Monday, January 7, 2013

A Period Party Like No Other

You've passed the old school house many times. It's an out-of-place looking sort, a vestige from another era sitting in the heart of 21st century suburbia.
Yes, a ghost from the past...
This flurry-filled winter's night, however, amidst the harsh brightness of street lights, stop lights, head lights, and brake lights, a soft glow emanates from the windows as if...yes, as ethereal mist has swirled you into another time.
Inside, the modern world dissipates upon seeing the wood floors, the wainscoting that encircles the interior walls, the kerosene lanterns along the sides, and the heating stove near the rear.
It's then that you realize that this is not going to be an ordinary Christmas party. Why, just look at the people dressed in the festive clothing styles of another century - are they ghosts?
Some other place...somewhere...some other time...
Well, no...not really, though I would imagine this may be how one might feel if they didn't know that they were witnessing a group of Civil War reenactors celebrating, for one final time this season, Christmas.
Welcome to the annual 21st Michigan Period-Dress Christmas party.
I remember the first time suggesting a period party to be held in a historic building; you'da thought I suggested playing in traffic during rush hour!
"Yes!" I said, "Let's have a real Civil War era Christmas party, where everyone dresses period appropriate and the food is historically correct in a 19th century building!"
"Won't that be a lot of work?"
"Not if everyone pitches in!"
"Well...I don't know..."
I garnered excitement from some members, and looks of  insanity and even disdain from others. But I persevered and pulled it together. And now it is an annual event - some have told me that our Christmas party, because of its period appropriateness from all angles, is just as important as a regular reenactment.
I guess the proof is in the pudding: more 21st members attend our Christmas party than any other event, except maybe the Remembrance Day/Memorial Weekend reenactment held in Greenfield Village. This year nearly 60 of our members showed up, all but a few wearing their 1860's clothing! (Only three chose, for varying reasons, to dress modern).
That's got to tell you something.
But if it weren't for the willingness and help from our membership and everyone pulling together, none of this would happen.
We really have a great time, by the way...
Here is the 1872 school house - the building in which the 21st Michigan Civil War Reenacting Unit holds their annual Christmas parties.
First off, the food was out of this world great, and the members of our unit all brought something period to eat: ham, turkey, chicken, stuffing, rutabagas, beans, venison stew, mashed potatoes, green beans, macaroni & cheese, corn, parsnips, real cranberry sauce, bubble n squeak, numerous pies, cookies...a true feast!
It is asked of our members to bring their own plates and silverware to not only help keep with the authenticity of the party, but to cut down on garbage. And most do, though sometimes members may forget so you may see plastic ware here and there.
Here, I'll tell you what - - - - since one picture is worth a thousand words, let's let what my camera captured tell the story:
Members and friends of the 21st Michigan take time from their merriment to pose for a photograph inside the school house - Jan. 5, 2013
As you can see, it was a packed house!
Our very special guests, President & Mrs. Lincoln, took time from their busy duties to partake in our festive gathering.
We had a white elephant gift exchange, and our unit President and resident school teacher teamed up as Master & Mistress of Ceremonies.
Poor Miss Mrozek could not reach the numbers in the hat!
Michigan Senator Jacob Howard was pleased with his homemade feather tree.
Lovely Ladies of the 1860's (including my wife on the right) really enjoyed themselves at the party.

My wife and I. She very proudly wore the patriotic apron I had given to her for Christmas.
Some of the men of the 21st Michigan
Mrs. Jones, a mighty fine fiddler, performed (with her children) Christmas Carols from days of old
Food fit for the President and his wife! Note their presidential ware.
Here is a close-up of the Lincoln dinner ware
Having a period-dress party in the winter allows the lovely ladies to wear their outer wraps that they cannot wear other times of the year.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

After the party ended, a few friends lead their sleighs to our home. On this winter's eve, it was snowing - truly snowing - and that made for a cozy evening spent in the light of candles and oil lamps. Even dimmer switches can't compete with the real thing!
Fourteen years ago we added this parlor (aka our "Greenfield Village room") onto our 'modern' 1944 home because, well, in all honesty, I would get depressed upon returning home after visiting Greenfield Village. Plus we needed the room. Now I have something to come home to - - - - - AND I can actually live in it!
If you will look through the window behind Rebecca you will notice the snow falling, brightening up the nighttime sky.
Evening's entertainment: Larissa enjoyed the 3-D images from the stereoscope. You could almost reach out and touch 'em!
Mrs. Cook stayed warm by setting her rocker near the fire.
This is what this room was made for: the gathering of friends and family to bring the past to life.

I would say this was a fine ending to a season filled with 19th century Christmas joy. I simply cannot remember when I've spent so much of my Christmas in the past.
The times may be a-changin' in the modern world, but in my world it stands right where it is.



Robin's Egg Bleu said...

I think my favorite photos are of your family enjoying the things all families did in the evenings so long ago, spending time together, with the oil lamp lighting. Very special!

Betsy said...

Great photos, looks like a fun time was had by all!

Gina @ VictorianWannaBe said...

Oh it all looks like so much fun! Did your Mr. Lincoln friend attend the Lincoln movie dressed like him?

Historical Ken said...

Robin - Thank you. That's actually my favorite part, too.
Betsy - We really had a blast!
Gina - Yes he Gettysburg!! How cool is that?

Jimio said...

Nice Alan Parsons Reference "Some other time ,,someplace" And who picks who gets to be Lincoln and his Wife and does he keep that post for 1 year?

Historical Ken said...

Hi Jimio -
I was wondering if anyone would catch my Alan Parsons reference. Ha! Good one!
As far as Lincoln: Fred Priebe and his wife, Bonnie, portray the Lincoln's professionally and have for over 15 years. They do many events with our unit so we like to pay them back with a special invitation to our party.
In my opinion, these two ARE Abraham and Mary, that's how good they are.

Donna said...

Love the feather trees, the photos, what a nice party!

An Historical Lady said...

Sigh...What a wonderful evening! Your photos captured it perfectly.