Saturday, November 21, 2015

Colonial Thanksgiving Celebrations

~I am trying to be as historically accurate and non-biased in today's posting as I can.
What I wrote here is in honor of this wonderful holiday that nearly every American of all races,  cultures,  and religions  (and non-religions)  celebrates.  I also have tried to point out the historical occurrences on that fall day in 1621 for both the Wampanoag and the Puritans by utilizing primary sources. From there we see the evolution of our Thanksgiving celebrations in a time period not associated with this holiday - the 18th century.  
It is my fervent hope and prayer that today's post does not become part of the typical celebrant-bashing that tends to happen by those who feel the need to push an agenda at every turn.
I,  instead,  want us to concentrate on the historically positive and not so much on the oh-so-common negative,  for there are enough other sites out there if you want to see only the negative.
Thank you~

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When we think of our Thanksgiving Holiday as we know it to be,  we almost never think of it as occurring during colonial times.  Oh sure,  we know that the Separatists  (aka pilgrims)  are who we have based our current celebration on,  but history tends to skip over the next 250 years and jumps right up to Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863.
And I already covered that HERE.
What I'd like to do for this week's post is to concentrate on those early,  mostly forgotten years of  the18th century Thanksgiving celebrations.  What follows,  then,  is like a Reader's Digest collection of notes and comments from various books and web sites that I searched high and low for to explain the roots of our American Thanksgiving as well as whatever I could find showing how our later colonial ancestors celebrated the holiday.
I hope you like it...
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Maybe it was because William Bradford kept such wonderful and descriptive notes of the 1621 harvest festival that we have considered that particular one to be the  'benchmark'  for all that followed.
Unfortunately,  as what usually occurs over time,  the truth became buried in myths,  which is now looked upon as truth.
Fortunately,  much of the real truth does exist,  it's just a matter of having the willingness to seek it out by way of research and - this can be the hard part for many - accepting what is found.
The best sources are from those who were there...
An abundant supply of fall harvest treats
A bit about early Thanksgiving celebrations:
Although this feast is considered by many to be the very first Thanksgiving celebration,  it was actually in keeping with a long tradition of celebrating the harvest and giving thanks for a successful bounty of crops.
It wasn't just Europeans who had thanksgivings:   Native American groups throughout the Americas,  including the Pueblo,  Cherokee,  Creek and many others organized harvest festivals,  ceremonial dances,  and other celebrations of thanks for centuries before the arrival of Europeans in North America.
Historians have also recorded other ceremonies of thanks among European settlers in North America,  including British colonists in Berkeley Plantation, Virginia.  At this site near the James River in December of 1619,  a group of British settlers led by Captain John Woodlief knelt in prayer and pledged  "Thanksgiving"  to God for their healthy arrival after a long voyage across the Atlantic.  This event has been acknowledged by some scholars and writers as the official first Thanksgiving among European settlers on record.
Whether at Plymouth,  Berkeley Plantation,  or throughout the Americas,  celebrations of thanks have  held great meaning and importance over time. 

A View of the Puritans/Pilgrims from the Wampanoag: 
Spying the landing of the Separatists
When the Wampanoag watched the Mayflower’s passengers come ashore at Patuxet,  they did not see them as a threat.  “The Wampanoag had seen many ships before,”  explained Tim Turner,  Cherokee Manager of Plimouth Plantations Wampanoag Homesite and co-owner of Native Plymouth Tours.  “They had seen traders and fishermen,  but they had not seen women and children before.  In the Wampanoag ways,  they never would have brought their women and children into harm.  So,  they saw them as a peaceful people for that reason.”
But they did not greet them right away either.  The English,  in fact,  did not see the Wampanoag that first winter at all,  according to Turner.  “They saw shadows,”  he said.  Samoset,  a Monhegan from Maine,  came to the village on March 16,  1621.  The next day,  he returned with Tisquantum  (Squanto),  a Wampanoag who befriended and helped the English that spring,  showing them how to plant corn,  fish and gather berries and nuts.  That March,  the Pilgrims entered into a treaty of mutual protection with Ousamequin  (Massasoit),  the Pokanoket Wampanoag leader.

The  "First"  Thanksgiving:
Tim Turner said what most people do not know about the first Thanksgiving is that the Wampanoag and Pilgrims did not sit down for a big turkey dinner and it was not an event that the Wampanoag knew about or were invited to in advance.  In early autumn 1621,  the Pilgrims had just harvested their first crops,  and they had a good yield.  They  “sent four men on fowling,”  which comes from the one paragraph account by Pilgrim Edward Winslow,  one of only two historical sources of this famous harvest feast.  Winslow also stated,  “we exercised our arms.” 
“Most historians believe what happened was Massasoit got word that there was a tremendous amount of gun fire coming from the Pilgrim village,”  Turner said.  “So he thought they were being attacked and he was going to bear aid.” 
The Wampanoag information came from this site.

What is thought to have been served at this most celebrated Thanksgiving in 1621: 
When the Wampanoag unexpectedly showed up,  they were invited to join the Pilgrims in their feast,  but there was not enough food to feed the chief and his 90 warriors.  “He  [Massasoit]  sends his men out,  and they bring back five deer,  which they present to the chief of the English town  [William Bradford].  So,  there is this whole ceremonial gift-giving as well.  When you give it as a gift,  it is more than just food,”  said Kathleen Wall,  a Colonial Foodways Culinarian at Plimoth Plantation.
The harvest feast lasted for three days.  What did they eat?  Venison,  of course,  and Wall said,  “Not just a lovely roasted joint of venison,  but all the parts of the deer were on the table in who knows how many sorts of ways.” 
Was there turkey? 
“Fowl”  is mentioned in Winslow’s account,  and William Bradford mentions turkey by name in his account  (see below).  Kathleen Wall said there probably would have also been a variety of seafood and water fowl along with maize bread,  pumpkin and other squashes.  “It was nothing at all like a modern Thanksgiving,”  she said.
The feast in general then consisted of fish  (cod,  eel,  and  bass)  and shellfish clams,  lobster,  and mussels),  wild fowl  (ducks,  geese,  swans,  and,  yes,   turkeys),  venison,  berries,  and fruit,  vegetables  (peas,  pumpkin,  beet root,  and maybe onion),  harvest grains  (barley and wheat),  and the beans,  dried Indian corn  (maize),  and squash.
The Pilgrims had been shown how to grow corn by the Wampanoag,  so there was most likely lots of corn as well as cornmeal for things like porridge.  Because there was no butter or flour,  there were no pies,  tarts,  or bread like the colonists were used to,  but they used onions and herbs to stuff the birds and may have even had garlic and carrots.  Because this was a three-day affair,  it’s assumed that they would have taken the carcasses of the eaten birds and boiled them to make stock in order to make porridge for additional meals throughout the celebrations.
Unfortunately, they didn’t have potatoes or sweet potatoes because those hadn’t come up from South America yet,  and while plain cranberries may have been part of the meal,  cranberry sauce as we know it wouldn’t be a thing for another 50 years.  Much of what we know as our modern-day Thanksgiving meal has been taken from many different cultures.
But let's look at primary sources to see what they ate at that  "first"  Thanksgiving:

A Description of the feast from those who were there:
 William Bradford of Plymouth Plantation:
Thus they found the Lord to be with them in all their ways,  and to bless their outgoings and incomings,  for which let His holy name have the praise forever, to all posterity.  They began now to gather in the small harvest they had,  and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter,  being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty.  For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad,    others were exercised in fishing,  about cod and bass and other fish,  of which they took good store,  of which every family had their portion.  All the summer there was no want;  and now began to come in store of fowl,  as winter approached,  of which this place did abound when they came first  (but afterward decreased by degrees).  And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys,  of which they took many,  besides venison,  etc.  Besides,  they had about a peck a meal a week to a person,  or now since harvest,  Indian corn to the proportion.  Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England,  which were not feigned but true reports.
Edward Winslow of Plymouth Plantation: 
Our harvest being gotten in,  our governor sent four men on fowling,  that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labor.  They four in one day killed as much fowl as,  with a little help beside,  served the company almost a week.  At which time,  amongst other recreations,  we exercised our arms,  many of the Indians coming amongst us,  and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit,  with some ninety men,  whom for three days we entertained and feasted,  and they went out and killed five deer,  which we brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor,  and upon the captain and others.  And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us,  yet by the goodness of God,  we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.
As you can see,  contrary to what so-called historians and Facebook memes say,  there was turkey and other fowl at this most famous of our Thanksgiving feasts,  as William Bradford wrote.
It's hard to argue with primary sources.

By the way,  the excellent photograph and description below is from the Wampanoag site:
"While many paintings of  “the First Thanksgiving”  show a single long table with several Pilgrims and a few Native people,  there were actually twice as many Wampanoag people as colonists.  It is unlikely that everyone could have been accommodated at one table.  Rather,  Wampanoag leaders like Massasoit and his advisors were most likely entertained in the home of Plymouth Colony’s governor,  William Bradford."  (from the Indian Country site linked above)
In the mid-1600s,  an annual Thanksgiving holy day began to take place after each year's fall harvest.  This did not occur on any set day or necessarily on the same day in different colonies in America.  The Massachusetts Bay Colony,  founded in 1628 by mainly another group of Puritan/Separatists Christians,  celebrated Thanksgiving for the first time in 1630,  and frequently thereafter until about 1680,  when it became an annual festival in that colony;  and Connecticut,  as early as 1639 and annually after 1647,  also celebrated as a colony.  The Dutch in New Netherland appointed a day for giving thanks in 1644 and occasionally thereafter.

Now we can visit the 18th century - -
Time to go a-fowling...
Unfortunately,  there is not nearly as much written on the 18th century Thanksgivings as there is on the 17th century - and especially the 19th century - but what I have been able to find I will present here:
During the early 1700s,  individual colonies commonly observed days of Thanksgiving throughout each year,  and the governors of Massachusetts,  Connecticut,  and New Hampshire began to make proclamations for an autumn Thanksgiving  celebration,  though we might not recognize a traditional Thanksgiving Day from that period,  as it was not a day marked by plentiful food and drink as is today's custom,  but rather a day set aside for prayer and fasting;  a true  “thanksgiving”  was a day of prayer and pious humiliation,  thanking God for His special Providence. 
Dinner is nearly ready...
Favorable events,  such as the sudden ending of a drought or pestilence,  might inspire a thanksgiving proclamation.  It was like having an extra Sabbath during the week,  for fasts and thanksgivings never fell on a Sunday.  
But, as the century wore on,  it gradually turned more into a festive celebration as much as it was a holy day  (or holiday).
Celebrating Thanksgiving inside a mid-18th century farm house.
Men devoted Thanksgiving morning to hunting or turkey shoots,  like the one in 1783 in Warren,  New Hampshire,  where hens and turkeys were tied to stakes and men paid four and a half pence to shoot a hen at a distance of eight rods,  or nine pence to shoot a turkey from ten rods.  Usually the birds were killed before being mounted on the stakes.  If a man hit the bird,  it was his to take home. 
Charles Phelps wrote about his own Thanksgiving in the year 1796 as he sat  "next to an old family clock at an old-fashioned desk which once belonged to my maternal grandmother":  "My father and mother crossed the river over into Hatfield to pass the evening with Parson Lyman and his wife.  My grandmother is safely stowed away in a further corner of the house,  wrapt up in merry slumbers to be sure.  My sisters are tripping it away at two miles distance to the sprightly sounds of a rustic  'twi tweedler.'  Lydia and Polly have prevailed upon Seth to put the team of horses into the old sleigh and are at this moment enjoying all the transports of a Thanksgiving Sleighride.  John,  the Scotch gardener,  by the kitchen fireside,  is managing the Gentle Shepherd as well as could be expected." 

Two years later,  in 1798,  Charles' mother wrote,  "One is missing from our family who will never return,  every year since my birth I have kept Thanksgiving with my mother to this---but no more---a long farewell.  O Lord bless us that are alive."

~A colonial Thanksgiving in the formal parlor~
The servant pours cider while guests are anxiously awaited.
Though New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating thanksgivings to thank God for blessings,  it wasn't until later in the 1700s that individual colonies would periodically designate a day of thanksgiving in honor of a military victory,  an adoption of a state constitution or an exceptionally bountiful crop.  Such a Thanksgiving Day celebration was held in December 1777 by the colonies nationwide,  commemorating the surrender of British General Burgoyne at Saratoga:

First Thanksgiving Day Proclamation - November 1, 1777
In Congress
November 1, 1777
The committee appointed to prepare a recommendation to the several states,  to set apart a day of public Thanksgiving,  brought in a report;  which was taken into consideration,  and agreed to as follows:
The Proclamation of 1777
FORASMUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God;  to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for benefits received,  and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of;  And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence,  but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War,  for the Defence and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties;  particularly in that he hath been pleased in so great a Measure to prosper the Means used for the Support of our Troops and to crown our Arms with most signal success: 
It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive powers of these United States,  to set apart Thursday,  the 18th day of December next,  for solemn thanksgiving and praise;  that with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts,  and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor;  and that together with their sincere acknowledgments and offerings,  they may join the penitent confession of their manifold sins,  whereby they had forfeited every favor,  and their humble and earnest supplication that it may please God,  through the merits of Jesus Christ,  mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance;  that it may please him graciously to afford his blessings on the governments of these states respectively,  and prosper the public council of the whole;  to inspire our commanders both by land and sea,  and all under them,  with that wisdom and fortitude which may render them fit instruments,  under the providence of Almighty God, to secure for these United States the greatest of all blessings,  independence and peace;  that it may please him to prosper the trade and manufactures of the people and the labor of the husbandman,  that our land may yield its increase;  to take schools and seminaries of education, so necessary for cultivating the principles of true liberty,  virtue and piety,  under his nurturing hand,  and to prosper the means of religion for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth in righteousness,  peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.

Just the fact that the former colonists even had a national day of thanksgiving was a tremendous step forward in creating an American identity.  As we read earlier,  the colonies had previously celebrated individually or as part of the British Empire.  Now they had experienced an event that had affected them all and formalized a celebration that involved them all.  Americans had just taken a major step on the trail from colonies to states and from states to nation.
During the years of the American Revolutionary War,  the Continental Congress appointed one or more thanksgiving days each year,  each time recommending to the executives of the various states the observance of these days in their states.
This practice was continued by Presidents Washington,  Adams,  and Madison under the Constitution,  and has manifested itself in the established American observances of Thanksgiving and the National Day of Prayer today.  This proclamation was published in The Independent Gazetteer;  or,  the Chronicle of Freedom on November 5,  1782,  the first being observed on November 28,  1782: 

By the United States in Congress assembled,

It being the indispensable duty of all nations,  not only to offer up their supplications  to Almighty God,  the giver of all good,  for His gracious assistance in a time of distress,  but also in a solemn and public manner,  to give Him praise for His goodness in general,  and especially for great and signal interpositions of His Providence in their behalf;  therefore,  the Unites States in Congress assembled,  taking into their consideration the many instances of Divine goodness to these States in the course of the important conflict,  in which they have been so long engaged,  - the present happy and promising state of public affairs,  and the events of the war in the course of the year now drawing to a close;  particularly the harmony of the public Councils which is so necessary to the success of the public cause,  - the perfect union and good understanding which has hitherto subsisted between them and their allies,  notwithstanding the artful and unwearied attempts of the common enemy to divide them,  - the success of the arms of the United States and those of their allies,  - and the acknowledgment of their Independence by another European power,  whose friendship and commerce must be of great and lasting advantage to these States;  Do hereby recommend it to the inhabitants of these States in general,  to observe and request the several states to interpose their authority,  in appointing and commanding the observation of THURSDAY the TWENTY-EIGHTH DAY OF NOVEMBER next as a day of SOLEMN THANKSGIVING to GOD for all His mercies;  and they do further recommend to all ranks to testify their gratitude to God for His goodness by a cheerful obedience to His laws and by promoting,  each in his station,  and by his influence,  the practice of true and undefiled religion,  which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness.
Done in Congress at Philadelphia,  the eleventh day of October,  in the year of our LORD,  one thousand seven hundred and eighty-two,  and of our Sovereignty and Independence,  the seventh.

Thanksgiving Proclamation
[New York, 3 October 1789]
By the President of the United States of America, George Washington, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God,  to obey his will,  to be grateful for his benefits,  and humbly to implore his protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness. 
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being,  who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was,  that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies,  and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility,  union,  and plenty,  which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner,  in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness,  and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed;  and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;  and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.
and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions-- to enable us all,  whether in public or private stations,  to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws,  discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations  (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us)  and to bless them with good government,  peace,  and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue,  and the encrease of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

The celebration of Thanksgiving over the course of the 18th century evolved into a holiday celebrated around the dinner table.  As New England became more densely settled and the good farmland all locked up,  its residents started heading west,  and they took their social traditions with them,  including their annual Thanksgiving holiday.  First in upstate New York then the newly-opened Michigan territories and Ohio's Western Reserve,  Yankee settlers on the expanding frontier kept the harvest feast tradition alive.
By the 1840s,  Thanksgiving was widely celebrated across the Northeast and Midwest,  and what we today consider the traditional Thanksgiving Day menu had largely been canonized:  roasted turkey,  stuffing,  cranberry sauce,  mashed potatoes,  creamed onions,  and mince, apple,  and pumpkin pies.
The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, oil on canvas by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe (1914).
Not a factual account,  from what I understand,  but I do like this painting.

One of the most heartfelt notes I have seen about Thanksgiving was written on Thursday,  November 21,  1793 by 75 year old Samuel Lane of Stratham,  New Hampshire.
Here it is,  in part:
"As I was musing on my Bed being awake as Usual before Daylight;  recollecting the Many Mercies and good things I enjoy for which I ought to be thankful this Day;
The Life & health of myself and family, and also of so many of my Children,  grand Children and great grandchildren...
for my Bible and Many other good and Useful Books,  Civil and Religious Priviledges...
for my Land,  House and Barn and other Buildings,  & that they are preserv'd from fire & other accidents.
for my wearing Clothes to keep me warm,  my Bed & Bedding to rest upon.
for my Cattle,  Sheep & Swine & other Creatures,  for my support.
for my Corn, Wheat,  Rye Grass and Hay;  Wool,  flax,  Syder,  Apples,  Pumpkins,  Potatoes,  cabages,  tirnips, Carrots,  Beets,  peaches and other fruit.
For my Clock and Watch to measure my passing time by Day and by Night.
Wood,  Water,  Butter,  Cheese,  Milk,  Pork,  Beefe,  & fish, &c.
for Tea,  Sugar,  Rum,  Wine,  Gin,  Molasses,  peper,  Spice &  Money for to bye other Necessaries and to pay my Debts and Taxes &c.
for my lether,  Lamp oyl &  Candles,  Husbandry Utensils, & other tools of every sort...
Bless the Lord O my Soul and all that is within me Bless his holy Name..."
And there you have Thanksgiving in its glory.

Oh!  By the way,  there is a wonderful Docu-drama about the Pilgrims and their adventure:
Desperate Crossing: The Untold Story of the Mayflower
Here is my review of this historical story:
This History Channel presentation of the pilgrims is two and a half hours of a well-known and very important part of our American history,  although you may not realize how little you actually do know of these separatists and of the times they lived.  In fact, it certainly is more movie than documentary and,  although interspersed throughout are historians filling in the gaps,  this docu-drama is as engulfing and riveting as any full-length period movie I have seen.  The lives and times of these early European settlers are authentically portrayed by use of English Shakespearian actors,  and the quality shows.  Never have I seen any other film put flesh on the bones of the pilgrims to the extent this one does.  A social history extravaganza!
The clothing,  lighting, effects  (especially while on the Mayflower),  and, at times,  even some of the speech patterns are reflected fairly accurately.  I did not see the typical revisionist history so often reflected in many of today's historical depictions.  They were very religious folk bent on keeping their practices,  even if they had to cross the ocean to do it,  and this movie shows that in no uncertain terms.
The Indian dramatization was done very well for the most part,  although I would have preferred to have their speech in their original   (or close to their original)  language and include the use of sub-titles.
Oh well,  can't have everything.
As an extra added bonus,  by the way,  there are a couple of short  (too short!)   extra's - one features the making of this extraordinary documentary,  and the other has outtakes and bloopers.
For teachers and lovers of history I recommend this docu-drama very highly.  A wonderful way to learn about our early American history.

And here is a little  "Thanksgiving/Pilgrim"  humor that reenactors can especially appreciate:

And we'll leave you with a bit of my own humor.  I made this meme of myself inside the Greenhow Store in Colonial Williamsburg:
Oh!  I crack me up!

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I realize that not everyone celebrates Thanksgiving as a religious holiday,  but that doesn't take away the fact that,  though in the 21st century it may have become more secular in nature,  in previous decades and centuries in America and other countries the underlying theme has always been that it truly is  a religious holiday,  and has been celebrated as such since even before  that most famous and most popular celebration took place back in 1621.  The fact that people of many different religious beliefs and faiths throughout time have been giving thanks for their bounteous feasts for centuries before the 1620 pilgrim excursion across the ocean is true from not only early writings,  but paintings and etchings from times long past as well.
And they did give thanks to their God for the bountiful harvest at hand and for those who helped in the growing and reaping of it.  Yet, many people today believe the pilgrims were giving thanks to the Indians.  However,  one only needs to learn of their religious beliefs to understand that the Separatists,  who advocated strict religious discipline,  would not  have given thanks to the Indians themselves,  but rather to God for sending  the Indians to them to ensure their survival. Puritans would not give thanks in such a way to mere mortal man.
And we,  in our house,  give thanks to that same God the puritans did nearly 400 years ago.
So,  with that I'd like to say Happy Thanksgiving to all of my friends who read and follow Passion for the Past!
May God Bless and keep all of you.

 ~   ~   ~

Understand,  I've always prided myself in taking the utmost care in having accurate information when writing my postings for Passion for the Past,  and I do not make assumptions without prefacing them first.  I've done my best for this 18th century Thanksgiving post but there is little information other than what you've just read here;  most of the material tends to begin with Lincoln's 1863 proclamation. 
I have been gathering information for this posting for quite a while.  Unfortunately,  some of the web sites are lost to me now,  but for those that I notated,  I'd like to present here,  along with a couple of other sources:
Our Own Snug Fireside by Jane C. Nylander
Country Living Magazine
And there were snippets and bits & pieces from at least a dozen other web sites - a line here,  a thought there - enough to at least allow me to put together this post.
I hope you enjoyed it.

If you would like to read about celebrating Thanksgiving in the 19th century, click HERE

Until next time, see you in time.

~   ~   ~

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Hallowe'en 2015 - A Period-Clothing Party

~ This week's posting is going to be history extremely lite. Nothing thought provoking. No historical revelations. Just fun.
Hope you like it ~

Hallowe'en has been over now for a couple weeks - - - so what am I doing writing about the holiday now?
Well, all of the activities for the big day took place on or shortly after October 31, so I couldn't very well post anything beforehand - unless I am a psychic (I'm not----sorry).
And that's my 'excuse.'
Let's hop a broom stick and fly - - - - - -
Our Hallowe'en night was spent, as it has for the past five years, over on Tilsson Street in beautiful historic Romeo, Michigan. This is where nearly an entire block of homeowners decorate the front yards of their Victorian houses beyond anything I've heard of a neighborhood ever doing. It's not just a few extravagantly carved pumpkins, but amazing displays of 'terror' done in a fun sort of way:
Yes, this is the front and side of somebody's yard.

Something for the kiddies...and for those of us who grew up on this best of all Hallowe'en cartoons.

This taught me to never grow pumpkins in a cornfield, for you never know what may come out of it.

A pirate ship----right smack-dab in the middle of a front yard! And it's a haunted one at that!!

There was no sitting and relaxing on the front porch on this night of the dead.

Nightmare Before Christmas. One of my favorite Hallowe'en (or is it Christmas?) movies come to life.

And this is only but a few of the dozens of houses that do extreme Hallowe'en.
Of course, we dress up to go, but not in costumes...but in period clothing:
My son Rob as a WWI doughboy. 
Yeah...we know the uniform is way too large for him, but we only know of one person who has such an outfit. Beggars can't be choosers (or so I've heard).
He is emulating his great grandfather (this picture is of my mother's father from 1917).
Watch out for Judge Judy!

We followed the yellow-leafed road to this house, and look who we found!

A family that brews together...

Such a soggy night that the coffins popped up through the wet ground.

Beetleguise, Beetleguise, Beet----wait! Don't say it a third time!

This is my seamstress, who works her body to the bone sewing everyone's period clothing.

Here I am. Now, looking at this picture it seems like I have painted my face a ghostly white and am wearing clothing suitable for a graveyard, doesn't it? But I didn't put any make up on my face - that's the lighting of the skulls. As for the clothing...
...this is what I had on: a medieval serf/peasant man's garments.
Didn't expect to see me wearing this style of clothing now did ya?

A week after Hallowe'en I had a period-dress party...but for this party I didn't want the typical spooky atmosphere; I, instead, asked my guests (reenactors all) to dress in period clothing, though not in a period they normally reenact in, but in a time they've not experienced before.
And they did.
Some came dressed in biblical clothing of a few thousand years ago, while others came in 20th century fashions, and a few wore styles in between; when you have such a wide band of historic fashion, it would be kind of hard to nail it down to just one period for food and games, wouldn't it? So, instead of attempting to be period accurate in all things, we had modern food and snacks: chips, veggies, cakes, fritos, pizza & pop (or "soda" for those of you from New England), played silly games (though we laughed til we cried at some of them!), and generally just had an enjoyable time.
I asked to have a mini-fashion show where each costumed character can speak of their clothing.
Going in chronological order, we'll begin with... 
What we have here is Moses and his wife Zeporah the Shepherdess.

From Rebecca/Allegorya, the wearer of the clothing:
"Here you can see Silvia Balletti, the Venetian actress in her height in the 1730's. Born to into an acting troupe 27 June 1701, she began acting as a child and would act at the Troupe de Régente of Luigi Riccoboni at the Comédie -Italienne in Paris from 1716-1758. Casanova admired her, was a friend to her son Antonio Stefano Balletti, and courted her daughter, Manon Balletti.
I am wearing a sheer petticoat with spangles, passementrie, and embroidery in toile pattern, a robe à la Française over a Venetian lace chemisette and corset of the period, a Venetian clay mask, and a set of panniers for shape, that open at the top to reveal your hidden pockets( a lady's best friend around pick pockets)."

The young lad you see here is the same one dressed in WWI earlier in this post. Although he's worn his "minute man" clothing at reenactments, it is a relatively new experience for him, therefore it still can be considered something new and different.

Totally skipping the 19th century (for we all are Civil War reenactors), we jump to the 20th century - the early 1920s, to be exact - where we find one who lives in Downton Abby, and she told everyone of the latest gossip there.

Next we have my grandmother. Well...not really, but she could have been. My grandmother was a 1920s hipster, though not necessarily a flapper (but her sister, my great aunt, was).
The era of the 1920s - it was the bees knees. And how!  

Now we find ourselves in the 1940s where we see this young lady dressing in a Canadian military uniform. 
Yes, she had pipes with her but didn't - couldn't - play. Her husband, on the other hand, does play.
But he chose to, instead, dress in a 1940s Russian military uniform:

Speaking of the 1940s, this young lady dressed in her grandmother's dress from the late '40s. Pretty cool, eh?

Here is a teenager from the 1950s who, I would imagine, likes to listen to that rock and roll bop music. Why would I come to such a conclusion? Because she is dressed in dungarees, and no proper young lady would dress in such a manner!
Be-bop-a-lula she's my baby
Be-bop-a-lula I don't mean maybe...

And then we had a few people at the party that did dress a fun way...
Here we have a cave woman...well, a modern cartoonish impression of a cave woman. Wilma? Betty? A grown up Pebbles?
No matter - it was all in good fun!

This is Beckie as the 1985 Marty McFly after he went back to 1955 from the alternate 2015 (in the 2nd movie).

I've never thrown a party like this before, and it went along pretty good. Thank God for my friends with fun ideas for games: finding and blowing out a candle while blindfolded was one:
 click HERE for a short video clip (no, my eyes aren't really that squinty! I was laughing very hard and trying not to make a sound while doing so, for I was the person holding the candle!)~
and another was a writing/sketching game involving the deciphering of sketches into sentences into sketches:
The top piece of paper is what one person wrote.
The second piece shows how the next person deciphered the sentence in a quick sketch.
The third piece of paper shows a written description of what the following person thought the sketch was of.
The the next is yet another person's sketch of the previous person's sentence.
And so on until you see what the final person's sketch as it went through the line.
Does that make sense?
Robbie, by the way, is the guy pictured above in colonial clothing. 
He's also my son - - - 
So, as you can see, we had a pretty good Hallowe'en. I do plan to return to Tilson Street next year and would like to expand on my Hallowe'en party.
Anyhow, it was a lot of fun to let loose and just enjoy ourselves.
Until next time, see you in time - - - -