Sunday, January 10, 2016

The 21st Michigan Civil War Christmas Party: The 10th Anniversary

Here is a pretty good portion of our membership. I cannot think of a better group of people to travel through time with. 
Ahhh...if I could only save time in a bottle...

I remember way back in 2004 when I heard of the Christmas party that the 21st Michigan Civil War reenacting unit that I had recently joined was having. It was being held in a sports bar with beer and pizza and, of course, modern dress. It flabbergasted me to think of it; people who love to dress in period clothing throughout the year, and yet the Christmas party was totally modern. My thoughts were (and still are) that anyone can meet up at a sports bar and have pizza and beer any time of the year, right? So why not do something a little special?
So it was then that I came up with the idea of having a period-type Christmas party, and it was held at my own home. Oh, it was certainly nothing to call the newspapers about, for it was farby to the extreme (myself included - oh! are the pictures bad! Try as I might, I can't even post any here, they are that bad!), but it gave me the initial flicker of having a period Christmas - of learning and expanding on this root of what was to come.
And that expansion happened the following year, Christmas 2005, when I suggested having the 21st Michigan party at the old 1872 school house in my city. Ha! I was met with cocked heads and smirks and a number of comments of "Why would we do that?"
But I forged ahead and planned it and hoped that at least a few people would turn up.
Well, I was very pleased to find the majority of the unit actually did show up, and nearly every one who did told me how wonderful it was and that we should make this our new tradition.
And we have.
Now here we are, ten years later, celebrating Christmas 2015 (in January 2016)...
Truth be told, many times we have more of our membership gather together at this party than at any other reenactment throughout the year, sans the Greenfield Village event. It's that good and that fun.
So, please join me for the 2015 (or 1865) 21st Michigan Christmas party, for the tradition continues...
~The 21st Michigan~
Smiling phases...smiling faces
What a joy it is to see so many of my friends entering the doors of the old school house, smiling, dressed period-proper, and ready for a good time.
To begin with, we had a fine traditional meal of chicken, soup, sauerkraut, bubble and squeak, potatoes/vegetables, breads, beans, and other food. Plus there were plenty of desserts to be had.
Oh! And conversation. Plenty of conversation.
Once the dinner was cleared away, it was then onto the fun.
Fiddler Pearl entertained all with some fine old world Christmas Carols, very suitable for such a party. The 21st Michigan president, Jim Cary, joined member Vickie for a sing-a-long.

We played a few parlor games including Questions & Answers (which is what you see some of us playing here).

Another game we did was a revival of The Twelve Days of Christmas as its original purpose as a memory parlor game and not a carol to be sung. The rule I implicated was that, aside from "A partridge in a pear tree," no other of the familiar gifts from the well-known verses could be used: no turtle doves or ladies dancing or swans swimming or...well, you get the picture. So we came up with such gifts as two deer a-running, five cannonballs, seven candles burning...yeah - it was pretty impressive to watch participants count down from the higher numbers and having to remember the gifts of the lower numbers.
It really was quite fun to play.

The younger set played a rousing games of checkers.
The checkerboard you see here was made out of an old oak teacher's desk from an elementary school I used to attend. It's kind of like having a little bit of my own past as a sort of period souvenir. And it works for reenacting - how cool is that?

What a difference music can make to liven up a party! Hearing the notes from the old fiddle tunes resonating off the walls of this room that was built in 1872 gives one a sort of an existential sound experience.

~Dancing the Virginia Reel~
We dance this particular dance every year because it's the one that everyone seems to know best. Plus you get to dance with multiple people. And it's fun.

That's my wife with the man's black hat on. Why is she wearing a man's hat? During the Virginia Reel she danced as a male because not enough men got up to dance. To be honest, with all the hoops flying about, the hat she had on certainly made it easier to distinguish her from the other ladies...kinda.

The Virginia Reel

And here is a video clip of the dancing:

By the end of the evening, we were all a little wacko!
Naw...not really...
Posing crazy has become a tradition in our unit, so whenever we have a group photo taken, we always have a crazy picture taken as well.
Hey---we're (mostly) adults dressing up and pretending that we live in the past - - what'd ya expect, normalcy?

Every year after the 21st Michigan party ends I have a little "afterglow" at my house, with the electric lights off (or dimmed greatly) and the candles flickering. For me, this is a fine way to close the Christmas season, for it really does signify the end of it all for another year.
Unfortunately, because our Christmas Tree is still up and decorated and takes up quite a bit of room, I cannot invite too many over, for the ladies' hoops have this tendency, you know, to catch on everything. So it's a rather small get-together. 
~Larissa and Meg~
Even though we're in a traditional setting, the conversations can cover just about any topic. That is...any topic but politics. In this day and age of political polarization, we purposely stay away from that subject. 

~The Robecks~
And, well, I'll be honest: I enjoy having my living history friends over while in period clothing. I mean, I have a room that, for the most part, is very suitable for an 1860s gathering, and I am so glad I have accommodating friends.

The candlelight gives it a cozy atmosphere, don't you think?

Flash on: here's a better look at my room. Yes, the furniture you see my guests sitting on are all 19th century antiques, as is the large desk in the corner of the room. Picture frames, too!
Christmas is now past. The next step is to enjoy and take advantage of these few slower reenacting months coming up: research, new period clothing, committee meetings to accent future watching - - - books to read - - -
Yep---take advantage of the down time while you can.
Of course, for some of us, there is no down time...
Until next time, see you in time.


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