Friday, December 1, 2017

The Past is Present in our Thanksgiving Traditions

Over the river and through the woods...
(picture taken from inside the tree farm log cabin)
Many believe that Thanksgiving is an over-looked holiday, that Christmas has pretty much claimed it. Well, to an extent, it has. I mean, the Thanksgiving Day parades throughout the country have marching bands playing Christmas tunes, Christmas-themed floats, and nearly every one of them ends with a real live Santa Claus coming to town, right? So what it basically comes down to is Thanksgiving, whether we like it or not, is the official opening of the Christmas Season, and has been since, as near as I can find, around 1920, when the first Thanksgiving Day Parade, hosted by Gimbels, took place in Philadelphia. However, this parade was a much more low-key event, and it was put on seemingly more for the employees to rouse them up before the Christmas season.
Yes, that first parade did have a Santa Claus.
So this goes to show that the ties between Thanksgiving and Christmas are strong and have nearly a century of tradition together.
And to me, tradition is everything. I believe without it we are in sad shape, for it's tradition that builds memories, creates laughter & good times and, simply put, ties us to our families, past & present, in such a way that little else can.
In fact, I'd like to share some of my traditional experiences that occurred during the 2017 Thanksgiving weekend with you. Mind you, I get a few snarky comments sent my way because of how my family and I celebrate this holiday, but it's all taken in good stride. I really don't care what anyone else thinks. We do our holidays in our own special way, different than most others, and have done them in this very same manner since Patty and I got married back in 1985, a dozen years before we began wearing period clothing, and we're not about to stop now.
This particular post will show you how we merge the past with the present in our celebration of Thanksgiving, which was, of course, in a traditional way...well, as traditional as we could make it:
Being the family that we are, we of course churn our own butter, as you see my daughter doing here.
Okay, so she wasn't really churning's a posed picture, doncha know...but it does make for a fun photo, doesn't it? I suppose it could *almost* be a sort of "what if" know the kind..."what if they had cell phones in the old days?" Or "what if we still churned butter today?" 
It's also my reply to those who think I am all about "we live just like the pioneers did!"
(Just so you know, yes, my daughter has actually churned butter before at our reenactments, but, no, not on this day)

All ready for our Thanksgiving dinner in our 'Greenfield Village' room. 
We had this addition built back in 1999. You see, I used to be all depressed after visiting the wonderful historic houses at Greenfield Village, so we decided that since we could not afford to buy an old home, we would at least have one room where we could go for our historical solace. 
And this is it.
You see a mix of authentic antiques with newer replicated furniture, both styles still giving it the period look I was hoping for.

The candles are lit!
We eat by candle light often throughout the fall and winter months, but lighting candles on a holiday makes it even more special. When I brought my three-year-old grandson in to see the room lit, he ooo'd and ahh'd with wonder. And I am proud to say that each candle we burn is made of pure beeswax that we hand-dipped ourselves or made with a candle mold.

Eating our Thanksgiving meal by way of candle light has been a long-held tradition in our family, one that my wife and I began back when we got married in 1985. My family, now including my young grandchildren, all look forward to it, for it just seems to give it the perfect touch.
What did we eat?
Why, all the traditional fixin's of turkey, stuffing (real homemade stuffing, with nuts, berries, fruits, and raisins included), rutabaga, mashed potatoes, corn, brussels sprouts, asparagus, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce canned and jellied, apple sauce, and bread. And for dessert we had pumpkin pie (from real pumpkin), apple pie, and cannoli (a traditional Sicilian dessert from a recipe passed down from my Victorian-born grandfather).

Yeah, I know it's very "in" for people to eat more of the non-traditional food on Thanksgiving such as steak, Chinese, a pork roast, or whatever else besides turkey, and that's all well and good for them. But for me, I do prefer the traditional meal mentioned above.

Heading to Greenfield Village is my mental therapy and solace from the 21st century...a sort of catharsis for me. It gives me the dose of medicine I need to survive in this modern world in which I live. But it's here in these strange times that I can also work the past and tradition into my present life outside of Greenfield Village or reenacting.
Such as when we cut down our Christmas Tree.
I can't tell you the comments made to me by acquaintances and even close friends about how crazy my family and I are to actually travel out into the country to a tree farm, take a wagon ride to where our trees of choice are growing, cut one down with a hand saw, then have it tied atop my vehicle.
"Why would you do that when all you have to do is go to the corner lot and get one?"
"You really go through all of that trouble just for a Christmas Tree? We take ours down from the attic and put it up with the lights already attached!"
Not my style, folks. Not at all.
Patty and I went out to cut down our first Christmas Tree during the 1984 season - four years before kids - and we've done it every year since.
We enjoy it each and every time.
In fact, tree cutting day has almost become a holiday in itself for us, and all of my family bundle up warm, pack into the car (now multiple cars), and take the long nearly two hour drive into the middle of Michigan's rural thumb to the best tree cutting place around, Western's Tree Farm in the tiny town of Applegate.
The tree farm cabin built with the logs of trees that once grew on the property.
The owners, Scott & Jill Western, know us well, for we just may very well be their most dedicated and oldest continuing customers. They serve hot chocolate, hot dogs, and chocolate chip cookies inside, and they also sell neat little country Christmas decorations not found at other places.
But perhaps my favorite part of all is the horse and wagon ride out to the trees.
Here is my three year old grandson, very excited to see these beautiful horses and wanting to get on the wagon.
My grandson, my pal.
I love this picture of Ben and I. He really enjoyed the horse-drawn wagon ride and kept on making horse-neighing sounds

By the way, the knit cap you see me wearing was made by my wife from a period 18th century pattern. She made it from raw wool that she cleaned, carded, spun, dyed, and then knitted for me.
Pure 18th century all the way!

This is such a pleasurable outing for us, and it thrills me to no end that my kids and now my grand kids continue to partake in this tradition my wife and I began when it was just she and I.

After searching high and low, we found our perfect Christmas tree: a 7 1/2 foot blue spruce!
That's it! That's the one we all think is best!

With my oldest son stuck working, the job of carrying the tree back to the cabin was left to my other two sons, and they did an admiral job...when they weren't grunting!

Even Paul Anka, our dog, came along with us!
Yep, after a cool trek out into the cold, he needed to warm himself by the fire inside the Western's log cabin.

The following few pictures are of us decorating the tree.
It's so hard to believe that another year has gone by and it's Christmas time once again.
Grandson Ben was all about decorating the tree, and he was so good with the ornaments, some of which were boughten before we even had kids ourselves.

Our granddaughter, Addy, who was born on Christmas Day a couple years ago, was also pretty excited to decorate, and she, too, took great care in handling the old decorations.

My wife helped Addy hang her bulbs.

My daughter holds our newest grandson Liam, who was born this past July, and who also doesn't seem to show much of an interest in the tree yet (lol), but I am certain he will in the coming years.

And here it is, all lit up and ready for Santa!
I think the kids are ready for Santa, too!

I do hope you enjoyed this little "it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" post. I realize it is not necessarily historical, but it is rooted in history.
And, anyhow, my next posting will be about my annual Black Friday excursion away from the madness of shopping the day after we give thanks for what we have!
But I do hope that you have your own traditions that can be passed onto other family members, so one day maybe they will say, "Remember when we ..."

Until next time, see you in time.

~   ~   ~

1 comment:

An Historical Lady said...

Just SUPER, my old friend! LOVE it all! Really enjoyed this post as always. Wishing you and your family the most wonderful Christmas ever! Sending good thoughts from NH~