Ever wonder what harvest time was like on a Southern plantation in the 18th century? Plantation Days at Middleton Place National Historic Landmark explores a different aspect of plantation life every Saturday in November. Activities such as wool spinning, corn grinding, cane pressing and rice milling not only entertain participants but also teach them about the chores and routine tasks performed during harvest time. Artisans will be on hand to demonstrate wool dying, soap making, weaving, quilting, candle making and more. Gullah storytelling sessions and other African-American traditional arts will be presented throughout the course of each day. Plantation Days takes place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call (843) 556-6020 or visit <www.middletonplace.org>.
The traditional menu for Thanksgiving dinner hasn’t changed that much since the first feast in 1621, but the amount of work involved in preparation sure has. Dressing, plucking and singeing the turkey were routine duties for the women who created the feast years ago. Instant stuffing and cranberry sauce in a can didn’t yet exist. They added other dishes such as beef or mutton and mince or chicken pie made from scratch to complement the spread. During Thanksgiving Day Celebration at Old Sturbridge Village Nov. 28, you can witness for yourself just how much labor and care went into putting a Thanksgiving dinner together in early New England. Two “families” in separate households will demonstrate meal preparation over the hearth. After dinner, a Thanksgiving church service will be held in the Center Meetinghouse. Call (800) SEE-1830 or visit <www.osv.org>.
A CHRISTMAS STORY
Jump right into a real-life story of Christmas past at Conner Prairie, a living history museum that brings the Midwest’s past to life. Glimpse into the life of the Curtis family as they eagerly await the arrival of St. Nicholas. You’ll also see Mrs. Zimmermann making cookies for Belsnickel, the German bearer of gifts. These characters and others like them will portray an authentic 19th-century Christmas Eve setting during Homespun Holidays, Nov. 29-30 and Dec. 1, 7-8 and 14-15. While you’re there, see the Festival of Gingerbread, which includes a 5,000-square-foot exhibit dedicated to the sweet Christmas treat. Call (800) 866-1836 or visit <www.connerprairie.org>.
MOUNT VERNON, VIRGINIA
Enjoy a very “George and Martha” affair at George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens this winter. From Dec. 1-Jan. 6, you can walk around in the first president’s shoes during Holidays at Mount Vernon. This 18th-century event highlights Christmas traditions of the past through the eyes of America’s first presidential family. Fresh greenery from the estate gardens will adorn the mansion, and a hearty holiday meal will be on display. An exciting opportunity for visitors is the tour of the mansion’s third floor. Martha Washington moved there after her husband’s death in 1799. Her trunk is on display and provides a glimpse into her life with President Washington long ago. Call (703) 780-2000 or visit <www.mountvernon.org>.
FORT HAYS, KANSAS
SALUTE THE HOLIDAYS
Not everyone gets a break at Christmas time. The soldiers who stood guard at Fort Hays in the mid-1800s tried to make the best of each holiday season by creating a festive atmosphere in the fort. Christmas Past at Historic Fort Hays reconstructs just such a setting and offers visitors a taste of what the holiday was like for the soldiers back then. From Dec. 6-7, the fort will come alive with holiday splendor. The officers’ quarters will host an open house featuring a Christmas tree, dulcimer music, recitation by children and eggnog. Outside the fort, visitors will witness a pioneer family camping near their covered wagon for a Christmas night under the stars. Call (785) 625-6812 or visit <www.kshs.org>.
From the December 2002 issue of Family Tree Magazine