Saturday, December 31, 2016

Be Merry With Cheer for It Is That Time of Year! (Christmas 2016)

This is a time of joyfulness and merry time of year 
When as the rich with plenty stored do make the poor good cheer
Plum porridge, roast beef, minced pies stand smoking on the board
With other brave varieties our master doth afford

Waiting for the festivities to begin
It truly is a time for joyfulness and a merry time of year!
Yes it is, but only if you'll allow it.
Unfortunately, there are so many who feel that Christmas needs to be about spending an exorbitant amount of money on presents, and they will go into deep debt, sometimes taking longer than a year to pay it off.
And they're miserable when the holidays come around because of it.
Why do they allow this to happen?
I am being serious here...why?
To me it seems that the life and joy has been sucked out of Christmas due to the over-spending that people feel they must do.
Well, not for this celebrator! My wife and I try to do Christmas in such a way that presents, though fun to get, are nearing the bottom of the popularity list. Yes, we enjoy the gifts, but we enjoy the many different events Christmas time offers much more, and attend or participate in them as often as we can, which makes the holiday infinitely more special and exciting.
Financially, if we don't have the cash, we don't purchase whatever it is we want or need - we must save up before purchasing, so gifts, though given, are few. And that's just fine.
What a concept, eh, paying cash instead of charging? But we've not had charge cards for over a decade!
And yet we survive...
Speaking of presents, do you want to know what I received for Christmas this year?
Paul Revere by JS Copley.
This is what my wife based
the color and style on for 
my own waistcoat
Looking rather colorful
in my new "Paul Revere" 
waistcoat that my wife
made me for Christmas,
along with my new 
leather satchel
Besides a couple of gift cards (you can never go wrong with gift cards!), I opened up "Legends and Lies: The Patriots" DVD, which was something I very much wanted, and - ready for this one? - a replicated waistcoat like the one Paul Revere is wearing in the famous Copley painting of him (see left)!
Don't think I am not extremely excited about this!
Oh yeah...I am a happy man!
And, just as I used to do with co-workers years ago, I do a Christmas Eve breakfast, but now it's done with my period vocal group Simply Dickens along with my family.
In fact, this year while at Cracker Barrel we did a sort of "flash mob," where the group began to sing just out of the blue.
Here...I taped it: 
One tradition I have also kept up are my annual Holiday Nights visits to Greenfield Village, the wonderful historic open-air museum put together by Henry Ford nearly a century ago where three centuries of (mostly) American history is situated on something like 300 acres of land. 
And it's off in the far corner of this open-air living history museum where you'll find the roots of American history:
~ a saltbox farmhouse from the mid-1700s
~ a well-to-do mid-1700s "urban" city home
~ a small one-room frontier house whose fireplace dates back to the 1600s
~ a finely built farm dwelling from around 1800
~ and, a little farther down the road, a frontier log cabin built in the later 1700s
So there are plenty of opportunities for me to visit the era in which I am appropriately dressed.
"Appropriately dressed." 
I get people telling me frequently that I look like I belong in the 1770s clothing. 
To an extent, I agree with them. They are very comfortable to wear, and I do feel like "I belong" while in them.
And they are much more elegant to have on than the suit and ties men are forced to wear to "dress up."
Ah, but I don't believe I could wear them daily. Ha! Can you imagine the reaction from the kids I help teach at the high school where I work? I suppose I could tell them "I'm alternative."
It would be a hoot, wouldn't it?
I can tell you my co-workers, who already think me pretty odd, would have me talking to the school psychologist before the first bell would ring!
...heh heh just might be worth it....  
Anyhow, it's fun to think about but it's not going to happen. Except at Greenfield Village where a few "quick sketches" were made during my recent Christmastime visit.
Hope you enjoy them :
This Ackley Covered Bridge, built in 1831, is my gateway to the past.

My first stop was the house built by shipping merchant John Giddings around 1750. It's a grand example of an elegant upper class home suitable for a man of some wealth.

No, this is not Mr. Giddings. But I suppose it would be nice to live in such a house had I actually lived at the time.

This truly was a cold winter's night, and the fire in the hearth was a warm welcome. My friend and presenter, Jordan, so very kindly posed for and with me on the festive evening.

As I was warming up, I looked up and noticed 
what you see here exactly as it looks in this photograph. 
It turned out to be one of my all-time favorites.

Sadly, this will be Jordan's last year working at Gidding's home, for she has accepted a higher position at The Henry Ford and, instead of working as a "costumed" presenter, she will be in the offices in, I believe, the collections and conservation department.
You will be missed, my colonial Giddings friend!

The chocolateer was in the kitchen preparing to make the popular treat. Chocolate was generally not eaten, but was shaved off the bar into hot water as a drink.

A wint'ry look at the Daggett house, built around 1750.
The saltbox house (known as breakback-style during the 18th century) was a very popular architectural style in colonial Connecticut. This form gets its name from the similarity in shape to the small chests used for storing salt at that time. The most distinctive feature is the asymmetrical gable roof, which has a short roof plane in the front and a long roof plane in the rear, extending over a lean-to (see the various exterior photos). English settlers created this manner of engineering by adapting a medieval house form to meet the different needs and weather of northeast America. The design was perfect for the harsh New England climate.

Inside this beautiful example of a colonial farm house during the night time, however, tells a different story:

Buried in nighttime blackness reduced the once family-sized home into a single room in many cases, for many families closed off the parlors to decrease the amount of warming space.  With a dim glow, life centered around the hearth or stove for warmth and possibly a candle or oil lamp for any of the limited activities of which they may have partaken. This low level of lighting created only pockets of brightness, leaving most of the room in darkness.

Though built around 1831 in mid-Michigan, this old tavern known as the Eagle Tavern can easily pass for one from the 1700s.
These "publick houses" (or 'ordinaries,' as they were also known)  
were the pulse of 18th century urban life, and their importance 
to the local community cannot be overstated. They have played 
an important part in social, political, and even military life, 
especially during the days of the American Revolution, 
though we, unfortunately, see them taking more of a back seat 
in their role in our Nation's history.

That's me about to enter the 1822 home of lexicographer Noah Webster.
Noah Webster (1758-1843) was more than just America’s greatest lexicographer.  He was also a Founding Father who helped define American culture.  While teaching in Goshen, New York, in 1782, Webster became dissatisfied with texts for children that ignored the American culture, and he began his lifelong efforts to promote a distinctively American education. So, in 1783, he published the first edition of his legendary spelling book, called The American Spelling Book, which would teach five generations of Americans how to read. 

Here we see Webster's wife, Rebecca, preparing to greet guests for New Year's 1823:
Yes, in the Webster home, they are celebrating New Year's with quite a feast, as you can see here on the table. There will also be music and dancing as well as readings, I'm sure.
I wonder if the Burbank's are home...
This is the birthplace of famed horticulturalist Luther Burbank, which was built right around 1800. 
Did you know there was a children's book written about Mr. Burbank? Yes, it's true, and many other books were also written about some of the "lesser known" (but important nonetheless) Americans who made a difference in our lives today. But, for some reason, they have fallen out of favor over such fine novels as "Captain Underpants."

~~~Now we'll jump up a few years...into the mid-19th century~~~

Early on in the Christmas season, we had a great snowfall here in southeastern Michigan. Something like eight to ten inches of the white stuff fell on Sunday, December 11 (my daughter's birthday!), and, lucky for me, I found myself scheduled to perform with my period vocal group, Simply Dickens, that evening at Greenfield Village.
Playing it smart, a few of us arrived a bit earlier and took the opportunity to walk around the quiet Village while no visitors and very few workers were around. We just walked up and down the streets, enjoying the beauty of the falling snow covering this paean to history.
You know I had my camera with me, right?
Another trip through the Ackley Covered Bridge portal...
You can see the snow coming down pretty hard on the other side of the bridge, giving a bit of a misty, hazy look.

When taking a photo without a flash, my camera does not show the snow falling, but it was coming down at a pretty good rate.
I could see a winter scene from days past open up before us as we moved about Greenfield Village.
Holiday Nights, showing three hundred years of Christmas history, has been voted by USA Today as one of America's top Holiday attractions.
Yep, I agree.
City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, 
dressed in holiday style, 
in the air there's a feeling of Christmas.
A peaceful setting...I was in awe when I saw this. It was so beautiful to see in person.
The Martha-Mary Chapel
Built in Greenfield Village in 1929, architect Edward J. Cutler patterned it after a colonial church in Bradford, Massachusetts. The bricks, front doors, and door knobs were from Clara Ford's childhood home. The church bell, circa 1835, is attributed to Revere Copper Company of Boston, Massachusetts.

I am actually in this picture instead of being behind the camera.
That's me on the left in my Victorian winter wear.

Meet my wife. 
She works at the Smiths Creek Depot during Holiday
Nights, helping to create an 1860s Lady's Aid Society
of the Civil War era. 
Photo taken by Larissa Fleishman
As you can see in the picture below, they do a fine job:
~The members of the Smiths Creek Ladies Aid Society~

Talk about a May-December marriage! Ha!
Yes, this is my wife as she looks in the 1860s with me as I look in the 1770s.
What---you think I'm too old for her?

 ~~~   +   ~~~

And, finally, to end our trip through Ken's Christmas time-travel adventures for 2016, here are some fun pictures taken during the season.
There are three ponds at Greenfield Village, and this one is located in the section known as Liberty Craft Works, where visitors can watch the artisans work the crafts of long ago, including glass blowing, weavers using 18th and 19th century looms, a gristmill with its waterwheel, 19th century carding machines as they card wool, visit a printer's shop, and watch a tinsmith create candle sconces and other useful items for the 18th and 19th century homes.
Amidst all of this is their mill pond...
Wint'ry beauty at the millpond - with and without the camera flash.
Meanwhile, up in Holly (Michigan), we find a vendor selling her wares of all kinds of Christmas greenery.
Holly holds a multi-weekend outdoor Dickens Festival - the longest running festival of this kind in the United States.

And my period vocal group, Simply Dickens, got to perform our Old World carols while there:
The 2016 version of Simply Dickens!
And we now have a CD available!
Simply Dickens performed for the Daughters of the American Revolution - Grosse Pointe Chapter - at the Detroit Country Club.
We took the opportunity to take a Christmas image.
Period festive! 

And here we are performing at Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village. Yes, the snow made the evening very festive, and, well, when it snows at Christmastime, the visitors, who are normally full of the Christmas spirit anyhow, have even more spirit and are full of cheer beyond as only this time of year can give.
It certainly is a time for joyfulness and a merry time of year!
But only if you allow it to be.

To all of you I would like to wish the Merriest of Christmas's and the Happiest of New Years!
Until next time, see you in time...

 ~~~ ~~~ ~~~

To learn of how our colonial ancestors celebrated Christmas, click HERE
To visit Christmas with a Victorian bent, click HERE