Archives for December 2014

Merry Colonial Christmas – Not

   Do a Google search for “Colonial Christmas” and you’ll find that many of the historic homes are all decked out for the holidays.
    Even Mount Vernon.
   The Old Bedford Village site entices visitors to “Take a step back in time and bring your family to Bedford County and enjoy an old fashioned Colonial Christmas at Old Bedford Village. Interact with historical Pennsylvania Christmas traditions from the 1700s & 1800s.”
   Delicious aromas of hot cider and gingerbread abound and reenactors are dressed in period clothing, decorating period Christmas trees.  Stockings are hung by the chimney with care in hopes that St. Nicholas soon will be there…
   Yada, Yada, Yada.
   Except for one teensy, tiny problem.
   The Colonials didn’t celebrate Christmas for the most part.  They were Puritans and Pilgrims who wanted to cleanse the church from pagan celebrations.
In Massachusetts Bay Colony, the celebration of Christmas was outlawed – punishable with a 5 shilling fine (about $100 in todays currency.) 

For preventing disorders arising in severall places within this jurisdiceon, by reason of some still observing such ffestivalls as were superstitiously kept in other countrys, to the great dishonnor of God & offence of others, it is therefore ordered … that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by for-bearing of labour, feasting, or any other way, upon any such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for every such offence five shillings, as a fine to the county.

The first Christmas under our new Constitution (December 25, 1789) saw Congress in session.  Christmas caught on in the South before it did in the North.  The first three states to make Christmas a legal holiday were in the South: Alabama in 1836, Louisiana and Arkansas in 1838. Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.    Here’s a great site if you want to learn more. 

So what does this mean for all those sweet holiday celebrations at our historic landmarks?  Revisionist History?  Maybe.  Or maybe it’s a way to entice Americans to learn a dram of history?  You decide. 

Martha Moulton – Concord

Martha Moulton.  Well, I’m glad to know her name.  She must have been something.  All I’ve ever heard was that it was an old woman who harangued the Redcoats that day. 

Well, she was 71 and a widow.

A portion of the Army that entered Concord on the morning of April 19, 1775 was assigned to search the town for implements of war.  There wasn’t much to be found.  But the Redcoats searched the houses and brought any "implements" into the center of town and threw it on the pile.  Even wooden plates – you know, the plates that were used on the supper table – were dangerous.  You know, they could be used to, what, feed a member of the militia?

Anyway, when there was a big enough pile, the Redcoats set the pile ablaze.  It wasn’t long before the flames spread to the Concord meeting house. 

And this is where Mrs. Martha Moulton comes on stage.  She approaches the Redcoats and asks them if their mission was to burn their town down.  They replied that that was not their mission.  She insisted that the soldiers help the towns people put the flames out and save the meeting house.  They did so.

But not before the Militia and Minutemen up on Punkatasset Hill saw the smoke.  The rest, as they say, is history.