Sunday, December 25, 2022

Christmas Day at Greenfield Village! (Most Photos taken on Christmas Day 2022)

To begin with,  this posting would not even happen if it weren't for two reasons:
1)  That the farm animals in Greenfield Village's barns - horses,  cows,  pigs,  etc. - need daily care and attention,  therefore at least one of the farmers has to visit daily to do the necessary chores to ensure the animals are all safe and fed.
2)  That Tom Kemper happens to be the farmer with the foresight to take a few minutes to snap such wonderful pictures on this most wonderful day of the year - - most of the images here were taken on his own time away from his own family.  Thank you sir - - you have blessed all of us who love this place of history so much by such a simple act!

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Ghosts of Christmas Past can be seen in the pictures included herein.  Oh!  those of us who visit Greenfield Village in person or see the homes and presenters through photos here on Passion for the Past may think,  "well,  Ken,  this is no big deal."  
But it actually is,  especially for those of us who can feel the spirits within the walls...that roam about the historic buildings.  Every outdoor picture here,  sans one,  was taken on Christmas Day itself by Farmer Tom.
No big deal?
I think it is!
No,  the structures don't look any different.
It's the spirit within you that makes all the difference.
Yep---I do firmly believe that.
So,  I'd like to present,  courtesy of  farmer and GFV employee,  Tom Kemper,  many of  his photographs taken on Christmas Day at Greenfield Village.  In fact,  if it is an outdoor shot,  all but one were taken by Tom.  All other  (especially indoor)  pictures were from my own camera:
A replicated printing of a historic advertisement from,  according to research,  1868.

Henry Ford had his birthplace restored to look as it did in 1876,  when he was thirteen years old.  One can just imagine young Henry very begrudgingly taking care of his morning farm chores,  whether it was Christmas Day or not...and no matter how cold or how much snow was on the ground.  
Meanwhile,  inside the Ford parlor - 
Awaiting for the festivities to begin!
"C'mon,  Henry!  Get your chores done!"

Just past the Ford Farm we see the turn-of-the-20th-century-town loom up:
on the left we have the Cohen Millinery Shop,  the Heinz House,  and in the distance,  the Sir John Bennett Sweet Shop/Bakery.
On the right we see most prominently,  the Wright Brothers Cycle Shop.
As you can see,  we awakened to a White Christmas this morning,  and it continued to snow lightly throughout the day.  Yes,  White Christmas's are a dream for many,  but for us here in Michigan,  it is a reality!

So now we are passed the Sweet Shop,  looking back from whence we came,  and on the left here we have a replication of a New England Town Hall,  while on the right we see the building housing the Herschell-Spillman Carousel


The town hall faces the Village Green,  which most New England
villages had.  And directly across we have a wonderful replication
of  a New England church!
This non-denominational chapel design was based on a Universalist
 church in Bradford,  Massachusetts.  The bricks and the doors came from 
the building in which Henry Ford and Clara Bryant were married in 1888
 - the Bryant family home in old Greenfield Township  (from which the 
Village name was taken).  And the bell,  according to the 1933 guide book,  
was cast by the son of Paul Revere!
The name  "Martha-Mary"  came from the first names of his 
mother and mother-in-law.
Sticking by his original New England village plan,  Ford made sure
 that the steeple of the church was the highest point in Greenfield Village.  
This was as it was in most towns across America.
Churches were one of the very first buildings to be built upon the formation of any new settlement,  and they were always to be the tallest structure in any town or village - the point to where anyone from any part of town may see it was very important.  It also would house the bell to be rung for service or for important news - the bells were used as a call to worship,  to ring the time of day in the community,  as a wedding peal,  as a solemn funeral toll to mark the passing of a cherished member,  to summon townsfolk for important news,  or possibly as a warning…perhaps of an impending attack - therefore it could be heard farther into the countryside the higher it was.  So rather than build an extremely tall building, they built a tall steeple to place the cross atop and put the bell inside instead.

Just to the left as we face the church is the Eagle Tavern.
Now,  taverns at this time - mid-19th century - were more for travellers than considered a drinking establishment,  though more and more,  as the century went on,  their reputation began to change to where by the early 20th century,  taverns were in close association of what we today call a bar.
Early in the 19th century, a stage line was operated between Detroit and Tecumseh on what was originally an Indian trail.  With the coming of the early settlers from the east,  however,  it became the settler's route as well.  As traveling increased and roads were made possible for stagecoach travel,  taverns were built along this route.  The first stage stop that comes our way on our journey west was originally known as Parks Tavern when it was built in Clinton,  Michigan,  around 1831.  Parks Tavern was renamed the Eagle Tavern in 1849 and that name remained until the Civil War.  
It was one of the first of the taverns built on this road,  which eventually extended to Niles,  Michigan in 1832,  and then,  by 1833,  the road made it to Chicago,  when it became known as the Chicago Turnpike,  and finally the Chicago Road/US 12.
My wife and I enjoying a Christmas meal many years ago,  dressed as if we were
in the year 1860.  And that is Mr.  Fred Priebe,  in the role of Calvin C.  Wood, 
owner and caterer.


A festive party at the Eagle Tavern!
Here we are,  a few of the locals from the 1860s community of Clinton,  Michigan enjoying a fine meal at the Eagle Tavern.  No,  this is not a reenactment - we are living historians who like to dress up in period clothing  "just because,"  and do so frequently.  By wearing our clothing of the 1860s we kind of help with the period atmosphere,  too.  Don't try to understand - it's just what we do.


Let's head eastward toward the porches & parlors end of the Village,  where.  perhaps we'll find ghosts of Christmas Past:
Technically not part of Porches & Parlors,  the Sarah Jordan Boarding House is a part
of the Edison District,  for it's here where many of Edison's workers lived while
working for the great inventor.
This house,  built in 1870,  originally stood near the laboratory where Thomas Edison and his men toiled in Menlo Park,  New Jersey.
While inside the house Sarah and her daughter celebrated Christmas with their
table-top feather tree,  made of real goose feathers positioned to look like
pine tree branches.


Heading eastward,  we come across the Whittier Tollhouse & Shoe Shop.
The tiny,  seemingly insignificant shack,  which served as the toll keeper's stall, 
was built in 1828 in Rocks Village,  East Haverhill  (pronounced HAY-vruhl ),  Massachusetts,  on the banks of the Merrimac River,  near a draw bridge that
connected the towns of East Haverhill and West Newbury. 
And just beyond the Tollhouse/Shoe Shop...
Ha!  You thought I was going to say  "The Covered Bridge,"  didn't you?
Well,  nope---just before we get to the bridge,  we have a few historic structures:
on the left is the Luther Burbank Office,  built sometime between 1903 or 1906.
Luther Burbank  (1849 - 1926)  was an American botanist,  horticulturist,  and a pioneer
in agricultural science.  That red building distant left is his birthplace,  built about 1800.
In the center we have what every small town seemed to have:  a gazebo.  This was built inside Greenfield Village as a replication of an original.
Now,  on the right...

...the Ackley Covered Bridge,  built in 1832 by Daniel and Joshua Ackley, from whose
land, near West Finley Pennsylvania,  the great oak timbers came. There was much help from the men of the community in its construction.

As we cross the bridge,  the road veers to the left,  and that's when the  "Porches & Parlors"  neighborhood opens up to us.
There are numerous wonderful houses to visit here,  but I always turn right at the corner and head directly to my favorite house in the Village,  the ca1750 home built by Samuel Daggett,  where he and his wife and children lived for many decades to come.
One thing we are told about the Daggetts and their,  ahem,  celebration of Christmas is that since Samuel & Anna and family were practicing Congregationalists,  they did not celebrate the Christmas holiday,  for they considered it to be Papist  (Catholic),  and the date was not biblically based.
The Daggetts came from strong Puritan stock,  and Puritans valued order over other social virtues,  reasoning that men required rules to guide them and bind them to their good behavior.  Authority dominated people's lives,  beginning with the highest authority of God,  then the authority of religious leaders,  and finally the authority of the male head of the household.
In the 1760s, though changes were on the horizon,  many of these attitudes would have still described rural New England families.  Many still perceived themselves as deeply religious people.  They observed the hand of God in everyday occurrences.  They believed in hard work and maintaining high moral standards.
And this could definitely apply to the Daggetts.
However,  many of these same folk happily and publicly celebrated the coming of the New Year.
The next three pictures are from my camera,  and I included them to sort of add to the story:
I took this picture of the Daggett House during a snowstorm in late December 2021.

Meanwhile,  inside the Daggett House...
I sure do wish we celebrated Christmas here!
So,  though the Daggetts may not wish you a Merry Christmas,  I most certainly will!
Merry Christmas!!

This image of yours truly was taken by my wife,  I believe,  as I warmed myself at the hearth of the great hall inside this home.
On a deep frosty late December evening in 2017,  I journeyed to historic Greenfield Village during Holiday Nights while wearing my clothing from the 1770s.  Besides a cotton shirt,  a waistcoat  (vest),  coat,  knee breeches,  thick wool stockings,  wool mittens,  wool scarf & knitted cap,  and leather shoes,  I also wore my woolen cloak,  which worked very well in keeping me warm in such frigid weather.  Even though the temperature on this night was in the single digits and the wind blew harshly,  keeping the chill far below zero,  my upper chest region was warm,  thankfully,  due in no small part to my cloak.  However,  the lower quarter of me was quite cold,  especially from the knees on down.  Entering this historic house I stepped to the blazing hearth where the warmth of the fire upon my person at that moment felt better than any other warming device could.  My toes in the leather buckle shoes were biting - they ached like I never felt them ache before - and it took a while for the  "thaw"  to take place,  but they,  too,  came back to life,  though were still pain-filled.
I could actually feel the warmth of the fire engulf me as I stood in front of the hearth there as this image was captured inside the Daggett house - not too close,  mind you! - and I appreciated it on this extreme bitter night like I never had done before.
Being out in the single digit temps and harsh winds for over four hours in period clothing certainly gave me more of an understanding,  appreciation,  and a deeper respect for our ancestors and the way they survived.

Okay!  Back to the Christmas Day pictures!
From the Daggett House I step across the road to see the picturesque Cotswold Cottage,  built in England around 1620.
The forge,  here,  on the right,  was operated by members of the Stanley family
for nearly 300 years, until smithy Charles Stanley's death in 1909.

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.

By September of 1930,  the Cotswold Cottage was rebuilt on Michigan soil, ready to teach American visitors of European life lived more than four hundred years before.
From what I've been able to find out,  the phrase Merry Christmas is indeed the greeting one was more likely to use in the 17th,  18th,  and 19th centuries.  "Different sources trace the origin of the phrase back to different dates,  but in each case,  they all pre-date the 18th century.  The casual use of  'Merry Christmas'  in Charles Dickens'  "A Christmas Carol"  seems to suggest that it was already well-known to the English by the early to mid-19th century."
It wasn't until 20th century England that Happy Christmas became the more popular phrase there. 

Meanwhile,  inside Cotswold...
A Red Cross helper helps with the Christmas celebration for the
American servicemen station in England inside
Cotswold Cottage in the 1940s.

Next door we have the Giddings House,  another favorite:
The first home that catches our eye is the Giddings House.
John Giddings,  the builder of this house,  was born in 1728 in Exeter, New Hampshire. He married Mehetable Gilman in the fall of 1751,  and since nearly every research page that mentions this house says it was constructed in that same year,  I'm going to speculate that he built it a number of months beforehand with the thoughts of his new bride and the hope for a future family in mind.

Christmas,  at this time colonial period in American history,  had stiff competition with New Years,  often due to the fact that many folks in New England didn't celebrate Christmas.  And it's a New Year celebration that is shown inside the Giddings house during Holiday Nights.
Meanwhile,  inside Giddings...
Celebrating the New Year with Mrs.  Giddings - welcome 1770!

Built inside the Village in 1935,  this building,  according to the early guidebooks from the 1930's,  '40's,  and '50's,  represents the type of watchmaker's home in the Jura Mountains of Switzerland.  Most of the doorways,  windows,  and iron works are from an original Swiss structure.
This is the break building for many of those who work in this area of the Village.

Moving up along the road...on the opposite side...
According to sources at the Benson Ford Research Center, 
there is a strong probability that this cabin was built by William’s
maternal grandparents,  William and Jane Holmes, 
in Washington  County,   Pennsylvania in 1789.

Meanwhile,  inside the cabin on this Christmas Day:
Besides the oat cakes,  which she is preparing
to cook here,  roast rabbit,  stewed pears
and Turnbridge pudding were also on the menu.
Yes,  it's true the presenter actually was preparing the meal listed,  but I'm not quite sure if that would have been a Christmas meal.  Of course,  out on the frontier,  a Christmas dinner could have been anything beyond the norm.

The same year that Ford re-erected McGuffey's Birth Place in
Greenfield Village - 1934 - he used original logs from an 18th century
barn on the Holmes property in Washington County,  Pennsylvania to build
a one room McGuffey School inside the Village as well.  
What Henry Ford replicated here was what many pioneer country schools looked like during the time of  William Holmes McGuffey,  and,  due to the fact that the McGuffey Readers of the 19th century influenced so many of the era that Ford built this school in full honor of McGuffey.

And we have three more buildings shown next - all of which would not have been
open on Christmas Day back in the 19th century:
directly in front,  the little cabin is the replicated birthplace of George Washington Carver,  the great dark building just behind it is the Logan County Court House,  and the Town Hall is back there on distant right.
George Washington Carver was well-known for his experiments with the peanut, sweet potatoes, soybeans. and pecans, and he advocated and taught crop rotation which helped the poor farmers, who previously farmed only cotton, to grow a variety of crops. In doing this, Carver vastly improved the economy of the southern states.
The Logan County Court House was where Abraham Lincoln once practiced law before running for President.
The Town Hall is a replication Ford had erected as part of his Village Green.

Across the street from this area we find the Adams House:
The birthplace of George Matthew Adams  (born in 1878),  this house has been closed
for nearly ten years.  I've been told of plans to revitalize it into more of an 1840s
house - the era in which it was built - but I am waiting for that to happen.

As it was presented as a house from the 1870s,  we can imagine the Adams'  household on Christmas Day...
...with all of the necessary holiday preparations,  for friends and
family will soon be coming by,  walking through the snow or, 
perhaps,  by horse and carriage.

The Adams Christmas Tree in the family parlor.
Note the Noah's Ark beneath it - a very popular religious toy
 of the 19th century.

Next to the Adams House as they are inside Greenfield Village we have the Chapman House,  originally built in 1860 in the same city that Greenfield Village is in - Dearborn.
Here is the home of a former school teacher who once taught at the Scotch 
Settlement School,  John Chapman.
Imagine admiring your teacher so much that you have his house restored for 
future generations to see and learn from!

Heading over to Smiths Creek Depot,  we also find Christmas Day celebrations occurring,  for this was also the stationmaster's home for he and his family,  and is typical of country railroad stations in the mid-19th century. 
The Smiths Creek Depot was originally built around 1858-59 in Smiths Creek, 
Michigan near Port Huron.  A young Thomas Edison worked as a news and candy  "butcher"  on the train ride from Port Huron to Detroit and back.  
As a  "butcher,"  during this mid-19th century era,  Edison was a vendor of sorts,  and would sell candy,  hot dogs,  etc.,  while aboard the train.  It was during one such trip,  in 1863,  that an angry conductor threw young Tom off the train at this particular Smiths Creek depot when the boy accidentally set the baggage car on fire while conducting a chemical experiment using phosphorus.
A small table-top Christmas Tree is all decorated for an 1860s Christmas inside the depot.

A replicated 19th century printing shop is closed after spending weeks...
The print Shop

...Thomas Nast Santa prints from the 1880s.
 It was artist Nast who is most responsible for the still prevalent image of Santa Claus as a rotund,  bearded,  benevolent figure.

Near the print shop we have the Spofford Saw Mill:
Built on a stone foundation,  the Spofford Saw Mill was built in Georgetown,  Massachusetts in the late 1600's by John  (or possibly son Abner - or both)  Spofford.  Lumber from this mill was used to make houses,  barns,    shops, and possibly ships.
Alas,  on Christmas Day,  the workers are all at their homes,  celebrating.

In the Liberty Craftworks area,  all is calm,  all is bright.

Next we have what could be the most popular historic structure inside Greenfield Village,  the birthplace of Harvey Firestone:
The Firestone Farm was originally built by Peter Firestone in 1828 
in Columbiana,  Ohio.
This farmhouse,  as it stands now in Greenfield Village,  is a living history re-creation of life on a farm of the 1880's in Eastern Ohio,  and has been restored to look as it did in 1882,  when Harvey's parents remodeled the house to give it a more modern look.

As we head toward the farm we notice a sort of  horse shelter:
These horses are well-cared for,  and the farmers are there,  whether open or close
to the public or if there is inclement weather.  Or even if it's Christmas Day.

Perhaps the sheep get a little extra to eat on this holiday?
According to the legend,  Christ's birth occurred at exactly midnight.  Inside the stable,  the animals watched in wonder as the newborn babe was lovingly wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger.  Suddenly,  God gave the animals voices and immediately they began to praise Him for the miracle they had just seen.
In the barn they're all saying,  "Where's my present? 
Do we get extra fodder today?"

Meanwhile,  inside Firestone...
And with their chores complete,  let the Firestone Christmas celebration begin!
The Firestones celebrating Christmas by play carols on the pump organ.
~I took these photo inside the house about twenty years ago when
Firestone Farm House used to be decorated for Christmas
~

The dining room table is all set for Christmas dinner.

A blazing fire in the sitting room hearth as stockings were hung by the chimney with care.

Another late 19th or early 20th century  "Merry Christmas"  poster hanging in town.

Tom took this next photo a couple Christmas's ago:
A merry sight indeed!
So,  a heartfelt thanks to Mr.  Kemper for taking the time to walk around the empty Village to snap a few wonderful pictures.  In fact,  unless otherwise noted,  all outdoor pictures here came from his camera.  Looking at these scenes certainly gives me the feeling that I was there as well,  walking through the snow,  nary a sound to be heard as all the celebrants of the past were locked up tight inside these old homes,  celebrating this Christmas Day.

Merry Christmas.

I agree with Tom when he wrote about how sad a Christmas Tree lot stand looked
on Christmas Day...






























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Saturday, December 24, 2022

Just Like The Ones I...um...Used to...Well...It's Not All About The Gifts

I've received kind comments from readers who have mentioned how much they enjoyed reading my post about how I turned a portion of my home into a pseudo-historic house.  I've also received the same from those who enjoy my writings on our family Christmas traditions and how they'd like to do something similar with their own families but are not quite sure how,  and that's what I will concentrate on this week.
Just remember this:  less is more and more is less.  And--you need to be willing to at least give change a try.
Buy! Buy! Buy!  Even in the 1770s!
(my own meme I created)
Some might be a little afraid,  though,  to change things up,  for most of us have been sold the story of BUY!  BUY!  BUY!!,  and Santa,  Rudolph,  and Frosty have the decoration market cornered,  because,  you know,  that's what Christmas is all about,  Charlie Brown.
"OMG!!!  Our kids won't love us anymore if we don't get them everything they want!!!!"
Yeah...heh heh heh...maybe I can  help:
From the time my wife and I married back in the mid-1980s I wanted to have an old-time Christmas.  Not necessarily just like the ones I used to know from my own youth,  but from the time of my multiple-great grandparents.  And I worked at it,  slowly,  looked and listened by visiting historic places,  continued to research  (still do),  and it grew every year from there.
One of the first things I was taught was to stop centering this joyful holiday around gifts.  Now,  I'm not saying to not have presents  'neath the tree for Christmas morning at all,  but to spread the wonderfulness that is Christmas out so that gifts do not become the focal point.  I know people who will spend $500 and up per person on Christmas presents.  Wow---that can easily set one back thousands of dollars.
So---how about if you do  rather than buy?

Christmas Tree cutting day for us occurs the day after Thanksgiving.  Yes,  rather than spending the day after you've given thanks for all you have buying even more,  we go,  as a family,  out to the country,  to a tree farm,  and pick out our Christmas Tree.  Then we cut it down,  and this freshly cut tree will easily last into January.  Yeah,  stop with the complaining of,  "But the needles!  I'm getting an artificial tree!"
Wah!  Wah!  
Unless you are allergic,  there is nothing like a real Christmas Tree and the adventure in picking one out with the family.
Searching for the perfect tree.
One of my sons and my daughter have been opting for a table-top tree of late,  which were the popular trees of the Victorian period,  while my wife and I  (and my other son)  prefers a floor to ceiling spruce.  We decorate it in a more traditionally manner - less bulbs and more variety of ornaments,  such as woodland creatures,  birds,  gingerbread men and women,  bells,  musical instruments...and even a cannoli! - with candles carefully placed on the branches.  And,  yes,  I light them,  and have been doing so for over 35 years.
My grandkids in awe of their  Nonna & Papa's
candle lit Christmas Tree.

For the locals here in metro-Detroit,  for instance,  think about spending time at Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village where the entire 300 acres is decked out for Christmas or New Year's past.  At roughly $35 a ticket,  for a family of ten it is only $350.  And an evening of memories that won't soon be forgot!
Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village - Just like the ones you used to know?
Pic courtesy of Edie Stulz Wysocki
Then there is historic Crossroads Village,  which also has a very cool Christmas event,  including a Christmas train ride at roughly $24 a ticket. 
Those prices are not high in actuality,  especially when compared to the cheap products folks spend outrageous amounts of money on.  Or when compared to a single Detroit Lions ticket:  $115.  Yikes!  Imagine taking the family!  And that's not even including the price to park your car!
Christmas at Crossroads Village
Not so much historic as it is decorative
Yeah...I'll take the family memories any day.

Then there is the Holly Dickens Festival.
Here am I,  in merry old London town...er,  Holly.
At least,  it has a fair resemblance,  does it not?
What we have here in Michigan,  in the tiny Village of Holly,  about an hour north of  Detroit,  is the nation's oldest Dickens Festival.  'Tis true!  We have had the longest running Dickens Festival in the United States!  Yep--every Christmas for the past half century this Victorian village turns itself into merry old England of 1843,  where visitors can interact with Dickensian characters such as Ebenezer Scrooge.
When our kids were young we would go to the festival as visitors and really had a ball.  It only took a couple of years before I was ready and wanting to take part,  and for most of the years from 1998 through this year,  I have,  in some form or another,  been part of this wonderful festival.  I've sold chestnuts,  been a part of the  "Christmas Carol"  play,  a Dickensian roamer,  portrayed Charles Dickens as he wrote his most famous story,  and,  mostly and most recently,  head up my period vocal group Simply Dickens.
Simply Dickens at the Holly Dickens Festival 2022~
There is a connection between the festival's name and my group's name,  you know.
Old world Christmas music...

Which leads me to Christmas music:
Like you're in an old British pub
You see,  there is so much more Christmas music than Mariah Carey or  Rockin'  Around The Christmas Tree,  Jingle Bell Rock,  or songs about Frosty,  Santa,  Rudolph or anything of that sort;  I'm talking of the wonderful old carols with meaning such as God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,  Silent Night,  Deck the Hall,  O Holy Night...you know,  the more traditional carols sung in a traditional manner and not often played on the Christmas radio stations.  Better yet,  find these carols  (and others of this sort)  as instrumentals played on acoustic instruments.  And if you are feeling particularly traditional,  you can look for the more obscure music,  popular in their day but lost to most in our modern times,  such as Masters In This Hall,  Gloucestershire Wassail,  The Holly Bears a Berry,  and The Boar's Head Carol.  Music played on the hammered dulcimer in particular gives off a wonderful  Victorian  atmosphere.
I myself collect the old world carols,  and when I mix them in with Johnny Mathis or the Ray Conniff Singers,  I get a very diversified - some might even say eclectic - collection of Christmas sounds that won't make you say how tired you are of certain songs. 
It makes all the difference.
The CDs you see mixed in here are a few of my personal favorites - those of which can be found in my CD player quite often this time of year.
One of my instrumental favorites!
Country - not as in music but in a place -
very wooden.

Old world with a slight touch of new world
A very basic vocal collection
Next year - Christmas 2023 - Holly is planning a big 50th anniversary bash and already have told me they would like Simply Dickens to be a part!
Now what if you don't have such a festival in your own neck of the woods?
Try putting one together.  Gather up like-minded friends,  make a plan,  and do it.  It doesn't even have to be in a Victorian village - it can take place in a local park!  I know it's not that easy,  but I also know it's not that hard.  Thinking outside the box is what it is!

You can do some pretty cool things in your own home to make Christmas a bit more special for the family.  For instance,  how often have you returned home and just lit a candle on your table.  Perhaps you purchased one of the tin lanterns they sell at Greenfield Village or a wooden lantern from Samson Historical or Townsends and put a lit beeswax taper candle inside.  Just something so simple can create such an atmosphere,  even in your modern home with contemporary d├ęcor.  
Two lanterns and a wreath is all it took to create this traditionally vignette.
Yes,  the wreath is artificial.
In fact,  might I suggest that you stay away from the gaudy,  where there is a light or a plastic Santa or whatever in every available space?  The Victorians did decorate,  and,  yes,  they could at times border the gaudy.  But more often than not it was a more subtle form of decoration,  in a similar vein as the colonials.  Maybe a few sprigs of holly,  a wreath in your windows and on your door.  If you have a fireplace mantle you could spread greenery across that.  And,  of course,  the obligatory Christmas Tree. 
 
How about spending quality time with your kids,  grandkids,  siblings,  or whoever?
One of the traditions of  Christmas that goes back centuries is baking bread and,  more recently,  cookies.  My wife did this with our own children while they were growing up and now she does it with our grandchildren;  every Saturday before Christmas my home smells like a bakery!  
Can you just hear and see the happiness?
Can you smell the cookies baking in the oven?
The true joys of Christmas thaqt cannot be matched by any store-boughten presents.
And I'm the tester!
As for the Holiday feast itself,  my wife makes turkey - that's my preference - with all the fixings.  But she will either use an old recipe from years gone by or combine new and old,  such as with her stuffing.  Her stuffing is the best!  And she also makes wassail,  the fruit-flavored drink from the medieval period and continued in great popularity through the centuries.  Though in parts of the world wassail continues its popularity,  it really isn't very popular here in the US.  It is with us,  though,  and our kids,  grandkids,  and nephews & nieces all look forward to it every year.  In fact,  it wouldn't be Christmas in my family without it.
But this whole baking thing doesn't just have to be for kids - how about siblings and cousins, too?
It's a family affair,  you know.
I spy with my little eye:  my wife,  my son,  two nieces,  my sister,  two cousins, 
and a friend all baking/making cannoli shells together!  Such a festive gathering!

Then there are the Christmas gifts:
Well,  we are being sold the story that stores and society in general have come to depend on people spending their paychecks and racking up credit card bills in gift purchases: $300,  $400,  and even $500 or more per child or per family member is not unheard of.
But,  I have to say,  in my family it's not like that.  First off,  when our kids were young and still living at home,  we would spend just over a hundred bucks per child  (maybe $125),  as well as that amount on each other.  And neither my wife nor I ever got involved in those Secret Santa's gift exchange at work.
We weren't rich then and we certainly are not now.
You may say to me, "I could never buy what my kids want for Christmas for $125!"
So?  Get a credit card,  right?
Can't live without one,  you say,  right?
What if I told you we haven't had a credit card since the late 1990s - and no monthly bills to go with it either.
And yet,  we survive.
Not too many and each wrapped
in different sized boxes so no one
has any idea what lies inside!
One Christmas,  about 13 years ago,  I changed jobs in the fall and took a large pay cut to do so.  Ultimately,  there was a better opportunity for me.  Because of this,  money was at an all-time low,  and my wife and I,  who previously would spend the large amount of cash on our kids for gifts,  could not do it that year.  So,  we bought our children the two or three things each that we knew they would be happy with.  Come Christmas morning,  they were every bit as excited as if they received five times as many gifts!  Honest to God!  But,  how we opened the presents helped here as well:  one present at a time.  Child  "A"  opens his and we all watched and enjoyed what he received.  Then it's child  "B's"  turn to do the same,  and so on and so on.  This way,  everyone was able to see what everyone else got and get excited with them.  This also made the gift opening ceremony last longer and increased the anticipation.
Let me tell you - it WORKS!!! 
Getting a special not-too-expensive gift and a couple side gifts works!  And we continue in this manner to this day and include our grandkids in it.  I just can't see giving people a mess of gifts only to see them open them all at once and it be over in a matter of minutes.
Yep - everything is paid by cash or debit  (again,  no credit cards at all!).  We put the amount we plan to spend aside when we receive our income tax refund in the spring and do not touch it til late October,  when we're ready to begin the shopping.
You see,  we did  things throughout the holiday season as a family.  And that made / makes such a big difference.  When your own children don't want Christmas Day to come because all the fun would be over has really gotta tell you something.
By the way,  did I tell you of the cool gift I know I'm getting this year?
Well,  my son sadly mentioned for us not to get he or his wife anything for Christmas because they have no money to by Patty & I anything.  I told him that I think he can afford to get us something:  I then told him I would like a family gathering dinner in the dead of winter:  fresh-baked homemade hot bread and orzo soup.  He smiled and said,  "I can do that!"  I replied with,  "That's what I want."
Bam!

The main reason for this posting on how I create a traditional Christmas within my own  "hearth & home"  is due to the numerous queries I receive from various people - some who are living historians while others are modern folk. 
And,  so,  this is it.  
There are many who would like to do such a thing but won't,  a few out of fear of the unknown or fear of change.  I know this because they told me so themselves.  
But never fear,  for if it's not to your liking,  Christmas will return next year,  and you can change it right back.  However,  just remember my motto to spend less and do more---build up those memories for yourself  as well as for your loved ones.
That's one  "risk"  worth taking.
Memories are made of this:
My wife & I with our grandkids - December 2022

Now...one more thing,  for this post at least,  about Christmas that ties in to what this posting has been about.  My friend Jean recently wrote on her Facebook page:
"Sadly some are telling me they don't feel the Christmas spirit this year - here's my answer...
Christmas time is a gift    My husband is laid off,  we lost our beautiful van to a deer.  My husband's beautiful friend and co-worker died from cancer,  memorial was Saturday.  I had a stroke last month.  But here's the thing,  I am still standing.  I decorated fully  ( No body sees it).  We enjoy our favorite movies with popcorn and hot chocolate.  We dress the doggie in cute Christmas shirts.  I don't know when my last Christmas will be.  Maybe this is it,  who knows?  So put some spiced rum in your eggnog,  and count your blessings.   We made it through another year.
Joy is where you find it."
Many people responded very kindly in the comments.  
My response was:
"You,  my friend,  are the epitome of the Christmas Spirit.
Obviously,  though many may watch and love  "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"  or  "A Christmas Carol,"  but they completely ignore the messages:
'Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!  'Maybe Christmas,'  he thought,  'doesn't come from a store.  Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!' '
and
Reformed & happy Ebenezer Scrooge
on Christmas morning!
'...and to Tiny Tim,  who did not die,  (Scrooge)  was a second father.  He became as good a friend,  as good a master,  and as good a man,  as the good old city knew,  or any other good old city,  town,  or borough,  in the good old world.
...and it was always said of him,  that he knew how to keep Christmas well,  if any man alive possessed the knowledge.  May that be truly said of us,  and all of us!' "
For my wife and I,  Christmas was always  "a little bit more"  than what comes from a store.  No,  we're not cheap;  we just wanted to experience  Christmas. 
Much less stress,  much more happiness.
Merry Christmas.

Until next time,  see you in time.

To read more on historic colonial-era Christmas music,  please click HERE 
To read more on historic Christmas music from medieval through Regency,  please click HERE


















































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