Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas is Coming, the Goose is Getting Fat

Happy Thanksgiving! Here's some of our feast - the oil lamps and candles helped to give off a relaxing mood while we ate our very enjoyable meal.

So this year the major chain stores decided to open up their doors on Thanksgiving Day itself - some early that morning while others that evening.
Then, of course, "Black Friday" saw the mass of people who, only a day before were giving thanks for what they had, fought the droves to get that one item they couldn't live without. And to bring it all home, people got trampled to death so shoppers could get that all-important item:

(From CBS News)
A worker died after being trampled by a throng of unruly shoppers when a suburban Wal-Mart opened for the holiday sales rush Friday, authorities said.
At least three other people were injured.

A police statement said shortly after 5 a.m., a throng of shoppers "physically broke down the doors, knocking (the worker) to the ground."

This is what it's all about, eh?
You can have it.
I can honestly say that I have only been shopping (at major chain stores) on black Friday once in my life, and that was about 20 years ago. Since then I've had other much more important things to do than to buy stuff 'on sale' that I wouldn't otherwise spend money on.
Can I tell you how I spent my Thanksgiving Weekend in this year of 2013?
The day that the media calls "black Friday' was spent with my family heading up north a ways to cut down our Christmas tree. From my twenty five year old son and his wife to my two youngest (my second oldest is an EMT and had to work - it's a service job, doncha know!), all journeyed about 90 minutes northward to a little town called Applegate, Michigan where, tucked a bit off the beaten path - but not difficult to find - is Western's Tree Farm.
Rather than repeat here what I wrote last year about our excursions, I'll only say that it's a great family tradition that continues on year after year.
 (click HERE if you'd like to read what I wrote last year)

It was a beautiful wintry drive up to the tree farm

When I saw this house way out in the country, you know I had to stop and take a picture! Judging from the other homes I've seen of this style, my guess is that it was probably built in the 1870's or 1880's. I think it's simply beautiful. I would live there.

Ahhh...Western's Tree Farm. What you see here doesn't even begin to touch upon how large this place actually is. What a great selection of trees!

Here's our traditional candle-lit Christmas Tree

A period scene of our tree and 1860 desk. Yes, the candles are really lit.

The following day (Saturday) the period vocal group that I manage - Simply Dickens - performed four shows at the Holly Dickens Festival.
What's the Holly Dickens Festival?
This is where one can see the world of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" come to life before your eyes. Visitors will encounter Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, the ghost of Jacob Marley, and other infamous characters from the Dickens novelette. And it takes place in Holly, Michigan, a town which still retains its historic charm amongst 19th century buildings and houses.
I had been a part of the Dickens Festival for over a decade, wearing many different hats (all top!): a chestnut vendor, a charity worker who asks Scrooge for money (and gets turned down!), a townsperson walking about the Victorian streets greeting visitors with my very Beatle-esque accent, and even being Charles Dickens himself. 
There I am as Mr. Charles Dickens (in 2007), explaining to old Ebenezer Scrooge why I specifically wrote his character to be so mean. Scrooge, along with Bob Cratchit, came to life as I wrote "my" story called "A Christmas Carol."
This *free* festival takes place every weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's a fine way to kick start your holiday season. Much better than shopping at Macy's or Walmart, wouldn't you say? And if you absolutely had to do some shopping, Holly has very unique, one-of-a-kind shops and antique stores. Again, much better than the major chain stores.
And, amidst all of this Americanized pseudo London, England surroundings is Simply Dickens - the finest old world Christmas music vocal group ever - yes, I can say that since I am the manager, the song selector, the MC, the historian, and even part arranger. Once a mainstay of the Dickens Festival, it's been three years since Simply Dickens had performed here. This is due in great part to the financial crunch that hit our country a few years ago (and continues on...). This year, however, they were able to have the group return, at least for one day, and what a fine day it was! The crowds we sang to were wonderfully receptive.

Simply Dickens - purveyors of old world Christmas Carols.

Simply Dickens brings Christmas music past to life with such carols as "All You That Are Good Fellows," "The Gloucestershire Wassail," and "The Boar's Head Carol" among many others.

Being that we were in a Victorian village that really can give off a London-esque feel, I thought it might be fun for Simply Dickens to pose in a sort of "Ragged Victorian - the great unwashed"-style photos, although due to the fact that our clothing is not ragged and we don't have the make up that this wonderful group of reenactors has (nor are we in London, England like them either!), we did have fun in the attempt.
And, you know? The pictures didn't turn out half bad:

'ere then---this is me, in a back alley, looking for my friend Slogger Rose.

Yes, I had great fun posing my daughter-in-law (the beggar girl) with Simply Dickens newest member, Rebecca.

The beggar girl gets a snub from the wealthy undertaker's wife.

This next picture of my son, Tom, is one of those - - "Ahhh!!! Grab the camera before the scene gets away!" type pictures. Whew! Lucky for me I got the shot! It is one of my favorites.
Could this be John Lennon's Victorian ancestor?

This following picture is another one of my favorites. I knew what I wanted to do (based on an early photo of John Lennon I had seen), and my son as well as the other Simply Dickens male member, TC, willingly posed.
It's kind of strange having a Sicilian last name but having an English look. Can't hide our British heritage, I suppose.

Drury Lane was rich with “dramatic characters” and costume shops selling boots “heretofore worn by a ‘fourth robber’ or ‘fifth mob.’” Ragged boys ran through the streets near Waterloo Bridge, which were filled with “dirt and discomfort,” tired kidney-pie vendors and flaring gaslights.
~Or it’s just the men of Simply Dickens!~

(If you'd like to read more about Simply Dickens, click HERE, and about the Ragged Victorians reenacting group, click HERE).

And now onto Sunday - - - - - - -
Can you guess what I did on this last day of such a wonderful weekend?
Yep - - topped it off by gathering a few friends and visiting historic Greenfield Village.
This is another tradition that I've done for years. Since the Village closes up for the season at this time (except for their Holiday Nights presentations), we said "Goodbye for now" in the same manner as we said "Hurrah! They're open again!" last April - we visited while wearing our period clothing.
Um...would you have thought me to do anything differently?

I'm leaning on a lamp post at the corner of the street...with my friend and 21st Michigan member Jillian as we prepare to visit Greenfield Village at Christmas time.

We stopped off in 1760 to visit the Daggetts. Here, Tabitha Daggett cares for her horse.
Anna and Asineth Daggett make supper

My friend Mrs. Paladino and I enjoy a visit while sitting at the Daggett table. This family from 1760 thought our clothing looked strange to their eyes.

An English scene in Michigan. And a bit of a time-line as well.

The 1822 home of Noah Webster has some visitors a-calling...

A New Years feast awaits friends and family in the Webster home

Off in the carriage...across the bridge...

We could fit quite a few of us in the carriage!

We finally made it to the Eagle Tavern...yes, that's my second eldest on the right.

We truly were a group of hungry travelers, and dined on the hearty fair of the season. The Eagle Tavern serves historical food. It really does. And it tastes sooo good!
If you are interested in reading about historical food, click HERE

Finally, as the day wound down and the sun lowered near the horizon, casting long shadows in the late afternoon sky, we found our way to the Firestone Farm where we were welcomed by the 1880's presenters. More than any other structure inside Greenfield Village, the Firestone Farm brings history to life through sight, sound, smell, and touch.
Sight: well, just look around; you are completely surrounded by 1882!
Sound: the clang of the iron cook stove, the crackling of the fire in the fireplace, the ticking of the clock, and the cackle of the chickens out back. Yeah, we were down on the farm.
Smell: how wonderful the scent of the afternoon meal is! Those who work here are so lucky to eat the supper prepared by the girls of the house. And there is just so much wood throughout - - yes, you can smell that, too!
Touch: Pretty much everything (except the stove - it's HOT!). Heck! You can even sit upon the horse-hair chairs and look at 19th century photographs through an antique stereoscope. You can't do that at just any old museum, now, can you?
Taste? Nope - can't do that here unless you are an employee. Which is why we head to the Eagle Tavern for our period food!

Spending time in the sitting room was, perhaps, the best part of the day for me. I enjoy hearing the tales of 19th century farm life. And I've visited enough to be able to chime in here and there.

The Firestone Farm sitting room is an enjoyable experience on a late Sunday afternoon. This is when one can almost immerse themselves into the past.

Popcorn done right!

Thus was my first weekend of Christmas in 2013.
My Christmas celebrations are different than most people I know. But the way I 'do' Christmas is the way I used to dream of as a child. So now that I can do it in this manner, why wouldn't I?
I actually feel bad for those folks who only think of Christmas as a time for being at the malls shopping.
In fact, I found the following quote from THIS BLOG and feel it truly fits what we've become as a society:

"...our entire economic system: buy things. Everybody buy. It doesn’t matter what you buy. Just buy. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have money. Just buy. Our entire civilization now rests on the assumption that, no matter what else happens, we will all continue to buy lots and lots of things. Buy, buy, buy, buy, buy. And then buy a little more. Don’t create, or produce, or discover — just buy. Never save, never invest, never cut back — just buy. Buy what you don’t need with money you don’t have. Buy when you’re happy. Buy when you’re sad. Buy when you’re hungry. Buy when you want to lose weight. Buy an iPhone. Six months have passed, here, buy another iPhone. Go online and buy things. Go to the mall and buy things. On your way, stop and buy some more things. Buy things for every occasion. Buy things to celebrate. Buy things to mourn. Buy things to keep up with the trends. Buy things while you’re buying things, and then buy a couple more things after you’re done buying things. If you want it — buy it. If you don’t want it — buy it. Don’t make it — buy it. Don’t grow it — buy it. Don’t cultivate it — buy it. We need you to buy. We don’t need you to be a human, we don’t need you to be a citizen, we don’t need you to be a capitalist, we just need you to be a consumer, a buyer. If you are alive you must buy. Buy like you breathe, only more frequently."

I'm not like this and I don't want my kids to be like this.
In a way, living history is my own sort of protest - a slap in the face to the media and big corporations.
And I hope I can get others to follow suit.
Have a wonderful Christmas season.



Gina @ VictorianWannaBe said...

Hi Ken,
I feel the same way you do about this Black Friday thing. I do not take part in it either.
Your snow photos are gorgeous, as is that house! And your candle lit Christmas tree is wonderful!
Have a blessed Christmas season!

An Historical Lady said...

Dear Ken,
A perfect weekend to be sure! As you know, we are like-minded and the commercial Christmas is NOT for us. I don't think I have been in a mall since moving to New Hampshire 16 years ago. A few meaningful gifts have been made, and a few modest gifts found online. We will spend the coming weekend with our dogs dressed in their 'angel wings' volunteering them as the "ambassadors of peace and goodwill" for the kids at Breakfast with Santa, and doing the last of the decorating with all the greens we cut in our yard, and homemade things. On Saturday, we will be in fine 18thc. clothing having tea with the public, available to talk to them about our '18thc. clothes and life'. Who could possibly ask for more?
Great good wishes for a happy and TRUE Christmas to your lovely family from Adam and Mary~

An Historical Lady said...

Dear Ken,
Just wanted to let you know I took your advice and bought the book 'The Last Muster' for Adam for Christmas (along with 'Tudor Abbey Farm'!). I know he will love it!
Sending warmest wishes for the Christmas of your dreams for your whole family and wonderful new experiences in the new year.

Historical Ken said...

Thank you Mary. It's such a great book, isn't it? You'll have to let me know how Adam likes it.
merry Christmas from our house to yours!
And thank you for your friendship!