Ed Note: Click on the pictures to see the captions.
This year, Christmas felt like a tropical time with temperatures in the 70’s and, like many of us, I was hoping against hope that the end of the Christmas season would be a continuation of the warmth that made the daffodils start to pop up. Old Christmas was right on the heels of New Years Day and while it was substantially colder, the weekend turned out sunny and bright.
Old Christmas is one of the most loved events the Militia does each year. As in many countries, Epiphany marks the close of the Christmas season and we honor the settlers and their holiday traditions. On Friday, one could see everyone who was staging a cabin working on their decorations. Many of us had been spending weeks at home making the baked goods that were going to be the showcases of various tables. Cindy and Harry Jordan did a sterling job creating a French cabin, complete with manger and Buche de Noel.
Earl Slagle was the lone wolf in the woods, roasting venison for a holiday in the field as a longhunter.
Dan Akerblom brought the pine forests of Banner Elk , NC and festooned the Tavern with green. He and Ethan Wallin recreated Dutch traditions.
The Talbot House looked so veddy English. The Bennetts did a superb job making it so inviting and welcoming.
Tony DeVault created an Irish Christmas in the cabin nearest the woodshed. It looked very nice, festooned with ivy and greens in all the corners. Probably of all, he recreated the primitive yet beautiful atmosphere of those settlers just starting out.
The hilliblly Hilton was the German cabin and this year, the ol’ widder woman had a boarder. Just like in years gone by, the doors of those who homesteaded were open to any traveler and Travis Souther stayed the weekend to partake of a German Christmas. The loft was inviting and just as it would have been two centuries ago, the widder stayed there with the goods and the man stayed downstairs and kept the fire. I have to say I had the best night’s sleep I have ever had winter camping in all the years I’ve been doing this.
Because it was rather chilly, John and Becky Garrou stayed in the Visitor’s Center where it was more comfortable for her . Near the Christmas tree, they had a beautiful spread of goods for the guests and a fine display of drinks of the period. It was a terrific idea and with their sweet personalities, a great way for visitors to be introduced to the 18th century at Christmas time.
I noticed that although there was a steady stream of visitors, especially in the afternoons on Saturday and Sunday, we weren’t as bombed as we normally have been in years passed. It was a manageable crowd and I think that, having learned lessons in the past, we managed them better than ever before . After hoisting the colors, there was plenty of time for everyone to circulate, visitate and jollificate.
On Saturday afternoon, when the crowd was at its best, everyone assembled near the french cabin to watch a presentation by Alan Begley to Jennifer Bowers and Chad Bogart. They were cited by the National Guard for working so hard and diligently in helping to put together the Maneuvers event back in September. it was wonderful to see these individuals honored for their hard work.
The best part of the day for me, personally, was looking up and seeing Colonel Bob McCroskey. It was marvelous to see him and sit at length and share time.
Sunday, though warmer than Saturday, was very quiet until later in the afternoon. It was a repetition of Saturday except for the Church service that was conducted by Ronnie Lail who preached a wonderful service. One can saw truthfully that Ronnie packed the church full as there was standing room only in the Talbot House. Everyone decided to save best vittles to share after the public left so towards the end of the day, many of the members went to the Talbot House to share food and company.
We’ve had several Old Christmases where it was a struggle to stay warm, a struggle to cope with the crowds but this one wasn’t one of those events. everyone had fun, enjoyed the public and each other. You could hear music, the sounds of the children, laughter and chatter. It was a tremendous way to close the old season and open the new one for 2016.
ED NOTE: Thank you so much Retha Reece for taking these outstanding pictures.
Thank you Tammy Markland for getting the pictures of the presentation.