Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Where Are You Christmas? Christmas Traditions at Home & Hearth

Where are you Christmas?

Where are you Christmas...?
I've noticed far more Christmas lights and lawn decorations in front yards this year than I have ever seen before.  And even with this pandemic going on,  folks are still purchasing gifts,  whether on-line or in person,  keeping our economy rolling.  I know my wife and I are still celebrating,  mostly in the ways we always have,  especially with our children and their families,  who all live nearby.  Oh,  we are still following the rules,  including masks and social distancing and all that wherever it is required - we don't have much of a choice - but we are not going to sit and do nothing.  It's not in our nature.
So I put together a little something to show a few of our December activities that is not all reenacting  (though you will see a bit of that here as well).  It's more about celebrating the most wonderful time of the year in the best ways we can.

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In this Age of Aquari---um---covid-19,  celebrating the holidays can be a bit of a tricky chore.  Here in Michigan,  for one example,  high schools have been shut down for students for the month of December and into mid-January,  so all of our teaching is done on line.  This means no Christmas parties,  and very little decorating.
Except in my classroom.
I had an old fake tree in my basement that I never used.  I've had it for years but it was not what I thought it to be when I purchased it at a thrift store years ago.  So it sat,  cold and lonely in my basement,  awaiting for its day to shine.  Well,  as I was searching in my  "archives"  for my copy-of-a-copy of the Detroit News from December 8,  1941 with Pearl Harbor headlines to use as a teaching tool,  I noticed this pencil tree off in the corner.  And like Charlie Brown and the tree that needed him,  I brought my sad little tree to school where I decorated it with a few ornaments.  The teacher I work with loved it,  and so colored lights were added to it,  and it didn't look too bad.  But there was no tree topper,  so I asked one of the students if she might be willing to make one,  even though she is learning from home.
She did,  and...voila!
Look at our tree!
O Christmas Tree,  O Christmas Tree...
Still a bit scraggly,  it was no longer sad and lonely in my basement,  but now in my classroom where it stood in plain sight of the computer camera so the kids at home
could enjoy it,  too.
The young lady did a marvelous job on the star,  don't you think?

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Compassionate Friends is an organization that helps people who have lost a child,  such as friends of ours'  down the street from us.  Their daughter passed away suddenly from a rare form of cancer in the summer of 2014.
The Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting on the 2nd Sunday in December unites family and friends around the globe in lighting candles for one hour to honor the memories of the sons,  daughters,  brothers,  sisters,  and grandchildren who left too soon.  As candles were lit on this past December 13th,  2020 at 7:00 pm local time,  hundreds of thousands of people commemorated and honored the memory of all children gone too soon.
Now believed to be the largest mass candle lighting on the globe,  the annual Worldwide Candle Lighting  (WCL),  a gift to the bereavement community from The Compassionate Friends,  creates a virtual 24-hour wave of light as it moves from time zone to time zone.
Our friends came by for a visit one evening early in December 
and I gave them one of the candles we made at our
candle-dipping party in November.  
I was so honored to learn that this was the candle they used to
commemorate and honor their daughter's memory.
Being that this is held in December at Christmas time - the time of year when missing a loved one can be toughest of all - I thought it right to post it here.

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Nearly every year I light the candles that I place on the branches of my Christmas Tree,  and have been doing so since Christmas 1984.  Growing up I've always wanted to experience a real candle-lit tree.
The beauty of a candle lit tree.  
I've been asked how comfortable am I lighting candles on our Christmas Tree.
Well,  in the 36 years I've been doing it,  I take every precaution:  I make sure of the placement of each candle - no branches above or to close - I have water nearby  (always!),  watchful eyes besides my own are always on the look out,  and,  of course,  just like in those old days,  the candles are lit for not longer than about ten minutes.  Contrary to what Hollywood shows,  people did not leave their trees lit up for more than a few minutes,  and they did not leave the room while the flames were flickering.  Our ancestors were much smarter than that.
So,  yes,  I am very comfortable when I do this
My grandchildren were in awe. 
This year was the first time I've lit the tree candles when they were over to see it.
I've read interviews from the old-timers who have said that the electric lights cannot match the beauty of a real candle-lit tree.  And I tend to agree with them.  One must remember that in those olden times,  before anybody reading this was born,  the freshly cut Christmas Tree went up sometime on Christmas Eve or even Christmas morning.  Oftentimes the parents would put it up and decorate it after the children were in bed fast asleep on Christmas Eve,  only to wake up the next morn to find Santa Claus had come and did it all overnight.  Then the candles would be lit,  perhaps a carol or two sung,  then out went the flames.  In other words,  whereas we have our trees up from Thanksgiving or early December through at least New Years Day  (and weeks after,  in my case),  Christmas Trees in those days were up no more than a day or two,  and all of that candle-lit beauty had to be taken in in such a short span of time.

The following picture was taken by my daughter-in-law the same night as the other two posted here.  As a friend of mine wrote upon seeing it:  "Every now and then there’s a photo that encapsulates everything you hoped it would.  This is that photo."
This is,  perhaps,  my favorite picture of all,
for to me it really does epitomize Christmas:  
my grandkids...all is calm,  all is bright.  
Peace on earth,  good will to men...and women...and children...

~  ~

Even in the covid-19 year of 2020,  my period vocal group Simply Dickens still performed a few shows,  including to a masked & limited audience at the Plymouth Historical Museum:
Our repertoire includes mostly old world carols such as The Boar's Head Carol,  All You That Are Good Fellows,  The Gloucestershire Wassail,  The Wexford Carol,  The Huron Carol,  and the original lyrics to Deck the Hall and One Horse Open Sleigh  (original title to Jingle Bells).
No Santa,  Rudolph,  Frosty,  Hippopotamus,  Grandma getting run over,  or Donkey's named Dominic here!

Are we real or are we Memorex?
Having fun with the statues near the back of the hall.

And watch & listen to our December 23,  2020 live stream here  (you will have to copy & paste into your task bar the link below):

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My wife began a new tradition this year:
making Christmas cookies with our grandkids.

Our grandkids love to wear our hats - our colonial hats!

Playing 1940s Christmas music on the jukebox.
I purchased this about 30 years ago - maybe longer - and it is a cassette playing tiny replica of the iconic1946 Wurlitzer 1015 jukebox.  I was playing my 1940s Christmas music on it during baking day and the kids loved it!

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For quite some time I've been wanting something made from an 18th century loom,  whether the loom is authentic or a replication of an original.  My 5th great grandfather was a weaver in the 1760s,  and with me reenacting his era I figured I can not only honor my ancestor,  but have something to help accent my living history experiences and presentations as well.  
In the first picture here you can see me standing next to a loom that was inside
the 1750 Daggett House last year.
So,  with the help of a number of people - going way back to November 2019 - and having a LOT of patience,  I finally received a towel - two,  in fact - that were  "made with a historical timber-frame loom similar to those used in Colonial America."
Only they won't be used as towels - they are large enough to be runners to help accent my colonial vignette in my home.
In the next two photos you can see my newly purchased treasure that I tried to incorporate into a sort of colonial vignette.
One of the runners as it sits upon my fireplace mantle.

Can't see the runner too well here,  but I happen to like this photo...
and you can kind of see it.

~  ~

Due to the covid crap,  restaurants here in Michigan are not open for dining inside.  Going out to eat once a week on a  "date"  is something my wife Patty and I enjoy immensely,  especially in the fall and at Christmas time.
But,  alas,  for the most part,  it's not to be this year.
So we did something a bit different.
Okay---so maybe it's not so different for me.
It all began when I had an idea for a sort of photo-shoot.  There's not been much opportunity to dress period with my wife,  so I came up with an idea to put on period clothing and then called my son,  Rob,  over to take a few pictures.  I had pulled out a period table that worked well for our farm family impression,  put the settings on it,  including plates,  bowls,  drinking mugs,  and eating utensils,  and actually filled our plates with food.  
Before enjoying our Christmas dinner,  a prayer was said.  
Our lantern-lit dining was ready.
The intention was not to eat,  for this was just a photo-shoot,  but as Robbie took the pictures,  with his camera and mine,  Patty and I began to nibble the food on our plates.
Then,  since it was actually dinnertime as we did this,  we said,  "What the heck!"  
(a well-known colonial term---not!)  and started eating.
That ham was pretty good! 

So my wife and I enjoyed a splendid repast of ham and vegetables,  including carrots,  tomatoes,  and cucumbers.
There is very little I would love more than to have us do more of this sort of thing  (without a photographer),  but Patty has been slowly working her way out of the reenacting world.  Oh,  she will attend the bigger events here and there,  but for the most part,  she's not as interested in the hobby as she once was.  I,  on the other hand,  continue on even stronger and I am already making plans for a few exciting events for next year.
So---well---she will do this for me here and there...

~  ~

So...where are you Christmas?
Christmas is where you want it to be.
Christmas is a holiday that will forever be associated with home and family and tradition.
Not everyone celebrates,  I understand.  But I do,  for myself and my kids.  And my wife,  who did not have the wonderful Christmas experiences as a youth that I did,  has now taken to it every-bit-as-much as I do.
And it's been passed on to our kids...and now our grandkids.
I am blessed.
"Oh my gosh, how I love this photo! Brings back to my winter days in Daggett.  
You captured the essence of Daggett perfectly!"
Except for the Santa Claus.  
Someone made a comment about celebrating Christmas vicariously through us and our photos.  My response was rather than live vicariously through our experiences,  create them yourself.  It's always my hope that what I do and through my photos people will be inspired to  "walk the walk,"  if you know what I mean.
Do it!
Merry Christmas

To learn how Christmas was celebrated in Colonial times,  click HERE
Ten years of Christmas reenacting - click HERE

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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Christmas Music: On the Colonial Side

I hope you enjoy the subject matter of  today's post.  What I have listed here are a few of the more colonial and colonial-sounding  CDs I have in my collection.  And let's throw some Medieval,  Renaissance,  Victorian,  and American Appalachia in there as well.  These are the discs that tend to be in my CD player most often this time of year.  The music is traditional Christmas music in nature,  *mostly*  from the British Isles,  performed on period and traditional instruments like the hammered dulcimer,  penny whistle,  mountain dulcimer,  fiddle,  brass instruments,  and very old guitars and pianos/piano fortes.  
Is the music here completely 100% period correct?
Lanterns and greens...
Well...not necessarily 100%...but it does give it a good go;  the sounds herein express more of  a  feeling  of the period.  These are 20th and 21st century musicians and,  in some cases,  their time carries over.  That being said,  the sound is still strongly colonial-sounding to my ears,  and we should remember that the ordinary folk of the 18th century more than likely did not hear these carols performed in such a manner as what's on a few of  these discs;  I am pretty well certain the old carols as performed and sung in their time for the majority of the populace did not sound quite as upscale as what some of the sounds here impart,  for it was more the well-to-do that heard it performed by  (accomplished)  musicians.  Rather,  I am willing to bet they sounded no different than those performed and sung by the congregations in small churches of today,  with a mixed bag of voices - some good...and some,  well,  not so good - or perhaps played by a lone fiddler in a tavern on a Christmas Eve,  maybe with a few drunken voices thrown in,  or most likely they were heard in homes by ordinary non-professional singers like mothers and fathers and grandparents with voices no better  (or worse)  than our own.  But,  in the same way we remember our own parents singing along to the old tunes,  I'm sure it was as special as could be to the children  (and others)  listening in days of old,  and well,  either way,  this historic music is much more pleasant to listen to,  in my opinion,  than hearing today's overplayed  "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree,"  "Jingle Bell Rock,"   "Felice Navidad,"  "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,"  "Last Christmas  (I Gave You My Heart),"  "All I Want For Christmas Is You,"  and "Holly Jolly Christmas"  once,  and sometimes even twice an hour on the radio for two months.  Or the horrible hippopotamus and donkey songs.  Ugghhh!  Or even those  'diva'  tunes without any Christmas-y feeling to them at all.
But,  the evocation of the old world and colonial spirit does reign in each of  the following CDs,  giving us that 18th century  (and before)  feeling.
From Barry Phillips and Friends we can hear the sounds of Christmas from colonial America.  Some of this music was newly composed in America at that time,  while others are of the older folk tunes brought over from Europe. But it does remind one of what a Christmas gathering at a more well-to-do house or concert hall may have sounded like.  In fact,  the first cut -  "The Merry Wassail" - is such a fun tune.  You may recognize it as the instrumental break from the  "Ding Dong!  The Witch Is Dead"  hit single by The 5th Estate from 1967  (though this is truly an ancient melody).  That alone makes this CD worth the money.

(From Amazon):  "Seasonal music from the Autumn Equinox to the New Year!  This album celebrates music from Great Britain and other lands where Celtic people settled.  From harvest time to the old Celtic new year called  ''Samhain''  (now called Hallowe'en),  into the time of the Winter Solstice and the longest nights,  and onto the coming promised light of Christmas and the New Year - throughout this time,  our ancestors braced for the coming cold with the warmth that a winter's hearth  (and a good pint)  could bring."

The Toronto Consort specializes in music of the Middle Ages,  and this collection of both vocal and instrumental tunes celebrating Christmas,  St. Stephens Day,  New Years Day,  and 12th Night is done in the very old world style.  A booklet comes along with this set,  covering the group's history as well as the history of the music itself.
This is one of the most traditional pieces I own.

Sing We All Merrily by Linda Russell has introduced me to carols that have become standards in my house:  All You That Are Good Fellows,  A Virgin Unspotted,  the very old Cherry Tree Carol,  and a great instrumental version of Ding Dong Merrily On High.
The vocals for most tunes here are provided by Ms. Russell herself,  and the instrumentation is wonderful.
We hear songs and carols of Christmas almost daily from November through the end of December,  and many times without even thinking,  we may find ourselves humming or singing along.
But have you ever given thought to the idea that many of these same carols we sing along to are the same tunes our long ago ancestors knew and may have sung as well?
Christmas canticles of some form have been around for millennia,  and,  believe it or not,  a few from the ancient times still remain in our midst.  For instance,  from 12th century Ireland comes The Wexford Carol,  medieval England gave us The Boars Head Carol and The Gloucestershire Wassail.  God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is said to be from the 15th century.  Bring A Torch Jeannette Isabella and Coventry Carol are both from the mid-1500s,  with the mid-to-late 1600s bringing us All You That Are Good Fellows,  I Saw Three Ships,  The Huron Carol,  and The First Noel.  The Holly and the Ivy is from around 1710,  Joy To the World was written in Virginia in 1719,  Hark! The Herald Angels Sing was written in 1739,  and O Come All Ye Faithfull is from the 1750s - all being examples of the many carols from 12th century Europe through the late American colonial period.  In fact,  by the mid-18th century,  most of these Christmas songs began showing up in New England hymnals.
Upon A Winter's Eve by Black House Ceilidh is as period as it comes,  and even includes a twinge of highland thrown in here and there.  As stated on the inside cover: "I wanted to present these carols as simple,  elegant,  and organic:  much as they would have been heard when people ate seasonally,  warmth was a luxury,  and music was always performed live."
The mix of tunes are ancient in origin:  Coventry Carol,  God Rest You Merry Gentlemen,  Wexford Carol,  Good King Wenceslas,  and To Drive The Cold Winter Away,  all done in a traditional manner.  My favorites are those played by a lone fiddle - hauntingly beautiful.
I play this often to set the old world Christmas mood.
Light a candle in a darkened room and put this on.
Drift away to Christmas past...long past...
Awesomely wonderful collection that  truly emotes a feel of  "historical tradition 
that is lost in our modern world."
The artist succeeded in keeping this real.

Colonial Christmas by Craig Duncan has a light pop touch mixed with tradition. 
This instrumental collection isn't bad at all,  though it is better for background music to introduce your friends to a different style.
It has a period flavor.

Every year there tends to be one CD that is found playing on my stereo more often than the others.  A Scottish Christmas Celebration from Michigan's own Bonnie Rideout is one of those.  Just as the title states,  this is a Scottish Christmas collection.  If you like bouncy instrumentals done in a more traditional style,  this is for you  (and me,  too!).

On a Cold Winter's Day - Early Christmas Music and Carols from the British Isles by Quadriga Consort is a wonderful collection to help give that 18th century atmosphere. 
Is it totally historically accurate? the period flavor is there,  though they tended
to choose slow music.  Very slow...
As I've said before,  it can be very difficult to find true period music done in a true period way.  And even those are of limited availability. 

Though the hammered dulcimer has been around for centuries,  the mountain dulcimer,  from the Appalachian region of what is now the U. S.,  has only been around since roughly the early 19th century.  There are also a few numbers that are of later origin,  including Away In A Manger and Carol of the Bells.  However,  that does not mean this collection cannot work for a period-sounding Christmas celebration.  The other titles give it an 18th century feel,  such as Bring A Torch Jeannette Isabella,  The First Noel,  Cherry Tree Carol,  and What Child Is This.

Say what you will about Renaissance Festivals and the (in)accuracies surrounding them...and I will probably agree.  However,  many of the musicians who perform at such places can be wonderfully period,  such as Musica Royale,  who can take one back to the Renaissance or even to the time of the Middle Ages.
This is a fine set indeed.  

From the man who gave us Mannheim Steamroller we get something a bit more traditional than usual from him.  Rather than fusing contemporary styles with the more classical sounds of the past,  we,  instead,  hear Christmas music in a more ancient manner,  like Musica Royale,  dating back to the Medieval and Renaissance period. 

The music on this CD by Britain's Magpie Lane makes me feel as if  I'm in an old-time pub/tavern or country parlor hearing this decidedly strong-British vocal group performing the old world carols.  This collection features traditional tunes,  along with secular songs and dance music appropriate for Christmas and the Winter season;  they
do a superb job on each,  but,  especially  (for me)  The Gloucestershire Wassail is my
personal favorite,  though my wife loves  "Stuff Your Guts."  But there is truly not a bad cut on the entire disc.   I had to ordered this CD directly from the group,  for I could not find it anywhere else.  lol  I'm probably the only person in the U.S.  who owns a copy!
However---it can be streamed,  from what I understand - - - - 
This has been a constant play since I purchased it just after the 2021 Christmas season.

Neil Woodward's  "Cup O' Kindness"   is an instrumental collection of wonderful carols,  most of which you probably know,  played on guitar,  fiddle,  penny whistle,  mouth organ,  mandolin,  lap dulcimer,  and other period instruments.
Titles include Joy To The World,  Lo How A Rose Ere Blooming,  I Saw Three Ships,  Good King Wenceslas,  O Holy Night,  O Come Emanuel,  and numerous others.
Christmas music done in a 19th - and sometimes 18th - century style,  with a touch of old Appalachia - decidedly American in feel and style.
Wonderful listening...played a lot in my house.

And,  for good measure:
A wonderfully well-researched
book on early Christmas

I recently purchased a book called  "The Medieval Christmas,"  in which the author,  Sophie Jackson,  adds even more information to my historical Christmas knowledge.  In it she writes exactly what I've been saying for years:  that Christmas was not  "invented"  by Charles Dickens or the Victorians in general.  In fact,  it was in the Medieval period where Christmas as a holiday truly expanded,  including carols,  foods,  games,  drinks,  wassailing,  12th Night,  and even,  to a lesser extent,  Christmas Trees and other decorations.  Yes,  she also speaks of the early Pagan influences and of its affects that we now continue to utilize to this day. 
It's nice to have such information in one concise, well researched, and very entertaining book.
Ah...something to read AND to listen to as the Christmastide continues on...

As you have just read,  over the years I have amassed a pretty good collection of these carols from the past;  just as I collect the everyday items our ancestors would have used in their daily lives,  I enjoy seeking out the musical sounds of  long ago,  and each always proves to become favorites.
But that's all part of my wanting to recreate the times of my colonial ancestors.
Though I do enjoy much of the current Christmas music - by current I mean written in the past hundred years or so - my very favorite holiday sounds are what I call the Old World carols.  Usually these tunes are performed by relatively unknown-to-mainstream artists such as Linda Russell,  Robin Petrie,  The Christmas Revels,  Maggie Sansone,  Katie McMahon,  The Chieftains,  Madeline MacNeal,  Neil Woodward,  Bonnie Rideout,  Barry Phillips,  and even the the early Christmas releases of Mannheim Steamroller.  
I hope you will give a few a try.
You just might find yourself enjoying Christmas music again.

Until next time,  see you in time.

Oh! By the way---did you know I front a period vocal group?
I do!
Well,  I did - after 2023,  the band is retired - we had a wonderful 22 year run!
They're called Simply Dickens. 
Though our clothing is strongly Victorian,  many of our songs date back
to Medieval,  Renaissance,  Colonial,  Victorian,  and a couple from Appalachia.
No,  I don't sing - I announce and give history lessons for each carol.
Old world indeed!

Click HERE to learn more about Simply Dickens. 

To learn a bit on the backgrounds of a few beloved carols such as Deck the Hall,  The Boar's Head Carol,  Gloucestershire Wassail,  and Silent Night,  click HERE

For more information on how many of the colonists celebrated Christmas,  click HERE

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Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Thanksgiving Weekend Traditions: From Home & Family to Visiting Greenfield Village on Black Friday

I've never completely understood the whole  "Black Friday"  thing.  
A day to go into debt by spending a ton of money for things that are on sale 
on the day following a holiday set aside for being Thankful for what you have?
It just never made sense.
I can honestly say I have been shopping on Black Friday only once in my life,  and I found it to be ridiculous.  Stores opening at four o'clock in the morning,  the pushing and shoving and yelling, - in fact,  a few years ago,  some people were even trampled to death upon the rush to get in when the doors opened - just to get some item to give as a gift on a day supposedly for peace on earth good will to men?  
And then stores began opening earlier and earlier until they actually started opening their doors 
on Thanksgiving Day itself!  
Yeah...great family holiday... is for me & my family.
And we spend it together as a family.
As I have done for decades,  I try to give a relaxed and natural ambience
by way of candles.
A touch of early Republic here.

And a bit of  early Victorian over in this corner.

Then there's an ode to my grandpa,  who was born in 1895,  over in this corner

My family enjoying our Thanksgiving feast:  three generations.
Only my eldest son is not in this picture - he's behind the camera!

It was a very enjoyable day.  We had fine conversations - yes,  we stayed away from politics and covid,  for there is enough of that everywhere else,  and,  instead,  found other topics to discuss,  keeping this day on a lighter note,  which we all needed.

~   ~   ~   ~

And the next day,  there's Ken...dressing in period clothing and strolling along the historic streets of Greenfield Village,  oblivious to the noise and fights of those thankful people at the brick and mortar stores.
For this,  I am truly Thankful.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas~

Clothes make the man  (or woman),  or so they say.  I've heard this idiom often throughout my life.  And,  in some form or another,  it dates back to at least the Renaissance period---perhaps even further.
But it is correct.  It's been proven over and over,  from as young as school kids through adults,  what you wear can affect how you act and present yourself.
This holds true for living historians as well.  When we are in clothing from another era,  we behave and carry ourselves quite differently than our usual 21st century selves.
Now,  wearing such clothing and be in and around buildings/houses of the same era can bring that past to life in such a way as to  *almost*  give one a sort of immersive experience.
And that's why we do what we do - - - 
The following is a sort of  formula that explains my mindset as a living historian: 
For these two Ken's,  the past is now...
As soon as you start to think of the past as happening  (as opposed to it  'having happened'),  a new way of conceiving history becomes possible.  Reenacting and,  to an even greater extent,  living history,  allows us to to see the inhabitants of the past in a more sympathetic way:  not as a series of graphs and charts showing data of age,  race,  sex,  or occupations,  but,  rather,  as investigations into the sensations of being alive in a different time.  You can start to gain an inkling as to why people did this or that,  and even why they believed things which we may find simply incredible.  You can gain this insight because you know that these people are human,  like you,  and that some of the reactions are simply natural.  In being able to do this sort of  time-travel or,  what I also call mind-travel,  allows one to understand these people not only in terms of evidence through research,  but also in terms of their humanity,  their hopes and fears,  the drama of their lives.
It is in this way we can be reminded that history is much more than a strictly educational process.  Truly understanding the past is a matter of  experience as well as knowledge;  it is a striving to make a spiritual,  emotional,  poetic,  dramatic,  and inspirational connection with our forebears.  It is about our personal reactions to the challenges of living in previous centuries and earlier cultures,  and our understanding of what makes one century different from another.  We know what love,  fear,  pain,  anger,  grief,  sadness,  and anxiety is like today.  Those in the past knew as well.  This is the human relation we have with our forebears. 
And this is how I connect with them...

I have been visiting Greenfield Village on or near Black Friday for over a decade now,  and have always dressed in my period clothing while doing so.  Most times a few friends will join me.
This year was no different.
Three of us teamed up and ventured out on this gray day,  donning our Revolutionary War-era clothing,  including our winter-wear,  and strolled leisurely amongst the historic buildings - the most unique collection of Americana anywhere - taking in all of the wonderful history being offered.
Here's how it went:
Our first stop was at the home of  well-to-do shipping merchant,  John Giddings.
Giddings built this house in Exeter, New Hampshire in 1750.  He,  his wife Mehetable, 
and their five children lived here through most of the rest of the century.

The formal party was decked out for New Year's,  which,  in the 18th century,  was just as popular - if not more popular - than Christmas.
Yes,  contrary to popular belief,  Christmas was celebrated by colonials.  Click the link at the bottom of this posting to learn the truth about Christmas in the colonies from those who were there at the time.

We decided to have a bit of posed fun here:  since Ken and I  (the other Ken)  were dressed a bit more refined,  we had Charlotte portray the servant, 
greeting us at the door.
Kathy Hall Brock took the photos of the three of us, 
some from my camera and this one from her camera.

~A group picture:
George Washington was in Exeter in 1789,  four years after the death of Mr.  Giddings,  and that he most likely had dinner with a group of prominent citizens,  including the New Hampshire Secretary of State Joseph Pearson,  the current owner of this house 
at that time.
Washington's diary entry from November 4,  1789,  indicates that he had taken note of,  and had an interest in,  the ship building activity in Exeter.  Newspaper accounts of the time do place Washington at Folsom Tavern,  just a few blocks from 
the Giddings' wharf.
Please click the link at the bottom of the post to read more about John Giddings 
and the home he lived in.
(This photo was taken by Kathy Hall Brock
Thank you for taking these pictures for and of us!)

The Plympton House is another I stop at nearly every time I visit the Village.

Though it is set up for the time it was built - the early 1700s - the Plympton House
also had a part in 
the beginnings of the Revolutionary War.

This little red Plympton House sitting inside Greenfield Village truly is a special part
of American history,  for it has direct connections to not only the Revolutionary War itself,  but to the very beginnings of it:  the Battle of Lexington & Concord, 
as well as to Paul Revere.
Ahhh...but to learn more about this house and its history,  you'll have to click the link
at the bottom of this post.

Well,  you knew we'd be here at the Daggett's,  didn't you?
Me,  happily standing in front of my favorite house dressed in my favorite era for clothing!
(Took off the mask for a quick minute to have my photo taken)~

However,  while inside...
Jan & Charlotte visited as Jan knitted a scarf for one of the other presenters there. 
Jan is so accomplished at knitting she doesn't even have to look at what she's doing.

Harvest is over...only the remnants of earlier in the fall was left.

Chuck was chopping wood.  With Holiday Nights coming up,  they will need plenty of firewood to burn in the fireplace in the great hall and the one in the kitchen.

As far back as I can remember,  I do not recall seeing wood stacked in the Daggett kitchen.
There's that realism again!

After a fine visit,  it was time to move on...

The McGuffey Cabin,  built in 1780,  is locked up.  The floorboards were in desperate
need of replacing.  I hope it will be ready for Holiday Nights. 

Henry Ford desired to show America's ancestral European life and sent his agent,  Herbert Morton,  to find a typical Cotswold stone house for Greenfield Village.  Morton eventually located this circa 1620 Rose Cottage in Chedworth,  Gloucestershire,  England,  and found that it was for sale.
I suppose the Cotswold Cottage,  originally from England,  was an appropriate home to visit,  for it was built in 1620 - the same year the Pilgrims left England for America and landed at Cape Cod.  This...considering Thanksgiving was the previous day.

Once purchased,  a builder and expert on Cotswold architecture was hired to restore the house while still in England.  Along with the local British builders,  they worked to attain an appearance more reflective of the 17th century,  which required some major alterations to the house and barn.

Inside the Cottage was a bit dank,  though not necessarily unpleasant; 
they were preparing it for Holiday Nights beginning the following weekend.

Once the restoration was completed while still in England,  the workers dismantled the structures stone by stone - numbering each one individually - and packed them in gravel sacks.  Soon the Cotswold collection was on its way to Dearborn,  Michigan  (via boat and then train),  as were a number of the English builders,  eager to help with the reconstruction.
Here is Charlotte posing in clothing that was popular
about 150 years after the cottage was built.
Imagine the fashions that this house has  "seen."  

The beautiful 18th century gardens that were planted in the spring,  bloomed and
cared for during the summer,  and showed us their fall colors, 
are all but gone...til next season.
In the above photo,  behind Charlotte,  you see the rounded dovecote that was brought over and put up in Greenfield Village from the same part of England as the Cotswold Cottage and was built the same year as the cottage itself - about 1620.
Dovecotes,  such as the one in the above picture,  were built to house doves or pigeons.  In the 17th century,  birds from dovecotes provided relief from smoked and salted meats during the harsh winters.

Ken,  in his fine green cloak his late wife had sewed for him,  and I were checking out
the grounds of the Cotswold forge,  which you see behind us.
The forge was operated by members of the same family for nearly 300 years,
until 1909.

Here am I,  standing in the doorway of this wonderful
example of old world architecture.

Over at the Ford Home,  which was nearly a hundred years in the future for us, 
the sheep were out and beckoning for us to visit them.
'Twas a very enjoyable day at Greenfield Village.  It would be my last daytime visit until opening day 2021,  though I plan to be there for one of the Holiday Nights in December.
I have faith that by re-opening in April,  things should be either back to normal or very close.

But the weekend still had traditional adventures!
On the Sunday following Thanksgiving we did our annual trek out to the country to cut down the family Christmas Tree.  We have been doing this since...well,  my wife and I have been married over thirty five years,  so for over thirty five years!

Just a small portion of the trees at Western's Tree Farm in Applegate,  Michigan.

I no longer cut the tree but,  instead,  leave it to my two oldest sons.

And so Tommy & Robbie,  followed by Ben,  took the tree to the road to wait for the cart
 to come and pick us up.

When Patty and I first began cutting down our Christmas Tree,  it was just the two of us and maybe a few friends joining in.  Now it's only our family.  What you see here are Patty and I along with our four kids,  two daughters-in-law,  and three grandkids.
I have been blessed beyond anything I could have hoped for.

My three grandchildren,  all excited about picking out a tree,  cutting it down, 
then decorating it at Nonna & Papa's.

Before we hopped on the highway home,  we stopped in my favorite small town,  Lexington.
As you travel north on M-25,  the first town you enter is Lexington.

The Cadillac Hotel,  first opened in 1860,  recently was restored back to its
original architectural style.

Wimpy's Place has the best burgers,  bar none.
And the General Store is a step back in time.

Home and I immediately put the tree in the stand.

We all took part in decorating it,  which is why it is the family  Christmas Tree,  not just Nonna & Papa's tree.
Grandson Ben

Granddaughter Addy

Grandson  "Hi!  It's me,  Liam!"

My grandkids love the family tree!
And once we were done decorating it...

Every year we say the same thing:
"The best tree we've ever gotten!"
"Oh!  But this year it really is!"
Until next year.
The only time it is NOT the best tree will be when the family is not participating, 
 and I pray that day never comes.

And in another part of our house...
I questioned whether or not I wanted to put up a few of my Department 56 Dickens Village houses and accessories,  but knowing how much my grandkids like it,  I decided to do it for them.  It also helps that they've been watching the Muppet Christmas Carol so they are familiar with the story and characters.
Maybe one year,  after I clean up and out the basement,  I'll set up my entire collection -
46 houses and a myriad of Dickensian characters. 

One of my own little photo shoots inside my house that I posted on Facebook.
A former Greenfield Village presenter who used to work often at the Daggett House commented upon seeing this picture:
"Oh my gosh,  how I love this photo!  Brings me back to my winter days in Daggett."
I replied with,  "That's what I was hoping!  I took this in my house - - "
And her response was,  "Well you wouldn’t know it!  You captured the essence of Daggett perfectly!"
Of course,  the Daggetts,  being Congregationalists,  more that likely would not have hung a wreath in their window for Christmas,  for that religious sect did not celebrate the holiday.
However,  as a Catholic,  I do.  Therefore,  in the spirit of the Daggett House,  this is another of my small tribute.

We are filled with tradition in my family,  from our annual corn roast to apple picking to candle dipping to our Thanksgiving weekend activities,  and I am so very thankful that our children follow suit,  even as adults.  Most of all the traditions we do,  we do as family.
That makes me happy.

Until next time,  see you in time.

To learn more about the Giddings House,  click HERE
To learn more about the Plympton House,  please click HERE
To learn more about the Daggett House,  click HERE
To learn more how colonists celebrated Christmas,  please click HERE
To learn more about early American Thanksgiving celebrations,  click HERE
Until next time,  see you in time.

~   ~   ~