Monday, November 30, 2009

It's Beginning to Feel A Lot Like Christmas

Hanging Oil Lamp in the Firestone Farm dining room

The Friday after Thanksgiving:
Loading up the family into the van, we drove the nearly two-hour drive north to the Christmas Tree farm we have frequented for nearly 25 years, Western Tree Farm, up in Applegate, Michigan. This place really does it right. Yes, there is some commercialism, but it's very minute compared to other places I have seen. The folks here know us - they should after all these years - great people - so it's off we go on the hay ride out to the land of the spruces. As I was not feeling up to my normal self (I felt rather poorly on Thanksgiving Day...the flu bug hit me - - - fever, body aches, headache), I had my two oldest boys do the dirty work of cutting and carrying. Stopping off for good, greasy hamburgers on the way home is another highlight. Just one of our 21st century traditions, I guess. I love a good, greasy burger, but my body doesn't.
I eat them, unfortunately, less and less.
Home, the tree up, awaiting decorating. A fun day after Thanksgiving.
The Saturday after Thanksgiving:
On with our period clothing and its off to Holly with my wife to meet with friends at the Holly Dickens Festival. For 12 years - every weekend between Thanksgiving weekend and the weekend before Christmas - I was a part of this celebration of Dickens and his "A Christmas Carol." In fact, I was Charles Dickens! Unfortunately, the 2008 season, unknowingly at the time, was to be my last. The folks that run the festival, from what I understand, did not have the budget for me and many other participants, keeping only the wonderfully great Festival Singers. Imagine - a Dickens Festival without Charles Dickens.
Ahhh...such is life...

Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present
(the man in the background represents Big Ben)

But, we did enjoy being there nonetheless, visiting with my old Dickensian cohorts, watching the skits that I am normally a part of, and shopping the antique stores. Other CW reenactor friends joined us as well, including President and Mrs. Lincoln (I had no idea our 16th President and his wife traveled to England...*just kidding* - - - before all you historians chastise me with "He didn't, you knucklehead!")
From the Dickens Festival, all of us CW reenactors then journeyed northward to Flint, Michigan to the open-air museum of Crossroads Village, where they were beginning their annual Christmas celebration. Patty and I have not been to this Village for Christmas in around 15 or 16 years, and we had forgotten what it was like. I forgot about the countless Christmas lights strung hither and thither - literally everywhere one looked they saw Christmas lights. It was nice, although not historically accurate. But, historical accuracy was not necessarily what they were going after, obviously.
Anyhow, a good friend was able to obtain numerous free passes into the Christmas celebration there for those of us who do Civil War reenacting, and it was asked of us to meet and greet visitors, sing carols, and generally become part of the festive atmosphere. I must say, we had such a time! The customers were so friendly and many posed for photos with us. Stepping into the 150 year old homes decorated for the Holidays was one of my favorite parts.

Having a warm by the stove in the Buzzell House in Crossroads Village

It was nice to warm ourselves beside the wood-burning stoves in rooms lighted only by oil lamps. Cozy.
However, my most favorite part of this evening's a tie between singing the old Christmas hymns inside of the ancient church and/or the half hour train ride on actual period cars. you're going to make me choose between the two, right?

Singing Christmas hymns at Crossroads' church

Well, I guess I would have to say...Christmas hymns in church (the train ride had canned music...that brought it down a bit).
Just being with such good friends at this mini-makeshift reenactment was a wonderful way to help kick off the season.
But, there's more - - -
The Sunday after Thanksgiving:
It was a very dingy, gloomy day, with the heavy, threatening gray clouds giving the mid-day the appearance that it was approaching evening instead of, well, mid-day. As my dear wife had, once again, outdid herself for our Thanksgiving Day meal, and with all of the activities of Friday and Saturday, I thought she deserved a day of rest, to do what she wanted. So, while she did her thing, I took my two youngest (Miles and Rosalia) and drove to (where else?) Greenfield Village. I LOVE being a member! It's great to be able to come and go as you please!
Anyhow, the kids were all for it, so off we went, listening to hammered dulcimer Christmas music as I drove along the freeway, singing along...except for Miles, who wouldn't be caught DEAD singing.
Our first structure to visit once inside the wrought iron gates is the Firestone Farm, one of my absolute favorite places to visit...anywhere! Being that it was such a cold, dreary day, they had the oil lamps lit and the fireplace going. My daughter stepped into the sitting room and settled into the chair near the hearth to warm herself, stating to me that she wished we had a fireplace at our house.

Rosalia warming up by the fireplace in Firestone Farm

Sadie, the 'master presenter' at the farm, after a little prodding from her co-workers, went into the parlor and played 'Silent Night' on the 1880's era pump organ, much to the delight of my son (who LOVES the sound of an organ).

Can you not hear 'Silent Night' being played by Sadie on the pump organ?

We stayed inside the house for nearly 45 minutes before venturing off to see the other homes decorated for Christmas. And, just like at Firestone, the homes were oil lamp lit, giving them the old-timey cozy feeling one does not get from an electric light - even with a dimmer switch!
As we sauntered around the other houses, Rosalia told me how Firestone was her favorite house, how she wishes she could live there, how she likes the way it is furnished, how she wants old-time things for Christmas this year, and how she wanted to go back to Firestone Farm before we left.
You don't have to ask me twice! So, after seeing Noah Webster's home decorated for New Years, the Ford House celebrating an 1876 Christmas, and how the Daggett's did not celebrate Christmas in the 1760's, we hiked back to Firestone Farm. With the daylight now waning, and the hiding sun preparing to set - which cast long dark shadows - the Farm was even cozier. The ceiling lamps were now lit - a rare occurrence here (see photo at the top of this blog). Rosalia was in her glory - the workers were baking cookies, using the recipe from the Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping. She stood next to the docent and watched intently the way cookies were decorated back in the 1880's.
After another half hour or so of time well spent, we had to travel back to our own home. Rosalia put up a little fuss, but I told her we could light our own oil lamp and make our own home a cozy home, similar to the Firestone Farm. She knew that was true, and that satisfied her, so off we went.

~It's also cozy in our gathering room~

This was a very Christmas-y, busy, and yet relaxing weekend. Each day was special in its own way, and spending each day with family and good friends made it nearly perfect. (Time-traveling back to the 19th century or, in the least, going home to a farm or to a restored 19th century home would've made it absolutely perfect...I think.)
And virtually everything (but the gas for the car, lunch on Friday, and the tree) was free.

Good friends and family.
No malls.
And this is only the beginning.
I hope your Christmas Season goes as wonderfully for you.



Vande Historic Costuming said...

What a wonderful way to start your Christmas festivities - and thank you for sharing your lovely photos and memories.

Mrs. G said...

Sounds like a wonderful weekend, nice pictures as always! We wish your family the same!