Friday, December 31, 2010

The Many Wonders of Modern Technology

(Many thanks to my friend and fellow reenactor, Randall Perry, for the doctored pic of me in a time machine.)

So, here we are, as of this writing 2011 is just under 12 hours away.
2011! Think of it! I remember as a teen back in the 1970's thinking how we'd have colonized the moon, maybe even Mars, and be driving hover cars by this time!
Talk about fantasy...nothing of the sort happened, eh?
Instead we seemed to have gone in a different futuristic direction: home computers, computer phones, digital music (thousands of songs on a tiny piece of plastic??), digital cameras, home printing, instant communication and picture sharing, movie screen-type televisions with amazing clarity, digital movies...how our everyday home lives have changed!
My father passed away in 1982, and I use his year of passing as the dividing line for past and future; what would my dad have thought of our many different "futuristic" items in comparison to what he had already known. For instance, I know for a fact he would have loved big-screen tv's - he was an avid tv watcher and really enjoyed it when one of the major networks (only three at that time) would show a 'world television premier' movie, or if one of the smaller local stations would have a John Wayne western week. For him to see them in Blu-Ray on a 50" plasma, for example, would have made him the happiest of men!
But, for me, an amatuer (for I am not accredited) social historian and a passionate lover of living history, what of our modern 21st century conveniences do I find most appealing...?
Well, for one, I love the home computer. It has allowed me to meet other people from around the country who have the same interests as me (read: history), and one can share information as one never could before. I know my social history research, as well as family history research, wouldn't be anywhere near what it is today if it wasn't for the internet. Oh, I realize everything must be checked and double-checked, but most info I have found to be pretty accurate. In all honesty, some of the most accurate information seems to come from fellow bloggers! Yes, bloggers really seem to love to share their findings with a willingness to accept other thoughts and ideas as additions. And the photos that accompany most blogs are awesome!
Speaking of pictures, the home computer has also made very simple the sharing and exchanging of photographs, whether it be through e-mail or through networking sites such as Facebook. And speaking of pictures, I absolutely LOVE digital cameras! Think of it: I now know immediately how my pictures turn out right after snapping them. And then, I can download them to my computer and print them however I would like, all within minutes of taking it! And super high quality digital photography is here and continues to improve all the time.
Now, let's jump to music: have you heard any of the remastered Beatles CD's that were released in the fall of 2009? I am a total Beatles fanatic - a true fan - and have been since I can remember (I was nearly three when they first became popular on these shores). In all these years I have never heard such clarity and fullness coming from such old (40 to nearly 50 year old) recordings. They truly sound as if they were recorded yesterday (ha! get it??), the quality is that good!
How did they do that with such ancient recordings?
With original producer George Martin at the helm, the folks at Abbey Road studios digitized the Beatles original recordings and, through the magic of computer technology, were able to isolate each instrument and voice, clean them up, boost the quality, and put it all back together. No, they didn't change the sound in any way, but instead improved the quality immensely.
It's not just the Beatles that we hear this ultimate quality in sound. They have recently remastered music by the Moody Blues, the Doors, Led Zeppelin...and I welcome the day when one can hear original Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey recordings in the same vein.

As for family history, most of my work has been done manually: heading to the nearest family history center, snail mail, and phone calls. But, I have subscribed (periodically) to ancestry.com and have found many other links to my family (census reports for my ancestors siblings, for instance) that I may not have had the inkling to do otherwise. However, the connections I have made with other new-found relatives researching the same family line has made each of our family history research that much - extremely - easier. The best part is having a questionable ancestor's link proven by what another has found that you may have not noticed. This just recently happened to me - within the last two weeks, in fact - and I had sent/e-mailed to me copies of the estate papers from 1813 of my 4th great grandfather, listing his possessions at the time of his death.
How cool is that??
That fast - an e-mail, an answer, and - bam! - it's here.
Now, this all may surprise you, knowing I am a living historian. If you have noticed, though, most of what I have written here about modern technology is history-based. In other words, I use today's tech to take me back to yesterday. You see, if it wasn't for the internet, my quality and accuracy as a living historian wouldn't be anywhere near what it is today. The original photographs one can find on line, the authentic sutlers, as well as social history information is beyond a scope I would have had 25 years ago! Instant networking with others who have the same interests have made my time-travel experiences that much more real.

I welcome the future that enables me to travel back to the past, that allows me to make new friends, and can keep me connected instantly to loved ones many miles away.
See? There is some good in the future...
Now, back to the past I go...Happy 1861 everyone!


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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas at Greenfield Village 2010

"The warm glow of Eagle Tavern in Clinton, Michigan, must have been a welcome sight to both traveler and local resident on a cold winter night during the 1850's. This evening, the travel of a merry band of entertainers has been unexpectedly interrupted, and the members have been asked by Calvin Wood, the tavern owner, to "sing for their supper." Join us tonight as you share in the hearty food and the warm hospitality of a less hurried time. Relax as our entertainers delight you and your companions with holiday song and cheer."
(taken from the souvenir menu given to patrons)

I am enjoying a respite from the modern world at the Eagle Tavern with my wife and our very good friend. We dined here on the evening of December 27

Patty and I had a very special "date" the other night; we went to "Holiday Nights in Eagle Tavern" at Greenfield Village. What a treat that was! As the GFV website proclaims:
"Treat your family to a delectable holiday feast in Eagle Tavern. The "proprietors" of this 1850s stagecoach stop will delight your palette with an authentic holiday meal, served by costumed presenters and enhanced by seasonal d├ęcor and live music from the period. In addition to dinner, your package includes admission to Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village."

We haven't done this in many years, due to the cost - it is rather expensive to do the evening Christmas dinner...but so well worth it! Fortunately, I was able to put aside a bit of money earlier this year and surprise Patty with the tickets.
First of all we dressed in our period clothing. It's very hard for us to do something so historical and not dress 'proper.' Our clothing, by the way, is correct for the early 1860's and not necessarily for 1850, the year the tavern portrays. That's OK , however, because we still fit into the atmosphere. And, no, this was not a reenactment.; just us being us.
The tavern is lit solely by candlelight. This, of course, enhances the atmosphere greatly, especially as one watches the sun set and then disappear into the night and only the glow of the flickering flames giving off illumination.
A quartet of carolers, known as Opera Lite, provided the seasonal entertainment. And they were very good! No Rudolph, Santa, or Hippopotamus songs here!

Opera Lite

They strolled from table to table, harmonizing wonderfully on such carols as The First Nowell, Bring A Torch Jeannette Isabella, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, and Jingle Bells - all period correct songs. They did a fun participatory "12 Days of Christmas" and got all of us involved by having folks seated in different sections of the tavern sing the different parts. Our table, and the two tables next to us, for instance, was asked to sing "Three French Hens" for our part. We spiced it up by waving our napkins as we sang. The group that had "Twelve Drummers Drumming," however, banged on the tables, and the "Eight Maids a Milking" became "Eight Maids a-Drinking" - the maids being the waitresses who worked at the tavern - and they held up drinking cups as they sang - and so on for each group. It was great fun.
"That's fine and dandy, Ken," you say, "but, what about the food?"
The food?
You tell me: apple sauce, cranberry relish, butternut squash soup, pork & apple pie, roasted chicken with cherry sauce, roasted rib of beef with brown sauce, brussels sprouts, buttered carrots, herb roasted red potatoes, and a French charlotte with vanilla sauce for dessert. Oh, and hot cider to drink.
All very traditional and accurate for a mid-19th century Christmas fare.
I am here to tell you that there are not many meals I can say I have ever eaten that was better than this! This is the reason why I continually say that the Eagle Tavern is my favorite place to dine (although during the daytime hours the menu is at a much cheaper rate, but without the evening atmosphere and entertainment)!

A scenic scene at Ackley Covered Bridge

Once the tavern festivities were done, out we went into the still Christmas-y atmosphere of Greenfield Village. Now, I posted a full report of this wonderful event on my Greenfield Village blog (Holiday Nights), so there's no need for me to go into any great detail here. I will say that it is like finding yourself in a Christmas card - a truly festive experience. Patty and I took our sweet time strolling the streets of the Village. Since we were not with anyone else on this particular evening we were able to do as we pleased and went where we wanted to go without worrying about whether our friends were having a good time or not.

A colonial chocolateer at the Giddings House

Since the chocolateer inside Giddings House was a new addition this year, I wanted to get back there to watch and listen to his presentation - when we went to Holiday Nights a few weeks back, I was so thrilled just to be in the Giddings' kitchen (which is never open to the public!) that I didn't hear a word the chocolateer said! So on this second visit I was able to listen and learn about this craft of another era. Did you know that folks during the colonial times would hire chocolateers to come to their house to make chocolate for special occasions? Imagine hiring out for someone just to make you chocolate! And it was rather expensive to do this.

The Ladies Aid Society readies gifts for our boys in blue

We also visited another new addition to Holiday Nights: they had a Ladies Aid Society set up at Smiths Creek Depot. They represented the northern female home front, showing the crocheted and knitted wares, newspapers (Harper's Weekly), preserved food, candles, and other goods to be sent to our northern boys who were off in strange southern lands fighting to preserve the Union. This scenario is in conjunction with the Civil War winter Quarters presentation at the McGuffey Schoolhouse).

Our boys in blue during winter quarters

A very special moment happened quite by accident; toward the end of the evening, Patty and I were standing in the cold near the Logan County Courthouse waiting for the fireworks to begin. Well, looking at my timepiece I saw that we had nearly 20 minutes yet to go so I suggested that we go inside the courthouse to get out of the inclement weather. I have been in this building hundreds of times but never during Holiday Nights, so weren't we surprised when the candle lit structure had a warm fire crackling in the fireplace and a fine period musician, Neil Woodward, performing the beautiful carols of the season on the concertina and mouth organ (he had already put his fiddle "to bed").

My dear wife is having a warm by the fireplace in the Logan County Courthouse

So there we sat thawing ourselves - especially our frozen toes - near the hearth, listening to this wonderful period Christmas music...a real highlight for us, and a lifetime memory.
It was difficult to leave that cozy place, but the fireworks were about to begin. We had never stayed at Holiday Nights completely til the end before now - we usually left before the closing festivities began to beat the traffic - and I could kick myself, for the end-of-the-night revelry proved to be just as enjoyable as any of the other activities. Just before the fireworks began we watched as the period-dressed presenters of the Village all walked in a line across the village green (now covered in snow) carrying lanterns while the church bell tolled in the background - quite a sight to see and hear!

It was quite a sight to see the Greenfield Village employees marching across the snow-covered village green, lanterns in hand and on hooks

Then the group caroling began, and the thousands of visitors were asked to join in to make a joyful noise as one. It was beautiful.
And yes, the fireworks were nearly as awesome as the show they have on the 4th of July!
What a grand time we had!
It's unfortunate, however, that the Village is now closed until mid-April.
*sigh*
But, that's one of the reasons why we decorate our home in the way we do, with the antiques, etc., trying to replicate some of the homes we have seen inside the Village.

Our "parlor" this Christmas

It's not perfect, but it sure is a welcome sight to both traveler and local resident on a cold winter night!

Another parlor photo: this is my solace - my respite - away from modern society as the need to escape arises

And it certainly helps me when I feel the modern world overcome me!
Happy New Year everyone!



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Thursday, December 23, 2010

"A Christmas Carol" Film Reviews - Updated

 Yes, I re-wrote and updated this post. Please click HERE for the much better posting on the various versions of "A Christmas Carol")

'A Christmas Carol.' Is there any other story that epitomizes what the modern day Christmas celebration is all about? And who would have thought this very English fable written over 150 years ago would be every bit as alive today here in the 21st century United States as it was in 1843 England when first published? Gerald Charles Dickens, great great grandson of THE Charles Dickens, was quoted recently as saying, "The 'Carol' is 10 times more popular in America than it is in England. In England, the 'Carol' is just a story. In America the 'Carol' IS Christmas."
Because I am such a fan of Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol," every year I receive a number of inquiries asking about my favorite filmed version. So a few years ago I posted here on my blog my reviews that I had originally written on Amazon.com - put them altogether in one posting. Well, I'm repeating the post again this year, only with the addition of the latest filmed version of the story, as well as a few changes in my reviews. Not that my opinion means squat - it's just my opinion. But, I do hope that it helps you decide which version you may want to watch this year - hopefully, you'll get a chance to see at least one version (besides the Muppet version, which too many feel is the only one they need to see). Or better yet, read the original book!

So, here they are, in no particular order:

The one with Alastair Sim as Scrooge - 1951:
This is the version that so many feel is the definitive Christmas Carol. It really is an excellent version. Alastair Sim plays Ebenezer Scrooge like no one else can. The believability factor here for both, the 'old mean Scrooge' and the 'newly transformed Scrooge' is very high, with the transformation itself coming about slowly. And that's what I like about this version. Scrooge doesn't suddenly become happy and giddy from the first of the three spirits, as in the Reginald Owen version. It takes Sim's old Ebenezer fully until the last spirit to convince him that he truly was a "squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!"
Victorian London is well represented here, its sinister darkness, dreariness, and hopelessness surrounding the viewer in glorious black and white to further the mood of the dirty old town.
This version has an excellent Jacob Marley (listen to the way he mourns and moans. Sends chills!). And Mrs. Dilber is hilarious at the end when Scrooge gives her a Christmas gift of money. The Ghost of Christmas Past is very close to Dickens' original description, as are all three of the Ghosts. Considering how little movie magic was used, that's no small feat! But, most important, Scrooge is well played here by Sim and his portrayal is a fine one indeed.
Yes, this is definitely an annual watch for us - my wife's most favorite version.

The one with Reginald Owen as Scrooge - 1938:
A nice, short, light-hearted family version of the Dickens classic. Good for the kiddies to introduce them to this great story. But for the purist, it has its shortcomings. First of all, Marley just speaks his part instead of wailing it ("Business? Mankind was my business." Instead of "BUS-A-NESS?!? Man-KIND was my BUS-A-NESSSS!!!" like it should be). Bob Cratchit is a bit too portly to be believably poor in my opinion. And, I'm sorry to say, Kathleen Lockhart does over-act. Watch her as she sets the pudding down on the table. Also, Reginald Owen becomes converted just too darn quick to believe that he is supposed to be this mean, crusty old sinner as he's supposed to have been.
Another complaint is there is more telling of the story here than actual portrayal of the story. Sort of like a Reader's Digest condensed version. Too bad the script writers wrote so many of their own scenes and changed Dickens' own 'staves,' too (this does happen through virtually all of the filmed versions, unfortunately).
I will say this, though, until the Jim Carrey version in 2009, this was the only version I had seen that explains about the Cratchit's goose being cooked at the bakery, to be picked up at an appointed time on Christmas Day. Many poor people in Victorian England did just that since their homes had too small of an oven or no ovens at all.
My advice is to purchase this one for the kids, then go after the Jim Carrey, George C. Scott, and/or Alistair Sim versions to get a more accurate portrayal of not only Dickens' original story, but Victorian London as a whole.
This is not a God awful version. Rather, a mediocre one that has its moments.
By the way, Scrooge's sister's name was FAN not Fran (as in Reginald Owens' and Patrick Stewart's Version).

The one with George C. Scott as Scrooge - 1984:
This version is, to me, a smidgen above the Alistair Sim version - just a smidgen.
Yes, it's that good.
The opening scene literally grabs you and pulls you into the gray, wintry Dickens London on Christmas Eve day 1843. The viewer will feel as if they were walking down the cobblestone streets of Merry Olde England, passing the street vendors hawking their wares, and hearing the carolers and street musicians singing and playing that wonderful Victorian Holiday music. Top hats and bonnets abound as the crowd of people - rich and poor alike - rush to celebrate this most Holy of Christian nights. That is, all but one. And the first image of old Ebenezer Scrooge, played here to perfection by the late great George C. Scott, will send chills down the back of even the most ardent skeptic.
Just think...if the opening scene is this good, you can just imagine how great the rest of this movie is! Of all the versions that have been filmed, this one of the best and most realistic I have yet to witness.
Now what puts this version of Charles Dickens' classic tale above the one with Alistair Sim? First and foremost is the feel. There is a certain ambiance here - a sort of realism - that is not present in the others. As stated previously, you, as the viewer, are drawn into the movie as a willing participant to the events happening about you. Given that this movie was filmed not on a stage set in Hollywood, but in and around actual buildings that were standing during the period in which this story takes place alone gives this version an edge the others can't touch. And the authentic costumes are as accurate as I have seen.
Another major plus here is that Dickens' original story is followed much closer than in many of the other versions. And the casting was pert near perfect as well. In fact, the only character I felt that was miss-cast was the actor (who's name escapes me) that played the role of Scrooge's nephew, Fred. Not toward the beginning of the film when he's inviting his uncle to dine with him, but toward the end when Uncle Ebenezer is dining with him. A bit of over-acting here. A small blip ever so minor that, because of just how wonderful the rest of the movie is, one would hardly notice. Not enough to lower any part of the score!

The Ghost of Jacob Marley tears at your heart, for the believability factor here is high that this specter is truly wrenching in pain and sorrow for his life's deeds. And the Ghost of Christmas Present, with his sarcastic wit, easily puts Scrooge in his place simply by using Scrooge's own lack of common sense and lack of courtesy against him.
Virtually everything about this version of 'A Christmas Carol' surpasses its predecessors. All the 'Carols,' before this have been good to very good. But this George C. Scott ranks above them.

The one with Patrick Stewart as Scrooge - 1999:
This Patrick Stewart version of 'A Christmas Carol' is one that, judging by other's reviews, you'll either love or hate. I believe, however, in a middle ground (or upper middle ground in this case). What makes this version so unique is that it actually shows many scenes that were in the original book but never put on the various filmed versions available for viewing. A few examples: the Ghost of Christmas Present showing Scrooge the many different types of people in detail - miners, lighthouse keepers, sailors out at sea - all celebrating this special day; the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come showing the lifeless body of Tiny Tim laid out in the Cratchit home (the Jim Carrey version is the only other one I have seen do this); the lower jaw of the ghost of Jacob Marley dropping "down upon its breast" when the bandage around his head was removed. Even the items that once belonged to Scrooge being sold at "Old Joe's" pawn shop, such as the sugar tongs, were listed in the original book.
This version also has the best Cratchit family put to film. Their physical appearance (even their teeth), their manner of speech, their clothing, all were as you would expect a poor 19th century London family to look, sound, and be like.


The costuming, the acting, the sets, all are very well done. For what I just wrote, I would put this particular version above average.
However, it does have its downside that brings it down a couple of notches. First and foremost is Patrick Stewart. He actually does a fair job in his role as Ebenezer Scrooge. But I truly do have a problem with the 'look' of this particular Scrooge. Instead of a mean appearance, Stewart's is almost sinister...murderous...like he could snap at any moment. Also, Mr. Stewart's choking out a laugh toward the end of the film is obviously (too obviously) forced.
Other small but noticeable errors: (1) Mrs. Fezziwig telling her husband that she is on a diet, and, (2) toward the end of the story, when Scrooge is asking the young lad to go and get the poulterer, the young boy answers with "you're joshing." I'm fairly certain that 'joshing' and being on a diet were not terms yet used in 1843. One must wonder why they put in such contemporary slang terminology.
One must also wonder why they call Scrooge's sister Fran instead of what she was called in the book - Fan. The 1938 version with Reginald Owen also makes this same mistake.
And, yes, I must agree that they could have done a better job on the phantom. Again, with all of the computer tricks available, why go with a battery operated child-type toy figure?
Why, with all of the wonderfully accurate scenes, did they allow for the inaccuracies that they did?
All in all, even with the inaccuracies, it is definitely worth adding to your collection. It is a high quality version that, because of what it has included in contrast to its deficiencies, will, I believe, stand the test of time.

The one with Seymour Hicks as Scrooge - 1935:
Better than one might think for 1935. I do place this slightly above the Owen version from 1938, however - not as Hollywood-y.
Unfortunately, I feel that they could have come up with better spirits than a light, a shadow, and a voice. I also feel that Scrooge's reformation comes on a bit too fast. He was clearly already a changed man before the Ghost of Christmas Past was finished with its job. And, I have to say that Scrooge's former love, Belle, seemed to be quite the motherly type - we counted at least 14 children from her post-Scrooge marriage!
Now for the pluses: the sets were terrific! Very authentic - I wonder if they were actually filmed in original period structures? The Cratchit's home is perfect for their status, as was the home of nephew Fred. And the showing of Tiny Tim's body lying in state in the Cratchit home gives realism that other more popular filmed versions (except for the 1999 and 2009 version) haven't touched. Also, seeing Mrs. Cratchit pull out the pudding from the laundry tub gave this that extra bit of authenticity rarely seen anywhere else.
The addition of Queen Victoria celebrating Christmas was unique.
Unfortunately, the quality of the print is not as good as it should be. It's not horrid but not what one is used to from a remastered disc. I am guessing that the original print is long gone. But, it's much much better than the VHS version.
All in all, not bad for its age. Mr. Hicks gives a fine rendition of Ebenezer Scrooge that is nearly as good as the others.
A worthy DVD, especially if you are a collector.

The one with Jim Carrey as Scrooge - 2009:
This is the version which is right up there with the best of them. Now, being a traditionalist, this may come as a surprise, considering the computerized-animated-humanistic approach Disney has taken with it. But, right up to the third of the three spirits it is the closest one yet to Dickens' original story; most of the dialogue comes straight from the author's own words, and the depiction of old London is simply outstanding! Now, don't let yourself be fooled...just because it is somewhat animated doesn't mean a fig. The details of old London are shown as realistic as if one were there - details from the past that would be much too costly to have been built on a set. And the homes are as authentic as I have seen yet! As with the George C. Scott version, the viewer is pulled right into the scene.
No easy task!
This is a downright very dark and very scary version, just as Dickens originally wrote. The characters seemingly jump off the screen right into your room - no, I'm not even speaking of the 3-D version here, but the regular DVD/Blu-Ray version - Old Marley's ghost is as real a depiction of an apparition as anything I have yet to see. In fact, watch his eyes...very eerie.

And Mr. Carrey as Scrooge is perfect!
Whether you like Jim Carrey as an actor or not shouldn't make a difference here, for one cannot even tell it's him! In fact, Carrey also plays the role of Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet-To-Come, as well as Scrooge in the various stages of his life, and he excells as each. The general feel is what, I suspect, one would imagine while reading the book, and there have been very few movies that have ever done that for me.
Now, as wonderful a depiction of this tale this version is, there are a few complaints I do have (possible spoiler alert):
1) Ghost of Christmas Past - I don't mind too much that a candle flame head represents the ghost...it adds just a bit of unique flavor without taking away from the story. But, what I didn't care for was when Scrooge snuffed out the candle with its hat, he is suddenly shot miles into the air, gliding in front of the moon along the lines of E.T., then falls back to earth, landing on his bedroom floor. I believe they only wanted to show the magic of 3-D here. It doesn't take away from the story, but it doesn't add anything either.
2) Ghost of Christmas Yet-To-Come - There is a scene where Scrooge is being chased by a phantom horse and hearse during this portion of the movie that I feel takes away from what this chapter was originally supposed to mean. Then, to further take 'artistic license' (if you want to call it that), Scrooge suddenly shrinks to the size of a rat while being chased, and slides through gutters, etc., while trying to get away.
(Maybe, in this way, they can promote this bit as 'for the children.')
Aside from the two above diversions (and just a couple others that matter little, really), the rest is as close to the book as I have yet to see, and easily overtakes the blips.
I would love to see a "director's cut" to show more of what was in the original book (like seeing Belle's family, Marley while he was alive as Scrooge's partner, more of Scrooge's future). In fact, on the DVD there are deleted scenes, and one in particular shows the horse-drawn hearse being driven up the stairs inside of Scrooge's house, just like in the original novel:
"You may talk vaguely about driving a coach-and-six up a good old flight of stairs, or through a bad young Act of Parliament; but I mean to say you might have got a hearse up that staircase, and taken it broadwise, with the splinter-bar towards the wall and the door towards the balustrades: and done it easy. There was plenty of width for that, and room to spare; which is perhaps the reason why Scrooge thought he saw a locomotive hearse going on before him in the gloom. Half a dozen gas-lamps out of the street wouldn't have lighted the entry too well, so you may suppose that it was pretty dark with Scrooge's dip".
I wish they would include that scene in a future version of this!
Now, as I stated earlier, this is quite the scary version and may not be suitable for the younger set. Heck! Even a couple of older folks had to close their eyes upon a recent showing during a Christmas Carol party I had recently!

I think Dickens might agree that, aside from the blips taken to show off the modern 3-D magic in movie making and the chase scene, this is probably the most true-to-book depiction of "A Christmas Carol" put to film.
From me, that's saying a lot!

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Now, I know there are a few I missed (Muppet version, the musical version, the silent versions). I just wanted to cover the major film versions (and I haven't seen the silent ones yet).
I must say, however, that I really enjoy the Muppet version, although I don't take it too seriously.

Hope you enjoy watching your favorite version of "A Christmas Carol."

"Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.
He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!"



Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Wonderful Description of Christmas Past, Courtesy of Mr. Charles Dickens

I am repeating this post from last year with a few additions in my intro.
Merry Christmas - - - - - -


The following are snippets of Christmas celebrations as described by Charles Dickens in his short story "A Christmas Carol." This is my most favorite of all Christmas stories, and it's from these wonderful descriptions that my family has attempted to base our Christmas celebrations upon.
If you have not ever read the book of "A Christmas Carol," might I suggest that you run out and purchase yourself a copy? It is a wonderful story that encompasses all that is Christmas, including the birth of our Savior.
There are also the many different movie versions. Of course, the classic Alistair Sim version from 1951 is always wonderful. And the 1984 George C. Scott version is definitely a favorite as well. I must say, however, that I absolutely LOVE the latest adaption: the computer generated one with Jim Carrey portraying Scrooge. Except for two parts, I don't believe I've ever seen a version more true to the original story than this one. The script writers had no problems here - they just lifted it from Dickens' own hand! Just in case you're wondering, the two parts I didn't care for are 1) during the Ghost of Ghost of Christmas Past segment when Scrooge was shot into space. No need for that - I think that was just showing what they could do with their computer tricks., and 2) during the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come scene ...there's about 7 minutes here that could have been put to much better use instead of having Scrooge being chased down by a horse and carriage, then suddenly shrinking to the size of a mouse for a bit. Again, non-sensical - probably just showing off the 3-D technology.
Other than that, it's an amazing telling of this tale. I must forewarn anyone that hasn't seen this version yet: it's not the happier family-friendly tale you may be used to seeing. This one, as I have said, is much closer to Dickens original writing and, therefore, is rather dark and scary.

At Fezziwig's Christmas Ball:'Yo ho, my boys!' said Fezziwig. 'No more work to-night. Christmas Eve, Dick. Christmas, Ebenezer! Let's have the shutters up,' cried old Fezziwig, with a sharp clap of his hands, 'before a man can say Jack Robinson!'

You wouldn't believe how those two fellows went at it. They charged into the street with the shutters-one, two, three-had them up in their places-four, five, six-barred them and pinned then-seven, eight, nine-and came back before you could have got to twelve, panting like race-horses.

'Hilli-ho!' cried old Fezziwig, skipping down from the high desk, with wonderful agility. 'Clear away, my lads, and let's have lots of room here! Hilli-ho, Dick! Chirrup, Ebenezer!'

Clear away! There was nothing they wouldn't have cleared away, or couldn't have cleared away, with old Fezziwig looking on. It was done in a minute. Every movable was packed off, as if it were dismissed from public life for evermore; the floor was swept and watered, the lamps were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire; and the warehouse was as snug, and warm, and dry, and bright a ball-room, as you would desire to see upon a winter's night.

In came a fiddler with a music-book, and went up to the lofty desk, and made an orchestra of it, and tuned like fifty stomach-aches. In came Mrs Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile. In came the three Miss Fezziwigs, beaming and lovable. In came the six young followers whose hearts they broke. In came all the young men and women employed in the business. In came the housemaid, with her cousin, the baker. In came the cook, with her brother's particular friend, the milkman. In came the boy from over the way, who was suspected of not having board enough from his master; trying to hide himself behind the girl from next door but one, who was proved to have had her ears pulled by her mistress. In they all came, one after nother; some shyly, some boldly, some gracefully, some awkwardly, some pushing, some pulling; in they all came, anyhow and everyhow. Away they all went, twenty couple at once; hands half round and back again the other way; down the middle and up again; round and round in various stages of affectionate grouping; old top couple always turning up in the wrong place; new top couple starting off again, as soon as they got there; all top couples at last, and not a bottom one to help them. When this result was brought about, old Fezziwig, clapping his hands to stop the dance, cried out, 'Well done.' and the fiddler plunged his hot face into a pot of porter, especially provided for that purpose. But scorning rest, upon his reappearance, he instantly began again, though there were no dancers yet, as if the other fiddler had been carried home, exhausted, on a shutter, and he were a bran-new man resolved to beat him out of sight, or perish.
There were more dances, and there were forfeits, and more dances, and there was cake, and there was negus, and there was a great piece of Cold Roast, and there was a great piece of Cold Boiled, and there were mince-pies, and plenty of beer. But the great effect of the evening came after the Roast and Boiled, when the fiddler (an artful dog, mind. The sort of man who knew his business better than you or I could have told it him.) struck up 'Sir Roger de Coverley.' Then old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs Fezziwig. Top couple, too; with a good stiff piece of work cut out for them; three or four and twenty pair of partners; people who were not to be trifled with; people who would dance, and had no notion of walking.
But if they had been twice as many-ah, four times- old Fezziwig would have been a match for them, and so would Mrs Fezziwig. As to her, she was worthy to be his partner in every sense of the term. If that's not high praise, tell me higher, and I'll use it. A positive light appeared to issue from Fezziwig's calves. They shone in every part of the dance like moons. You couldn't have predicted, at any given time, what would have become of them next. And when old Fezziwig and Mrs Fezziwig had gone all through the dance; advance and retire, both hands to your partner, bow and curtsey, corkscrew, thread-the-needle, and back again to your place; Fezziwig 'cut'-cut so deftly, that he appeared to wink with his legs, and came upon his feet again without a stagger.

When the clock struck eleven, this domestic ball broke up. Mr and Mrs Fezziwig took their stations, one on either side of the door, and shaking hands with every person individually as he or she went out, wished him or her a Merry Christmas.


Christmas Morning:The house fronts looked black enough, and the windows blacker, contrasting with the smooth white sheet of snow upon the roofs, and with the dirtier snow upon the ground; which last deposit had been ploughed up in deep furrows by the heavy wheels of carts and waggons; furrows that crossed and recrossed each other hundreds of times where the great streets branched off; and made intricate channels, hard to trace in the thick yellow mud and icy water. The sky was gloomy, and the shortest streets were choked up with a dingy mist, half thawed, half frozen, whose heavier particles descended in shower of sooty atoms, as if all the chimneys in Great Britain had, by one consent, caught fire, and were blazing away to their dear hearts' content. There was nothing very cheerful in the climate or the town, and yet was there an air of cheerfulness abroad that the clearest summer air and brightest summer sun might have endeavoured to diffuse in vain.
For, the people who were shovelling away on the housetops were jovial and full of glee; calling out to one another from the parapets, and now and then exchanging a facetious snowball-better-natured missile far than many a wordy jest- laughing heartily if it went right and not less heartily if it went wrong. The poulterers' shops were still half open, and the fruiterers' were radiant in their glory. There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish Friars, and winking from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples, clustered high in blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes, made, in the shopkeepers' benevolence to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people's mouths might water gratis as they passed; there were piles of filberts, mossy and brown, recalling, in their fragrance, ancient walks among the woods, and pleasant shufflings ankle deep through withered leaves; there were Norfolk Biffins, squab and swarthy, setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and, in the great compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner. The very gold and silver fish, set forth among these choice fruits in a bowl, though members of a dull and stagnant-blooded race, appeared to know that there was something going on; and, to a fish, went gasping round and round their little world in slow and passionless excitement.

The Grocers'! oh the Grocers'! nearly closed, with perhaps two shutters down, or one; but through those gaps such glimpses. It was not alone that the scales descending on the counter made a merry sound, or that the twine and roller parted company so briskly, or that the canisters were rattled up and down like juggling tricks, or even that the blended scents of tea and coffee were so grateful to the nose, or even that the raisins were so plentiful and rare, the almonds so extremely white, the sticks of cinnamon so long and straight, the other spices so delicious, the candied fruits so caked and spotted with molten sugar as to make the coldest lookers-on feel faint and subsequently bilious. Nor was it that the figs were moist and pulpy, or that the French plums blushed in modest tartness from their highly-decorated boxes, or that everything was good to eat and in its Christmas dress; but the customers were all so hurried and so eager in the hopeful promise of the day, that they tumbled up against each other at the door, crashing their wicker baskets wildly, and left their purchases upon the counter, and came running back to fetch them, and committed hundreds of the like mistakes, in the best humour possible; while the Grocer and his people were so frank and fresh that the polished hearts with which they fastened their aprons behind might have been their own, worn outside for general inspection, and for Christmas daws to peck at if they chose.

But soon the steeples called good people all, to church and chapel, and away they came, flocking through the streets in their best clothes, and with their gayest faces. And at the same time there emerged from scores of bye-streets, lanes, and nameless turnings, innumerable people, carrying their dinners to the bakers' shops. The sight of these poor revellers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood with Scrooge beside him in a baker's doorway, and taking off the covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners from his torch. And it was a very uncommon kind of torch, for once or twice when there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who had jostled each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humour was restored directly. For they said, it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was! God love it, so it was!

In time the bells ceased, and the bakers were shut up; and yet there was a genial shadowing forth of all these dinners and the progress of their cooking, in the thawed blotch of wet above each baker's oven; where the pavement smoked as if its stones were cooking too.

At The Cratchit's:Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought a goose the rarest of all birds; a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of course-and in truth it was something very like it in that house. Mrs Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan) hissing hot; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigour; Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped. At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving-knife, prepared to plunge it in the breast; but when she did, and when the long expected gush of stuffing issued forth, one murmur of delight arose all round the board, and even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried Hurrah!

There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn't believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn't ate it all at last! Yet every one had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular, were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows! But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs Cratchit left the room alone-too nervous to bear witnesses-to take the pudding up and bring it in.

Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should break in turning out. Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the back-yard, and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose-a supposition at which the two young Cratchits became livid! All sorts of horrors were supposed. Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day! That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook's next door to each other, with a laundress's next door to that! That was the pudding! In half a minute Mrs Cratchit entered-flushed, but smiling proudly-with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.

Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs Cratchit said that now the weight was off her mind, she would confess she had had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it
was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.

At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the jug being tasted, and considered perfect, apples and oranges were put upon the table, and a shovel-full of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a one; and at Bob Cratchit's elbow stood the family display of glass. Two tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.

These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as golden goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with beaming looks, while the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and cracked noisily. Then Bob proposed:

'A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!'

Which all the family re-echoed.

'God bless us every one!' said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

This is a Time of Joyfulness, and a Merry Time of Year

So, as you probably already well know, the Christmas Season is a pretty special time around our home. We love this time of year and try to celebrate it for all it encompasses: family, friends, tradition, music, and, of course, Christ's birth.
I have always enjoyed the Christmas Season. Even as a young teen, when blase' boys aren't/weren't supposed to like such un-cool things, I continued celebrating unabated. And, now that I am a full-fledged middle-aged adult, I still celebrate the Christmas Season! Only now I can do it as I please. If you have read the few postings previous to this one you know that my season begins in full at Thanksgiving and continues through early January.
And because we shop mostly on line, I don't worry about the awful malls, rude people who make gift-giving a chore, and hippopotamuses for Christmas!

Our Christmas Tree 2010

I admit to succumbing (is that the right word?) to the rituals of hanging greenery inside our home, which, although some may disagree, I feel is no different than bringing flowers inside from a garden. We all enjoy decorating our tree with the many different styles of ornaments we have collected over the years. Yes, we still hang some of our original ornaments from 25 years ago when Patty and I were first married, as well as a few from more recent times.
Another tradition is setting up our original manger scene that we purchased during our first Christmas together all those years ago.
An interesting aside to manger scenes happened to me few years back when, while shopping in an antique shop I found the very same nativity collection my mother had originally bought back in 1950. Her original, of course, was long ago destroyed by us kids playing with it and recreating Jesus' birth (well, I did anyway!). So, here I came across the exact same one, only in mint condition, and I absolutely had to have it!

The same make and year as my mother's nativity - around 60 years old. The figures are from my grandparent's and my mother's original.

My visiting siblings all reacted virtually in the same manner when they saw it: "Hey! That's mom's!" Lucky for me my mother still kept the tiny Mary, Jesus, and Joseph, as well as multiple kings, angels, shepherds, and manger animals from her original set. Many of these figures also belonged to my grandparents as well, their manger set up long gone. Oh, the figures are a little chipped, but wonderfully intact for the most part.
We also enjoy the Holiday Nights Christmas event at Greenfield Village every year. In fact, we usually attend multiple times! Sometimes we dress in period clothing, depending on the weather, and other times we are in our modern garb. We attended last weekend and did all of the 'touristy' things such as taking a horse-drawn wagon ride. I usually try to let as many friends know about Holiday Nights and always end up with quite a few who want to go - this year I purchased around 70 tickets! No, I didn't treat!

Christmas in the mid-19th century at the Eagle Tavern - and this is the waiting room!

By the way, for a special treat, I am taking my wife to an 1850's Christmas dinner at the Eagle Tavern. It will take place a couple days after Christmas. We haven't done this in years and, considering how rotten our economy is, I don't know when - or if - we might be able to do this again. Plan on a full report posted here...
Another fun tradition is watching the various versions of "A Christmas Carol." Having read the book yearly for decades, I have a pretty good idea on how true the movies are to Dickens' vision. Most are pretty fair, some much better than others, but all are enjoyable in their own way. Even the Muppet version. I really like the Jim Carrey version from last year (except when Scrooge shrinks down to the size of a mouse for a short bit - not sure why they did that). And the George C. Scott "Carol" from 1984 is excellent. Alistair Simm does a phenomenal job in the 1951 version as well. By the way, the best Cratchit family award goes to the Patrick Stewart version from 1999 - really authentic and the way I pictured they would be like.

A Dept. 56 Dickens Christmas

I collect the Department 56 lighted houses - the Dickens series, of course - and have quite a few. I really don't have the room to set my whole collection up, so this year I have a mere seven houses and a few figurines on our piano/shelf. Just enough to give a smidgeon of the story. I really don't buy them anymore because I have no room to set them all up. Maybe one day...when the kids are grown and moved out...which I hope is a long way off...
Then there is the period vocal group I manage/arrange/MC: Simply Dickens. Formed by my oldest son and a couple singers nearly 10 years ago, Simply Dickens has progressed from a middle school trio through a high school quartet and quintet, and is now a quintet of adults of varying ages (young as 22 - old as 49), including my son. And because the group is no longer a quaint collection of kids singing songs of Christmas, they must strive to be different than the usual gang of carolers one sees at every gathering. Although they have always performed old world Christmas carols, they now specialize in that genre. Songs such as The Boar's Head Carol, The Gloucestershire Wassail, The Holly Bears a Berry, All You That Are Good Fellows, Riu Riu Chiu, Silent Night sung in German and in English, with the audience joining in, and the original melody of O Little Town of Bethlehem, among others. Because most listeners do not recognize many of the tunes, I act as MC and explain the history of each carol sung.

Simply Dickens at the Livonia Greenmead performance. Yes, it was bitterly cold!

I am very proud of this group, for we just received our first real newspaper write up/review from a recent performance in Plymouth, Michigan.
Here is a snippet:

"Once the show began, the crowd listened in rapt attention to the harmonized voices singing both familiar and unknown Christmas carols.
John Fitzgerald and his wife Fay are new Plymouth residents, having only lived in the area for six months. Their favorite song the group sang was "Silent Night," because they like how everybody was able to sing. Fitzgerald said he thought the show was great, surprisingly.
"It was fantastic, I was pleasantly surprised," he said. "I thought it was a barber shop group, I was misinformed. It wasn't until we were sitting in the parking lot and Fay said it was old-fashioned Christmas carols. And I thought, well this is going to be boring. I was really surprised." "
Did I say proud? How about elated??
December 2010 has been our busiest season yet, with performances weekly+, all around the greater Detroit area.

Christmas has become even more special than I ever could have imagined. Between the decorating, the music, the events at Greenfield and Crossroads Villages, and the Civil War era at Christmas living history we did on the farm, I would say I am blessed with the best the season has to offer. It took a lot of time and effort, I must say, to get it where it is for us, but it was well worth it.
It's nice enjoying Christmas without thinking about malls.
And hippopotamuses.

Merry Christmas from Patty and I to all of you!






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Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas at Waterloo Farm 1861

That's our home...to the left (I wish!)

The Christmas Season's time-travel activities is now in full force and virtually every weekend this month will have another opportunity to experience life in the past - at least for a day or two at a time. One of the most special Christmas weekends took place this past (get it?) weekend at Waterloo Farm Museum. You may recall when I wrote the following last summer:
throughout the year the Waterloo Area Historical Society that runs the museum holds various events, including pioneer days, log cabin days, and a Christmas gathering. My favorite spot on the farm is the farmhouse, which is filled with accurate period furnishings that give the homestead a very authentic feel.
And now, to paraphrase another line in that same blog:
imagine my surprise when I was told that my family and I, along with a few friends, could set ourselves up in the house as if it were our own and present ourselves as family living there with friends coming to call during the Christmas Season of 1861!

A dream come true! To me that is as 'progressive' as a civilian living historian could get without actually sleeping inside the home (that, good friends, would be considered 'hardcore' and the ultimate reenacting experience for someone like me!). For a civilian, to have a period house to reenact in doesn't get any better! And at Christmastime to boot!
The home is heated by a wood-burning stove in the kitchen and a wood-burning heating stove in the dining room, and the good folks who run this museum did a fine job keeping us warm on such a gray, dingy, flurry-filled - and cozy! - day. Well, except for the upstairs where the stoves wouldn't be lit until bedtime (if we were actually staying there!).
We worked out a scenario where I was the owner of the farm, my "sister" (friend Mrs. Cook) from Pennsylvania was staying with us, our friends from down the road a piece were visiting, as well as our domestic were all helping us to prepare for our Christmas celebration.

Each of us had an opportunity to speak with visitors as they toured the house, and we stayed in 1st person nearly the entire time. We would step out of character here and there to answer a question or to give information on a certain subject that would have been too difficult to give while remaining in 1st person. For instance, when visitors asked about the feather tree in the sitting room, friend Larissa, who has extensive knowledge on feather trees, shared her knowledge about their history and ultimate future.

Some of the Ladies of our farm

My "sister" spoke of her arduous travels to my farm by way of steamboat (across the Great Lakes) and stage coach (from Detroit onward). We used the tried and truthful story of the stage getting stuck in the mud, broken wagon wheels, and other historically accurate travel adventures.
And our domestic explained her daily duties in great detail, much to the disbelief of the young ladies listening.
The farmhouse was decorated tastefully in the manner of the mid-to-late 19th century including hanging greens and above-mentioned feather tree.
The patrons were also interested in the spinning wheel being used as well as my wife's crocheting. Of course, we explained that she was crocheting a scarf and hat for our boys fighting to preserve the Union!

A special treat was when our friends from 'down the road' - Mrs. Fleishman and her mother - entertained all by showing their musical prowess on the ancient pump organ sitting in the formal parlor. The beautiful strains of "Silent Night" hummed beautifully and allowed us to hear what our ancestors heard over a hundred years earlier.

During the slower moments I pulled out my hard-cover copy of Dickens "A Christmas Carol" and read aloud from it for all to enjoy.
I feel that we succeeded in presenting, to the best of our current knowledge, what life was like during Christmas 1861. Oh, there were a few mistakes made here and there (I made a ridiculous comment that need not be repeated, but it was one of those "uh oh...how do I get out of this?" I did joke about it afterward), but, for nearly the entire time we demonstrated our familiarity of the past in a fun and entertaining - yet authentic - manner.
I feel thanks must be given to the many folks at the Waterloo Historical Society, for it's because of their trust in us that we were able to spend a weekend in December 1861. We were told to make the house our home, and we were made to feel at home. And because of this we received, in a way, a wonderful early Christmas gift!

My wife and I with our two youngest


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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas Dreaming to Christmas Reality



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Christmas is coming the goose is getting fat
Please put a penny in the old man’s hat
If you haven’t got a penny then a ha-penny will do
If you haven’t got a ha-penny then God Bless You!

Journey to Christmas Past

Here we are, another year passed, and Christmas truly is coming – the goose is nearly plump enough for roasting, and many of us in the living history community are planning yet another season of 19th century Christmas celebrations. There is quite the line up of reenacting activities throughout the Christmas Season for those of us in the Detroit area of Michigan who choose to participate. For many, becoming ‘Ghosts of Christmas Past’ has already begun; for instance, during Thanksgiving weekend, quite a few of us from various reenacting units put on our 1860's clothing and traveled over the river and through the woods to Crossroads Village in Flint. Christmas at Crossroads is truly breathtaking, for the homes are wonderfully decorated to the period of which they represent – the mid-to-late 19th century. We reenactors became part of this atmosphere, and the visitors were delighted to have us strolling about. And the employees of Crossroads were very glad to have us join in their festivities.

We took a ride on the Huckleberry Railroad

We also enjoyed a 45 minute train ride on the Huckleberry Railroad, and while the car bumped along the track, we sang Christmas carols. After our train journey was completed, it was to the church where we gathered to sing more joyful old hymns.

The heavenly voices sing carols in church

I don’t believe I have ever heard anything more beautiful than these cherished songs, such as Silent Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem, and Joy To the World, sung in this 19th century chapel to an authentic period organ.
Another special moment was having the opportunity to sit and warm up in the oil lamp-lit parlor of the 1876 Fox House.

Inside the parlor of the 1876 Fox House

Having the opportunity to roam along the wood-plank walks of this beautiful village is a special treat indeed.

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The following day, another group of us living historians, once again, donned our period clothing and ventured out, this time to Greenfield Village. This was the last day the Village would be open in the daytime until April. Attending Greenfield in period clothing on the "off-season" is such a special visit for us, and we are always well received by the visitors and employees.

Grandma Firestone's sewing room - right off her bedroom

As an early Christmas gift (as I consider it to be), we were treated to a rare upstairs tour of the Firestone Farm, which is set up as if the Firestones still lived there. Our docent gave us a thorough detail of each bedroom.
Besides touring the homes decorated for the Christmas Season, we also dined at the Eagle Tavern which, I must state, has the finest food of any restaurant anywhere.

Dining at the 1832 Eagle Tavern is quite the living history experience. Our waitress was also dressed in period clothing.

You may recall a post from last spring where I wrote an article about the Tavern and how the second floor had a ballroom. “The ballroom, which was constructed so that the floor had a slight spring to it to give the dancers the experience of a “delightful sense of exhilaration as they glided over the smooth surface,” was located on the 2nd floor of the building. In fact, it’s still there, springy floor and all.”
Well, guess what? A few of us were given the privilege of going up to the 2nd floor of the tavern and experiencing for ourselves the springy floor, as well as being given a tour of the entire second story! What a treat that was for us! To think that 150 years ago they actually held balls right where we were standing! Please see this post to read for yourself a first-hand account of a ball held there in 1859.

The infamous Eagle Tavern ballroom floor - it's still there up on the 2nd floor

Bringing the past to life…that’s what we experienced this weekend. Sight, sound, smell, and touch.
Reenacting during the Christmas Season brings a special warmth like no other time of the year. Unless you experience it, mere words cannot describe it.
And there’s more to come…stay tuned...


Ghosts of Christmas Past sit on the steps inside the Wright Brothers Home


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