Thursday, November 17, 2011

Shall We Have Christmas?

By: Kajsa Sabatke, Manager of Public Programs

We're introducing a new program at the museum this year. Some of you may have come to our Holiday Lantern Tours in previous years. This year we've moved from the tours to focus even more on the experience of the winter holidays in the nineteenth century. If you're looking for a chance to visit The Farmers' Museum and experience a quieter and more historic atmosphere than Candlelight Evening, I hope that you'll come to the museum on Saturday, December 3, between 4-8pm. (And the week after that, please come and see the entire village aglow for Candlelight Evening.)

Our new program is called Shall We Have Christmas? During the nineteenth century, Christmas was not the major holiday that it is today. It was celebrated in similar, smaller-scale ways, though. Shall We Have Christmas won't be as large of an event as Candlelight Evening, but activities will be taking place in many of the buildings: holiday gift-making in the More House, singing and socializing in the tavern, wagon rides, holiday foods in the Lippitt House, greeting card printing in the printing office, remedies for winter ailments in the pharmacy, and decorations in the church. 

In addition to the staff who'll be talking about the holidays in each building, you'll be able to hear more about the holidays from quotes by people who wrote about their experience of the holidays in the mid-nineteenth century. Susan Fenimore Cooper, daughter of James Fenimore Cooper and also an author, shared many holiday observations in her book, Rural Hours:
The festival is very generally remembered now in this country, though more of a social than a religious holiday, by all those who are opposed to such observances on principle. In large towns it is almost universally kept. In the villages, however, but few shops are closed, and only one or two of the half dozen places of worship are opened for service. Still, everybody recollects that it is Christmas; presents are made in all families; the children go from house to house wishing Merry Christmas; and probably few who call themselves Christians allow the day to pass without giving a thought to the sacred event it commemorates, as they wish their friends a “Merry Christmas.”
Gwen Miner, our Supervisor of Domestic Arts, has also found quotes from historic diaries from the region that related to each of the buildings that will be open.

We hope to see you for at least one of our holiday events in December!

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