year we Holiday evening workers would head to the house at 4:30 so the day shift did not have to put out the fire,  stoves and candles and then the evening shift have to turn right around and relight everything.  So one night,  I'm at Daggett at 4:30,  day shift leaves and I'm there alone until the 2nd evening person arrives.  Fires burning in Great Hall and Kitchen,  candles lit in various lanterns,  and over an hour of pure bliss.  I sat and relaxed,  ate my supper,  sat by the fire and read a book.  It was absolutely,  historically magical.
Yeah...I bet it was...

December 8
This Christmas outing certainly was a fine time indeed!
A decently large group of us were invited to historic Crossroads Village for their Christmas event a number of years back,  and we certainly added quite a bit of that mid-19th century Victorian ambience to the open-air museum,  even with the electric lights on the trees.   We strolled about the Village,  singing carols,  entering the homes  (not all at once lol),  and entertaining the visitors,  giving them the extra bit of Christmas spirit not often seen there.
I would love to do this again.
Maybe we can plan something for next year...

December 9
This is one of those pictures that just turned out absolutely perfect.  
It emits a time from 250 years ago so well.
Jordan has always been a wonderful presenter at Greenfield Village,  but she really shined at the 18th century Giddings House during Holiday Nights,  and she always made me feel welcome.
As you can see from the second picture of the Giddings House itself,  
it truly was a cold winter's night,  and the fire in the hearth offered warmth.
It is unfortunate that Greenfield Village is entirely closed during the winter months.  When I was younger they used to remain open:  had sleigh rides,  sold hot chocolate  (or coffee),  and one could enjoy the winter like no other place in our area.
I do have high hopes that may change one day - never say never - so in the 
meantime I have to enjoy the winter there as I can get it.  And for now that time is during Holiday Nights,  the event that shows the Christmas Holiday season through the ages,  from the 1700s,  as you see here,  through the 
1940s and WWII,  and for the two hundred years in between.
Yes,  it is still occurring this year,  and you'll get a report loaded with pictures 
after I attend later in the month.
So,  Jordan,  thank you for helping to make my visits as awesome as they were,  
and for posing with me.
You are sorely missed.

December 10
My period vocal group,  Simply Dickens,  spent most of our performing time in 2019 in the beautiful Village of Holly,   where the nation's oldest Dickens Festival takes place.
Holly,  Michigan is a town filled with wonderful antique shops - much of what I own came from one of the myriad of shops here - and for two weekends I had greatly admired an all-too-cool old Christmas poster,  which was a bit out of my price range.
But on our last day performing,  I was surprised - very surprised  (which nearly moved me to tears) - to receive this poster I'd been admiring while it hung in a shop throughout all of our weekends there,  as a gift from a very special young couple 
in my group.
Once again I thank this young couple  (who have since gotten married!)  so very much!
This is probably the coolest Christmas poster I've seen and have it proudly hanging next to my Christmas Tree in my parlor at home - I am so touched...

December 11
Visiting Greenfield Village during their Christmas Holiday Nights event I will oftentimes have a few of my living history friends come along,  as you see my friend Rae with me here.  As living historians,  there are not many opportunities to wear our cold-weather garments because there are so few reenactments this time of year,  and Greenfield Village closes up for daytime visits until April,  so Holiday Nights allows us that opportunity in an old-timey-type festive atmosphere.
And to you snarky know who you are...yep, I am quite aware of this electric light thing going on in the picture here.  However,  you gotta admit,  it makes for a cool photo!

December 12
Playing parlor games had been popular,  especially during the cold months of winter, since...well...there have been parlors!
At the Christmas at the Fort event or at the 21st Michigan Civil War Christmas party (as shown here) we will sometimes play parlor games, such as Question & Answers. One of the favored games we've played is The 12 Days of Christmas, which I've read actually began as a parlor game in the 1700s. When we play we cannot choose any of the "gifts" from the well-known song. In other words, we all stand or sit in a circle and I may say "On the 1st day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a candle in a holder." The person to my left will have to come up with something other than two turtles doves and then remember my item. The next person will come up with a third gift other than three French hens then remember what was gift two and what was gift one. And so on.
Give it a try - it is a great Christmas party game with plenty of laughs.

December 13
On a dark December evening,  I was moving about the streets of Greenfield Village during Holiday Nights in my 1860s clothing,  enjoying the spirits of Christmas past,  as I usually do.  But there was this overwhelming feeling that something - I wasn't sure what - but something unusual was about to happen,  when suddenly BAM!  An other worldly bright light engulfed the whole Village and there was a loud explosion,  two barks of a dog,  and... 
Then everything went dark. 
As my vision returned,  I found myself inside the Cotswold Cottage where I saw my friend,  Jillian,  a reenactor who also usually dressed in 1860s clothing.  However...she was no longer in that Civil War-era style but,  instead,  she was dressed as a 1940s WWII nurse.  And I was now in 1770s clothes! It was like we were sucked up into a strange vortex of time or cast into the 4th dimension or a black hole or something.
We were both out of our normal element of time.  
Will we ever get back?

December 14
Over at the Henry Ford Museum they have quite a collection of pure American History,  rivaling even the Smithsonian Institution,  to be honest.  And among the artifacts there are a few items related to the Father of our Country,  President Washington,  a truly great man among men.  So on this day - the 221st anniversary of his death - I thought I would pay homage to him for my reenacting/living history photo(s)  of the day.
In this first picture I look almost like I am a part of the display of the George Washington items,  some of which were around during his time,  as well as a couple that were made as a tribute to him after his death.
In this second photo I am standing next to camping gear used by Washington 
in the early 1780s. 
Seriously---George Washington slept here. 
George Washington! 
President numero uno...!! 
If that doesn't get you excited,  I don't believe anything will!
"As commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War,  General George Washington usually did sleep and eat in the nearby homes of well-to-do people during the eight years he led the American military campaign.  But among George Washington’s camp equipage were tents,  this folding bed,  cooking and eating utensils,  and other equipment that he used when encamped on the field with his troops."
Yeah...this is pretty cool to see up close.

December 15
My bride (you know her as Patty) and I on board the Christmas Train at Crossroads Village a few years back when a large group of us Civil War reenactors spent a cold December night enjoying the festivities of the season. Oh! We had a grand old time walking along the wood-plank walkways of historic Crossroads, which was all electrically lit with the colored lights, singing carols and speaking to visitors about Christmas celebrations of the 1860s.
A fine mix of 19th century with the 21st thrown in for good measure.
And the train ride - in authentic century-old train cars - was the highlight:
It's Christmas time and I can't wait
Come on, hurry, don't be late
Let's go down to the railroad tracks
Christmas Train is coming back
Hoo Hoo Here it Comes
Hoo Hoo Christmas Train
Hoo Hoo Get on Board
Hoo Hoo Christmas Train
We hope to do this again - - maybe next year, God willing.

December 16
Contrary to popular belief,  the persistent myth that none  (or very few)  of the colonists celebrated Christmas continuously tends to be spread as fact.  Oh,  yes,  there were those that,  due to their religious convictions,  did not celebrate.  And,  yes,  the holiday was banned for 22 years in the later part of the 17th century  (1659 to 1681)  in Massachusetts colony - only to be revoked because of its growing popularity.  But many of our 18th century ancestors truly did celebrate the date as Christ's birth  (even though it is more likely Christ was born in the spring).
However,  their celebrations,  with no Santa as we know him today,  and a very low amount of gift-giving - that was usually for the more well-to-do - many times did consist of a bit of decorating as well as enjoying a feast.
Greenery as Christmas decorations during the time of our founding generation actually dates back to the pagan roots a millennia before,  and generally consisted of holly and ivy strung throughout the house,  with a sprig of mistletoe or a kissing ball prominently displayed.  A great effort was also made to decorate the churches with laurel,  holly,  and other garlands.
Something that was common was the  "sticking of the Church"  with green boughs on Christmas Eve.  Garlands of holly,  ivy,  mountain laurel,  and mistletoe were hung from the church roof,  the walls,  and the church pillars and galleries.  The pews and the pulpit,  and sometimes the altar,  were bedecked with garlands.  Lavender,  rose petals,  and pungent herbs such as rosemary and bay were scattered throughout the churches as well,  which providing a pleasant holiday scent.  Scented flowers and herbs were chosen partially because they were aromatic and thus were considered an alternative form of incense.
So,  now you got me standing in front of the home of lexicographer Noah Webster.  Though the house was built in 1822,  it still has the strong architectural feel of the previous century,  which is why I am posting this picture of me in my favorite fashion.

I've mentioned before, in my Passion for the Past blog,  as well as on Facebook,  about our core living history group - the few of us who,  for a decade,  have recreated an 1860s reenacting family where we do true living history - 1st person/immersion - during a few of our events,  especially at the Christmas at the Fort event in Detroit.
December 17
Included in this wonderful group of time-travelers is our domestic servant,  Carrie,  who is always has a part in our scenarios.  For instance, while we had a tour group inside our house - an actual 19th century house -  our servant would sometimes stop working to take a peek inside the parlor to view our celebrating.  I,  of course,  would chastise her and send her back to her duties of which I pay her for.  
Soon after we hired this young domestic,  she was given,  without choice,  a new name - the name of Agnes,  for it was felt Agnes would be an easier name to remember than Carrie.  Renaming servants was not an unusual practice at the time;  it was quite common to have a certain name associated with a certain job.  The scullery maid could be called Mary.  If you hire Gwyneth,  you call her Mary because she is the scullery maid.  We hired Carrie and call her Agnes.  A servant couldn’t even depend on maintaining their own name for the purposes of their working life.
So from this point on,  whenever we get our reenacting family together,  Carrie becomes Agnes.  And she does serve us as a servant would.  In fact,  I've heard of a few reenactors outside of our group comment how I  (supposedly)  force Carrie into servitude during such events.
Eventually we added another servant to our group,  Candace,  as the second picture shows.
In the third picture we see Agnes at the ready for our every need during our Christmas dinner.  I must say,  eating in the dining room in this manner inside this historic house is,  perhaps,  one of the most magical experiences I've ever had in my reenacting journeys.  Imagine the opportunity of eating a Christmas meal with only oil lamps for light inside of an actual period dining room of the time!
This leads us to the 4th picture... 
...where we see our two domestics eating their Christmas dinner together 
in the kitchen.
Yes,  these are some very special times for us...including Candace as well as,  Carrie.

December 18
The two pictures here were taken at my first two Colonial Christmas parties occurring in January of 2019 and of 2020,  hosted by Citizens of the American Colonies and the 1st Pennsylvania.  They were my first attempts at putting together such a gathering,  and both went along very well.  Our food,  which included pasties and a Martha Washington dessert,  was perfect for the era - it all tasted very good indeed,  washed down by cider and madeira.
Pearl provided wonderful 18th century Christmas music,  such as the Wexford Carol,  Joy To The World,  and the Gloucestershire Wassail,  while also including a few of the more popular tunes of the day as well,  such as Over The Hills and Far Away,  Buttermilk Hill,  Shady Grove,  and  Barbara Allen.
Fine parties indeed.

December 19
As a kid I always looked forward to watching one of the myriad of filmed versions of Charles Dickens  "A Christmas Carol"  on TV.  In those days before DVDs and VHSs we had no choice but to wait and watch whatever the TV stations scheduled.
No matter because whichever version they showed I watched intently,  and fully engulfed myself in the story,  for top hats & bonnets, horses & carriages,  and candles & oils lamps epitomized the kind of Christmas I sorely wanted to be a part of.  I didn't necessarily dream of a white Christmas as much as I dreamed of finding myself in those earlier Victorian days,  moving about the gas-lit bricked or cobblestoned streets and hearing carolers or even a loan fiddler performing  "God Rest You Merry Gentlemen"  or  "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"  echoing somewhere in the distance.
That was what I was dreaming about.
But it was just that - a dream.
When I met the girl who would one day become my wife,  I told her of this Christmas fantasy I had. Believe it or not,  she loved my idea.  We just didn't know how to actually take part and make it happen way back then.
Things changed when I got involved in reenacting.
Oh yes,  it certainly did change!
Living history has given me the opportunity to make my Christmas dream come true,  and so,  over the years - at least a decade - I've had opportunities to experience the Christmas I had always hoped to - Victorian AND Colonial.
Here you see Patty and I inside one of the historic Victorian homes in Crossroads Village,  enjoying Christmas in the 19th century.
Dreams can come true - you just have to make it happen instead of sitting back and talking about it.

December 20
Holding a grand ball  (for the more well-to-do)  or a country dance  (for the rest of us!)  at Christmas time was a popular tradition in the later part of the good old colony days. 
It was early in 2019 when Tony Gerring came up with the idea of holding an 18th century dance.  It had been a while,  from what I was told,  since the metro-Detroit area of  Michigan had held such a colonial festivity,  so when Tony decided to give it a go,  he put his own money and his best foot forward and,  well,  it showed,  for those of us who attended what he called the Golden Lion Country Dance during the October harvest had a wonderful time.
A Country Dance,  intended for general participation,  is the granddaddy of our present day Square Dance,  whose movements are,  in many cases,  quite similar.  However the country dance is a bit slower,  allowing time for a bit of conversation or even flirting amongst the young.
‘Twas held inside a 150 year old schoolhouse.  No,  not a building from the 18th century,  as would have been preferred,  for those are pretty hard to come by for use in such a manner in lower Michigan. 
So the old 1872 schoolhouse in Eastpointe,  though not necessarily historically accurate,  would have to do,  at least for now,  especially for the price.
But the look and feel was a lot closer than one would think,  and better than not having a dance at all.
My wife and I have been to many,  many Civil War balls and dances,  but never an 18th century Colonial Country Dance.  The differences?  Well,  the music,  for one.  The tunes were a mite older than what we were used to hearing,  but every bit as good.  The dances,  aside from the Virginia Reel,  were also new to us.  But,  no matter,  for we had so much fun - as much as we have had at any other dance,  and the basic idea of a community festivity such as this was just as strong in either era.
Yeah,  we certainly enjoyed ourselves immensely.
By the way,  it is well known that George and Martha Washington loved to dance the simple but elegant and happy dances of their time.
Thank you Tony for putting it all together.  I look forward to the next one.

December 21
Christmas on the Farm - at Waterloo Farm in Munith,  Michigan - was one of our most looked-forward-to Christmas events on our calendar.
2011 was the year and this farm was the place when we really  "pulled it all together,"  and created an 1860s family & friends scenario,  maintaining a mostly 1st person position for us and for the touring visitors.
We kept it real.
The realism of this event immersed us into the time of the Civil War,  and included the sights and sounds of the farmhouse that added to our experience,  such as the odor of kerosene from the oil lamps and the smell of wood burning in the stoves upon entering the home,  Christmas greens placed throughout,  and even a tabletop tree.  There was the scent of foods baking emanating from the kitchen where women were busily making Christmas confections.  Even heading outside in the snow to the icy cold  "necessary"  (outhouse/bathroom),  which was quite a ways from the house itself,  
added to the realism.
And,  yes,  that is a real baby lying in the antique cradle - Larissa's 1st child, Zane -
whose sometimes crying gave the house even more realism.

December 22
It was five years ago,  in 2015,  when friend of mine notified me that there was a gentleman on Facebook who had left the reenacting hobby a few years ago,  and he  (along with his wife)  were giving  - yes,  giving - away their period clothing.  He had numerous garments from different eras in time,  ranging from the 18th century through the early 20th century,  and was looking for good homes for them.  The only garments I was interested in were what he called his Patrick Henry clothes  (for that's who he portrayed as a living historian).  Our sizes seemed to match up close enough so,  after private messaging each other a bit,  I became the lucky - bless'd,  rather - receiver of this wonderful set of colonial-era clothing.  And the best part is the package arrived on Christmas Eve day!
What I found inside the large box was an 18th century living historian's dream:  a coat,  waistcoat,  shirt,  knee breeches,  socks,  neckstocks,  buckle shoes,  and even a colonial wig  (nope---I don’t wear that – my hat covers my hair’s absence pretty good!);  a prodigious collection of colonial clothing!
~(the hat seen here in this picture is mine,  however)~
What a fine gift indeed!
The quality of the clothing is top notch - the gentleman mentioned they were sewn by a professional seamstress from the northeastern part of these United States who specialized in the Revolutionary War era,  and it's obvious,  upon close inspection,  that they were made very well. 
So I tried them on and...
Well,  they didn't fit too bad,  eh? 
Yes,  I did need to have the breeches and waistcoat taken in slightly... but I knew numerous seamstresses who easily took care of that.
The second photo shows me wearing it for the first time out in public,  the day after Christmas,  inside the well-to-do 1750 home belonging to shipping merchant John Giddings,  where you see Jordan -  possibly as Mrs. Giddings - and I greeting each other as would have been done in the 18th century
I am truly bless'd and thankful.

December 23
I've been celebrating an 1860s Christmas with friends  (who became my living history family)  since 2009.  And because of this and how we interact with each other,  we can pretty much honestly say we've experienced a true Victorian Christmas as much as the actual Victorians have,  I believe.
But,  in 2013,  something extra special occurred for the first time that no one had been able to do in over 30 years previous:  we were able to eat a traditional period Christmas meal in the dining room of the 19th century Commander's House that we take over at Historic Fort Wayne in Detroit...and we dine by candle light and oil lamp at that!
The idea came about as we made our plans about a month before the event,  while we discussed how we could expand our authenticity for our Christmas past excursion - to make it more real than in previous years - and the idea came up of eating a Christmas meal in the dining room.  However,  I didn't expect the Fort Wayne coalition 
to agree to it.
But we have proven to them over the years that we are historical professionals in all we do,  and because of that we got the thumbs up.
So,  yes,  the realism of celebrating an 1860s Christmas comes to pass for us annually  (except this year,  unfortunately),  and,  as one of our members said to me,  "It would not be Christmas without us doing this."
She is right.

December 24 - Christmas Eve
It's 1843,  and here I am,  in the company of perhaps the two most well-known characters in literary history:
“Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr. Scrooge,  or Mr. Marley?”  I asked.
“Mr. Marley has been dead these seven years,”  Scrooge replied.  “He died seven years ago,  this very night.”
“Then who is this to my left?”
Could it be…?
Why,  it’s the ghost of Jacob Marley!
“It’s humbug still!”  said Scrooge.  “I won’t believe it.”
The same face:  the very same.  Marley in his pigtail,  usual waistcoat,  tights and boots;  the tassels on the latter bristling,  like his pigtail,  and his coat-skirts,  and the hair upon his head.  The chain he drew was clasped about his middle.  It was long,  and wound about him like a tail;  and it was made  (for Scrooge observed it closely)  of cash-boxes,  keys,  padlocks,  ledgers,  deeds,  and heavy purses wrought in steel.  His body was transparent;  so that Scrooge,  observing him,  and looking through his waistcoat,  could see the two buttons on his coat behind.
Scrooge had often heard it said that Marley had no bowels,  but he had never believed it until now.
No,  nor did he believe it even now.  Though he looked the phantom through and through,  and saw it standing before him;  though he felt the chilling influence of its death-cold eyes;  and marked the very texture of the folded kerchief bound about its head and chin,  which wrapper he had not observed before;  he was still incredulous,  and fought against his senses.
“How now!”  said Scrooge,  caustic and cold as ever.  “What do you want with me?”
“Much!”—Marley’s voice,  no doubt about it.
“Who are you?”
“Ask me who I was.”
“Who were you then?”  said Scrooge,  raising his voice.  “You’re particular,  for a shade.” 
“In life I was your partner,  Jacob Marley.”
“You don’t believe in me,”  observed the Ghost.
“I don’t,”  said Scrooge.
“Why do you doubt your senses?”
“Because,”  said Scrooge,  “a little thing affects them.  A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats.  You may be an undigested bit of beef,  a blot of mustard,  a crumb of cheese,  a fragment of an underdone potato.  There’s more of gravy than of grave about you,  whatever you are!”
At this the spirit raised a frightful cry,  and shook its chain with such a dismal and appalling noise,  that Scrooge held on tight to his chair,  to save himself from falling in a swoon.  But how much greater was his horror,  when the phantom taking off the bandage round its head,  as if it were too warm to wear indoors, its lower jaw dropped down upon its breast!
Scrooge fell upon his knees,  and clasped his hands before his face.
“Mercy!”  he said.  “Dreadful apparition,  why do you trouble me?”
“Man of the worldly mind!”  replied the Ghost,  “do you believe in me or not?”
“I do,”  said Scrooge.  “I must..." the book---or watch the movie.

Christmas Day
This is my daily Living History Photo for today - December 25:  Day 274
Merry Christmas from 1770 to all of my family & friends!
May God's blessing be upon each and everyone of you.
Now I ask my other friends in the hobby to please post a reenacting/living history picture celebrating Christmas Past,  no matter which era.
To my non-reenacting friends & family,  I would love to see a picture of your Christmas Tree or a pic with your family at Christmas time posted here in the comments.

December 26
This was taken during my first year as an  “official”  reenactor. I say  ‘official’  mainly because it was when I joined an actual reenacting unit and began to research the clothing of the period – 1860s – rather than just wear what  “looked Victorian.”
I still had a ways to go, however.
This was also the first year I had a  "pseudo-period"  Christmas party at my house – 2004.  I really didn’t know what I was doing in the authenticity department at that time;  I only knew I wanted to finally have a Christmas party depicting those  “Victorian times”…and I put out a strong effort to do so! 
Oh,  yeah,  it was far from perfect and historical accuracy – we were all pretty much still learning – but what fun we had.  And,  it was a start.
Also,  as you see in this picture taken that night,  I lit the candles on the tree for everyone who was over.
In the 17 years since this party,  I have learned so much more about 1860s life  (rather than  “Victorian life”)  and,  with a few wonderful friends,  have been able to bring that time back,  down to specifics,  in a much more historically accurate way!

December 27
Here I am,  watching and learning from a chocolateer about how to make 
chocolate in 1770.
Chocolate was initially a treat for the wealthy,  but soon was available to the every man.
By the early 1770s,  the demand for chocolate in the colonies resulted in the importation of over 320 tons of cocoa beans,  which made drinking chocolate affordable to all classes of people and was available in most coffee houses,  where colonists would gather to talk about politics and the news of the day.
However,  if one had the means,  such as a man of the stature of shipping merchant John Giddings,  one could have afforded to hire a chocolateer,  who would make it right there in the kitchen to impress and entertain the guests for a party…perhaps a 
New Year’s gathering.

December 28
December 14,  2013 was a snowy one,  and Simply Dickens was there in the midst of it,  performing three different places  (a house gathering in Birmingham,  Mill Race Village in Northville,  and at Greenfield Village in Dearborn)  while 6 to 8 inches of snow fell throughout the day.
Did we have a great time!
The two pictures here were taken at what was probably the snowiest part of the day...mid-afternoon at Mill Race Village.
A memorable day for sure---oh what fun indeed!

December 29
You've read how we have celebrated Christmas in the 1860s at Historic Fort Wayne and at Historic Waterloo Farm,  but one time we also celebrated a Victorian Christmas at the Crocker House Museum in Mt.  Clemens inside another historic house,  as you see in this photograph.  
More than one member of our living history group has said that it just isn't Christmas unless we reenact our 1860s  "Logan Family"  Christmas.
In the first picture you see my daughter and I there,  and that's Larissa playing the pump organ.  And in the 2nd shot is the group of us on the porch of the magnificent Crocker House porch.
We truly missed our Christmas reenactments this year - all of our reenactments,  in fact - but we are planning a grand return in 2021!
The top photo was taken by a Macomb Daily newspaper photographer.

December 30
You caught me during the nighttime in the 18th century,  lit only with a glass-pane lantern  (taken at Greenfield Village just a couple nights ago).
It's unfortunate that a myth continues to persist telling the tale that folks in the good old colony days went to bed when the sun went down,  no matter what time of day or season of the year it was when the sun set.  Well, this little fable is simply not true.  Just like in our modern times, people stayed awake past nightfall,  especially during the dark months of winter.  So in the time of year when darkness was king of the 24 hour day,  it dictated daily activities,  for there were still chores to be done after the evening meal:  furniture to build or repair, tools to mend,  beer to brew,  wool to be carded and spun,  knitting,  bible or almanack reading,  and perhaps filling out account books,  journaling,  or letter writing - - all by the light of the hearth or by candlelight…
Even barn or barnyard chores could be taken care of if there was a bright full moon or a goodly lantern with clear panes of glass rather than horn translucents.
For most,  however,  candles were sparingly used.  This attitude was not unusual,  for it was a great luxury for many folks to have candles.
Of course,  guided by lantern light,  an evening visit with nearby friends could and did occasionally occur,  as did stops at the local tavern to catch up on the latest news of the day,  if the distance was not too great.  Nighttime was also a good time for engagements;  too busy during the day for social activities,  young people,  according to historian Jack Larkin,  looked forward to dances,  balls,  sleigh riding,  and skating in the evening,  many times staying out until past midnight.
So,  yes,  evenings in the 18th century could be filled with the similar types of activities as today,  without all the electronics,  of course.
By the way,  I have researched something called  "second sleep,"  where people would awaken in the middle of the night to read,  pray,  perhaps even visit with neighbors.  This may have been true in the Middle Ages and Renaissance,  but further research has shown that references to the first and second sleep started to disappear during the late 17th Century,  and over the course of the next century and a half  had receded entirely from our social consciousness.
So,  most likely,  if you were living in the colonies in the later 18th century,  you would not have taken part in a 1st and 2nd sleep.
Now I ask my other friends in the hobby to please post a reenacting/living history picture with a small explanation on your own page and even in the comments here.

December 31 - New Year's Eve
So here we are in,  say,  1769,  and it is the New Years holiday,  rivaling,  and even  (in many instances),  over-taking Christmas.  Yes,  our colonial ancestors did have New Year's Eve parties,  not unlike today in so many ways,  and family and friends would gather to enjoy each other's company,  eat food,  play games,  and,  if there was room,  maybe even dance a reel or two. 
As I stepped up to the stately Giddings home on New Year's Eve to help celebrate the coming of 1770,  I was warmly greeted,  as you see in the first picture,  and welcomed into the house for their celebratory party  (2nd & 3rd pictures,  which were taken at a different time,  hence the red stockings lol).  
One interesting tradition in England that I imagine carried over here in America as well was when the hands of the clock approached the hour of midnight,  the head of the family  (usually a male)  would rise,  go to the front door,  open it wide,  and would hold it open until the last stroke of midnight had died away.  Having let the Old Year out and the New Year in,  he would then shut the door quietly and return inside.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s picture to find out how New Year’s Day itself was celebrated.

Yes,  you read what I wrote correctly - I plan to continue this series at least through the one year mark,  which will be late March.  I have high hopes that by then we should be well on our way back to normalcy.  If not,  I am certain there will be many questions coming from a large world-wide populace.
But in the meantime,  to see my other photo-challenges as they have occurred month by month in 2020,  please click 
HERE for November
HERE for October
HERE for September
HERE for August
HERE for July
HERE for June
HERE for May
HERE for very late March & April 

Click HERE to read how Thanksgiving was celebrated in the colonies
Click HERE to read how Christmas was celebrated in the colonies
Click HERE to read how New Years celebrations took place in the colonies

Now I ask my other friends in the hobby to please post a reenacting/living history picture with a small explanation on your own page and even in the comments here.

I got a feeling '21 is gonna be a good year...
Until next time,  see you in time.

~   ~       ~   ~   ~       ~   ~