Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Let Us Be Merry, Put Sorrow Away! Our 1770s Christmas Party Occurred On This Day

Well,  better later than not at all,  right?
Last year,  our 18th century Christmas party,  hosted by Citizens of the American Colonies and the 1st Pennsylvania,  was held the week following the Holiday itself - still in the month of December.
This year it took place nearly in mid-January - January 11th.
Ah,  but that's okay,  for it keeps the season going even longer than normal,  which is fine by me.  So,  despite the rain,  the snow,  and the ice that fell on this day  (which turned out to be not nearly as bad as the media predicted),  the reenactor turn out was pretty fair.
Our party,  like numerous other events,  was held at the old 1872 schoolhouse in Eastpointe,  near where I live.  Though the building itself is not necessarily historically accurate for the 18th century,  it does work quite well in its feel.  To find an 18th century building in our area for such a gathering would not work,  for there are only around a half-dozen originals from before 1800 located in southern Michigan,  and all but one are inside the hallowed walls of historic Greenfield Village.  And,  though there is another 19th century building that has a great 18th century feel to it,  the price to rent it is far out of our range,  so the 1872 schoolhouse is pretty much it  for us.
And,  to be honest,  it works quite well,  for the look and feel is a lot closer than one would think  (click HERE),  and definitely better than using a high school gymnasium or a wedding hall,  right?
So,  as the old song goes,  "Let us be merry,  put sorrow away!"
Off we go to celebrate an 18th century Christmas - - -
Those that braved the icy weather.
For days the weathermen predicted ice and snowmageddon,  scaring everyone in thinking the end of the world was at hand.  Oh yes,  folks filled the stores,  buying milk,  bread,  cheese,  beer,  chips,  ice cream,  and other survival needs.  And, please---for heaven's sake! stay off the roads!
Turns out there was a bit of spots...hours after the party had ended.  A few of those who did not come out due to the fear of the weather forecasts were upset for believing all of the hype.  I mean,  you would think we were living in Michigan in January!
I suppose it's better to err on safety,  though,  eh?
But there sure was a lot of money to be made due to these predictions and included a spike in listenership to the news stations.
I'm such a pessimist!
However,  the party went on as planned,  and we certainly had a good time,  all things considered.
Pearl provided wonderful 18th century 
Christmas music,  same as last year,  and also 
included a few of the more popular tunes 
of the day as well.

Charlotte joined Pearl,  providing vocals
to the fiddle playing.

I love the period tunes that were known in the 18th and 19th centuries,  and have collected many,  if not most,  on the various CDs available by musical historians.  Wonderful old songs such as Buttermilk Hill  (aka Johnny Has Gone For A Soldier),  Shady Grove,  Barbara Allen,  White Cockade,  Come Haste to the Wedding,  Soldier Will You Marry Me,  Johnny Todd,  Road to Boston,  and so many others.  But probably my most favorite of period songs is Over the Hills and Far Away.  I was thrilled to hear that Pearl had learned it and then,  mostly upon my request,  played it numerous times at our party:
It was nice having Charlotte sing along.
When my wife and I  (and two of our four kids)  were in Colonial Williamsburg a few years back,  we had lunch/dinner at Chowning's Tavern,  and while we were enjoying our 18th century feast,  the entertainer began to perform - you guessed it - Over the Hills and Far Away,  which,  I would say,  was more than a coincidence,  for to have my most favorite of all the period songs played and sung at the moment we were there was,  what I may consider,  a little extra gift...maybe even from God  (we know He likes to throw us these little gifts now and then).
What a fine present that was!  AND I had my camera ready:
Both versions are lovely indeed.
Pearl also played Deck the Hall,  The Boar's Head Carol,  Bring A Torch Jeanette Isabella,  Joy To The World,  The First Noel,  and The Gloucestershire Wassail,  among other period carols. Santa or Rudolph or Frosty.

A bit more sedate than last year's gathering,  it was a fine time to 
spend with friends and reminisce about previous reenactments as 
well as to plan for future days in the past.

'Twas also a fine time to keep fingers
busy with crafts.

My son Robbie continued sewing his new hunting shirt  
under the watchful eye of Tony Gerring.

David Pierce and Ken Roberts,  two 
well-known and respected members of the 
reenacting community.

"Two if by sea..."
Here are replicas of the two lanterns  'shewn'  in the steeple of 

Christ Church in Boston on the night of April 18,  1775.
The one on the left belongs to Ken Roberts and the one on the 
right belongs to me.  
These replications were made back during the Bicentennial in the 
1970s,  copied from the lone original now belonging to the 
Concord Historical Society,  and they do look very much like the 
one lantern that still survives.
I think it's pretty cool to see them both lit together!

This had to be the most period-correct colonial meal I've ever eaten:
fricandillas,  chicken,  and pasties with wassail to wash it all down.

Was I at the Daggett House?

A moment to sit back and enjoy the
friends and the music.
And the wassail.  I love wassail.

A gathering of friends to celebrate the Yuletide season...

And before we knew it,  daytime was
turning into nighttime,  and that was
the signal for us to take our leave.
So,  yes,  let us be merry and put sorrow away,  for our party,  though not nearly as well attended as we had hoped - the,  ahem,   ice-storm  made certain of that - was still a fine time indeed with those who were able to make it.  And I certainly appreciate all that did.
All is well and good because I accomplished what I set out to do - have an enjoyable time with my reenacting friends.
Yes,  I will have another next Christmas season!

So now Christmas is done,  the New Year's begun,  and even 12th Night is past.  And yet,  I still have that spirit within me.  Therefore I thought I would end the Christmas season here on Passion for the Past on a decorative note with a strong historic feel,  which has moved me in such a personal way.  So before we leave our own little celebration of the Christmastide in the Colonies,  I would like to show you a few photographs from the home  (and website)  of Mary Spencer,  who lives in a house built around 1780 in New Hampshire - one of the actual  colonies!
Mary's home from 1780

Now,  we know that,  though a goodly number of our colonial ancestors - and not just Catholics,  Lutherans,  or Episcopalians - did celebrate the Christmas holiday,  decorating their homes during that time for Christmas was quite another story.  There were a few who did in very small touches,  from what I've read,  but most didn't.
However,  if I was the owner of a historic home,  I imagine I would decorate in the same vein as Mary Spencer does,  for it is as tastefully done as I've ever seen,  especially in a period home.
A first bit of information on her Yuletide decorating.
Here we now see a boar's head feast in Mary's home - -
The boar's head in hand bear I
bedecked with bays and rosemary...

I had a boar's head party one time a few years back,  though the 
surroundings were nothing quite like this.  However,  we did 
make a good go of it and didn't do too bad for a first time:

My son brings the boar's head out on a silver platter

The boar's head as I understand 
is the bravest dish in all the land
and thus bedecked with a gay garland...

And now let's return back to the beautiful Christmastide as is presented in Mary's home:
I love the feel of candles on the tree when 
white electric lights are the only color placed upon it.

Right here.
Now that's what I'm talking.
If I were in this room,  I would never leave.

I grew up with a fireplace in my home - two in fact - but it's 
unfortunate that my current home  (of nearly 29 years!)  does not 
have one,  and the cost would be too astronomical to put one in.  So what I have is fake.  But what you see here is my dream.

More telling from Mary.

A table setting befitting of  the 17th or 18th century.
For those of the time who  *may*  have decorated,  I would 

imagine the simplicity of what we see here would have 
been the more common simplistic style. 

Again,  the hearth.
Colonial Williamsburg lives in New Hampshire!

For this shot I love the butter churn.  Though probably 
insignificant for most in this image,  to me it completes it.

More wonderful descriptions from Mary...

Even the back porch woodpile has a nice touch.

Simplicity at its best.
Thank you,  Mary,  for allowing me to share some of the tasteful beauty of your own Christmastide with my readers.  One day I hope I can make it out to New Hampshire and finally see your wonderful old cape in person.

And now,  this will sadly be the last posting based solely on the Christmastide for the season.  As you may know,  I am in period clothing quite often throughout the main reenacting months  (which you shall see just how often in my next posting).  To be honest,  however,  I am probably in my historic garb more during the Yuletide than any other time of year:  twelve days found me wearing either 1770s or 1860s fashions in the five weeks between December 7 through January 11.  Now the slow season begins but,  thankfully,  will last for only a few months.  Note I did not say it stopped;  it just slows down to about one or sometimes two events a month until May.

For my next post I will have what has become my annual pictorial of the 2019 reenacting season,  filled with 80-something photos looking back at the countless times I wore my period clothes during last year.
Look for it in about a week.

That being said,  until next time,  see you in time.

To read more about Mary Spencer's adventures at her early cape house,  please click HERE
To read about Christmas in the Colonies,  please click HERE
To read more about my own Boar's Head party,  please click HERE

~   ~   ~

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