Friday, January 9, 2015

Ain't No Party Like a Period Party! The 21st Michigan's Christmas Party (January 2015)

Oh! We are a crazy group of reenactors!
Well here we are once again, celebrating Christmas in a big way one last time for the holiday season. For you who have been followers and regular readers here, you might recall that the Civil War reenacting unit I belong to, the 21st Michigan, has an annual Christmas party, held inside an 1872 schoolhouse on the first Saturday after New Years (after all the hubbub of the Christmas season has pretty much ended).
Just as we've done for 9 years now, it's an 1860s period dress party, with food that would have been served during the holidays of that time (though cooked and kept warm in a modern way due to the lack of a period cook stove).
Besides the oh-so-delicious food, we also dance and play parlor games appropriate to the Civil War era.
And what fun we all had!
You know, I still can't figure out the reenacting groups who have modern parties where everyone sits around at a sports bar, eating pizza, and yacking about current events. That sort of gathering can take place most any time of the year.
I don't would think that as living historians an era-appropriate Christmas party would be another great opportunity to bring the past back to life, only in a different way than usual.
And it is's us in period clothing, but not for the public, but for ourselves.
An old-fashioned good time.
I suppose we're just a bunch of nuts, eh?
Ah...but what a fine group of nuts we are!
Of course, you may have a few fuddy-duddies who will whine and complain about having to put on their 1860s clothing and go out: "why can't we just go out like normal people do? Why do we need to dress period?"...wah, wah, wah...but you'll find that they're by far and large in the minority. Most have a great time and can't wait to get into their 1860s clothing.
And that's the best part of the membership of the 21st Michigan; seeing all of the smiles and hearing the laughter that one doesn't notice very often at modern parties in itself tells me that a period Christmas party is a grand idea, that's for sure.
Let's put it this way: our Christmas party is one that is usually talked about fondly throughout the calendar year. Yes, it's that good - heck, even a few of our members this year came from as far away as Ohio in ice and rain.
As you may have guessed, I was there, camera in hand, snapping the shots and even a couple of videos, the best of which are posted here.
This is not our entire membership, for we can nearly double this. But what a fine showing, eh? It's unfortunate that the weather (we had an ice storm followed by an all-day rain that day) and ill health prevented numerous others from joining us. It's the time of the season I suppose.

A hammered dulcimer and piano provided wonderful seasonal background music. There was a magical sound emanating from these very talented ladies.

President and Mrs. Lincoln joined us in the festivities.

We had a houseful in the old 1872 school house. We could have fit 15 to 20 more people, though it would have been a bit tight. But it would've worked.

“Jillian, would you please twirl for me?”

I can honestly say I'm not quite sure about the teacup infatuation here, but the girls certainly enjoyed having fun with them.
Speaking of playing with the tea cups...take a close look at this young lady's, er, bum. Well, not her bum per se, but the top of it.
Do you see it? No? Look harder! Quite a trick that I'm sure I could not do!
Yep - our membership certainly enjoys a good time!

Now, take a good look at this Thomas Nast sketch of Union Santa Claus from January 1863...
Here is the Thomas Nast Santa Claus, direct from Harper's Weekly, alive again! And he brought Christmas Carol along! No, she's not really Christmas Carol...that's Beckie - 21st Michigan member and one of our Simply Dickens vocalists!

And now let the dancing begin!

Once again, we danced to the Virginia Reel.

We did not have music (our musicians pictured near the top of this posting were not able to play for our dancing), so we clapped our hands to keep the time. I have to say it really was so much fun and had a note of realism to it, for I seem to remember reading about a group of people without musicians doing this exact thing at a gathering back in the mid-19th century.
In fact, I was able to record the moment in two quick "moving picture" clips I took with my camera (what else do you call it but moving pictures? They're not videos or films anymore, right?):

You can see the fine time we had!

After the party, a few friends stopped by our home for a bit of an "afterglow." I wish I could invite everyone but my house is just not big enough, especially with the hoop-skirted ladies, so we can only have a few folks over.
Through the feather tree...

Relaxing and conversing with living history friends in a period-looking room is one of my favorite parts of 21st Michigan Christmas Party Night.

Have you ever had friends over for a period-dress gathering? No? You should! It's such a good time! And everyone acts a little different while in period clothing, which makes the party all the better.

Our newest member: this is her first year wearing period clothing (many of our other first-year members have been wearing period clothing for years already because they work at Greenfield Village) - she not only dresses impeccably, but has winter-wear as well!

Here is the "official" 21st Michigan 2015 (or 1865) photograph.

Our Christmas party is always a fine way to close out the holiday season on a high note. As President Lincoln (who you may have seen in the pictures and videos posted here) stated, "it was the best party we've been to in a long time."
I have to agree - it's become such a big tradition for us now. The season wouldn't be the same without it. I feel blessed to be part of such a reenacting group that not only takes their fun seriously, but seriously likes to have fun!
Historical fun indeed.
Now...I need to find some excuses to wear my period clothing during these next few slow reenacting months...hmmm...there's A Night At The Museum, the civilian meeting, maybe a period gathering of friends...



Stephanie Ann said...

It's so great you guys do this. Love the videos!

Non de Plume said...

This looks like such fun! Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.

Bama Planter said...

Ken, I want to move to Michigan just to join your group, but I am sure I would freeze to death. Marshel at

Historical Ken said...

Stephanie Ann -
From one blogger to another, I appreciate your kind words. I wish I could have taken longer videos but I was also in the dance and took what I could before it was my turn!

Non de Plume -
Thank you. It was a wonderful way to end our Christmas season!

Marshel -
Come on up - we'd love to have you! Your blood will thicken in no time!