Monday, January 6, 2014

Making Rather Merry - - - The 21st Michigan Christmas Party

If you've been a long-time reader of Passion for the Past, then you are aware that the Civil War reenacting unit I belong to has a period dress Christmas party which is held in an old school house built in 1872.
We began to have our period parties back in 2005 - it took some convincing on my part for the idea to come to fruition. I got some flack initially, but now it's one of the most anticipated events our unit does. In fact, more people in the 21st Michigan usually attend this event than any other we do, except Greenfield Village's Civil War reenactment over Memorial Day Weekend.
This year, due to the upcoming inclement weather (a major snowstorm and bitter cold temps were on the horizon), the numbers were down a bit from last year, though still strong.
But I have to say that I believe this year was the best party yet!
And I'm not kidding!
Of course, our gathering began with the period food - and what a feast it was! Ham, turkey, traditional stuffing, beans, cornbread, mashed potatoes, turkey casserole, corn, bubble & squeak...and for dessert we had pies: pumpkin, apple, and a mixed berry, as well as sugar cookies, date cookies, and bread pudding.
A fine meal indeed!
But being that this was a Christmas party, there were some festivities to follow.
One of our members plays the fiddle and we had planned for her to be our after-dinner entertainment, maybe dance a reel or sing some carols to liven things up a bit.
Unfortunately, she could not make it, and I was at a bit at a loss of what to do to keep the party going.
That's where our wonderful membership came in to save the day...
Hey! Instead of me writing it all out, how about if I, instead, give you a photo record of our party?
Would you like that?
Well, here we go!

Do any of you get the "on account of that's the year it is" comment? No? Well, then you probably did not watch the 'Super Fun Time' episode of South Park.

Here are two lovely ladies from the 21st Michigan

And here are two young men from our military ranks. Yes, that's my son on the right.

That is my lovely wife on the right with our two good friends (and 21st Michigan members) Larissa & her mother.

Another wonderful family in our unit, the Geymans.

Yeah...through all of my talk on immersion and 1st person, we still like to goof off, which folks did in the 1860's as well! Just check out the original tintype below:
Yep - this is an actual 19th century tintype. See? Victorians liked to have fun, too!

One of our new members baked an awesome apple pie...

...and, yes, she wrote "1864" into the crust on account of that's the year it is!

Big Jim is called that for a reason! Kristen really looks up to him!

Okay, now, time for some fun! Who is up for the Virginia Reel?
Wait! We don't have any music to dance to. How will we dance without music?

Ha! Who needs music when we have Jackie around! Jackie was the caller for the Virginia Reel, which just happens to be my very favorite dance. Here we are doing a 'walk through' to show anybody who might not be familiar with this dance.
So, without any musicians about, the participants, instead, kept rhythm by clapping our hands and/or stamping our feet.

What fun we all had-----the laughs abounded as much, if not more, than at an actual 1860's ball!

But since this dancing took place in a 19th century school house, as so many did 'back then,' the realism and feeling was very, shall we say, ethereal.

The fun didn't end with the dancing - no sir (or madam)! Larissa came up with wonderful parlor game ideas such as the "winking"game, which is actually kind of a flirting game (or even kind of a 'musical chairs' without the music). Here is how we played it:

You need an odd number of people to play, so let's, for instance, say there are 19 players and 10 chairs. 10 people each stand behind a separate chair and the nine other players choose a chair/person to sit in front of, leaving one person standing behind an empty chair.

That 'lonely' person and their empty chair will then try to draw the attention of one of the other 'chair sitters' and attempt to entice them to come to their chair by secretly winking at them.

If the player being winked at 'catches the wink,' they can bolt out of their chair and run to the empty one. But if the person standing behind them grabs them (usually at the shoulders) before they can leave, then they must remain where they are seated.

Lots of laughs and trickery in this game!

The next parlor game is one that we played a couple years ago during one of our Christmas at the Fort events, but again, I'm not quite sure of the name.

It is where all participants but one selects a farm animal they would like to be (or pretty much any animal in some cases), and the one who is not a farm animal is a farmer, who stands in the center of the circle.

The object of the game is for the farmer to make up a story that involves all of his farm animals, and when each animal's name is mentioned, the person portraying said animal has to stand up, make the sound the the animal makes while turning around, just as you see this young lady doing here.
 Yes, the farm game is pretty silly, which is why it's so funny to see adults playing it!

And then finally we played the ever-popular Questions & Answers. Yes, I really like this game, as do most reenactors. It's one of those great Victorian parlor games that, though has gone out of modern society's favor, is still wonderful to play. It definitely has a Victorian quaintness to it which makes it all the better.
In case you do not know the game of Questions & Answers, here's how we played it:
we had the ladies sit in a row and the gentlemen sit in a row directly across from them. Each gentleman received a set of 'question' cards while each lady received an 'answer' card. The men proceeded to take turns asking the lady sitting directly across from them a question from the card while his female partner would use one of her answer cards to answer his question.

For instance, the first gentleman may ask his lady partner (reading from one of his cards),"Would you have tea with me?" And his partner would read one of her answer cards: "Under the roses in the arbor."

The next man's question might read, "Will you share my bounteous table?" And his partner's answer might be, "Only if I could find some advantage to it."
Okay, so it doesn't sound that funny here....but believe me, it is! When you're in a group, this flirting game is actually pretty hilarious!

Speaking of is the official 21st Michigan group photo for 1864 - - er, 2014:

Okay, okay, not really. Yeah, we're a fun group and we like to do the goofy stuff. hey! It's Christmas, right?

Then we decided to take a pleasant picture, one where everyone is happy and smiling.
This picture just makes you want to bake cookies, doesn't it? yeah...we're a pleasantly happy group!

Of course, we simply had to do the obligatory period-posed photograph and make it look like a tintype:
Yeah, these pseudo-tintypes always turn out to be my favorite pictures. I think we all look pretty darn 1860's, don't you?

After the Christmas party, I usually invite a few members back to my home for my little aftergow gathering of friends. I wish I could invite everyone, but my house is just not very large!
This room is actually only lit by candles and the oil lamps, but I sometimes have to take pictures with flash as well as without to see which turned out better. In this way, I'm covered.

I recently acquired the small round wooden cranberry-colored garland for my feather tree. But I just could not get it to look and lay correctly. So I asked a couple of 'professionals' if they could maybe show me how it's done. They very kindly obliged.

They did! And it looks great! Thanks Larissa and Violet!

The two ladies admire their work. Yep - looks great!

Mr. Assenmacher was off sitting on his own. This picture was just begging me to take it!

My wife served our guests homemade cannoli. Yes, homemade - shell and cream. The original recipe comes from my grandfather, who came over to this country from Sicily in 1912. Although I haven't seen cannoli in any of my 19th century research, all signs point to this awesome dessert being around possibly for centuries, though pretty much not in America until around the turn of the 20th century. That's okay. It's part of my heritage and the guests enjoyed them!

With candles and oil lamps and period dress friends, any room can become a period parlor.

And if you add a feather tree, you will have quite the festive look indeed!
The 21st Michigan Christmas party is, as some have mentioned, a real blast. A very fine time.
A lot goes into making it as authentically fun as we can, though there are some exceptions in the authenticity department due to various circumstances. The best part is that everyone pitches in by way of food, entertainment, and in cleaning up at the end of the evening.
I hope you enjoyed this little visit to our gathering.
Christmas is past. 12th Night's the last...

I finally have a Table of Contents page with links.
Here 'tis if you are interested:
Table of Contents for Passion for the Past


1 comment:

An Historical Lady said...

What fun! Glad you had such a grand time!
Happy New Year from your friends in New Hampshire, Mary and Adam