Living History Museums During Sugar Season

Living History Museums During Sugar Season

In Western Massachusetts, living history museums celebrate local history and early American living through maple sugaring demonstrations that recall the techniques, foods, and traditions connected to the sugaring season. Families can experience what maple sugaring was like in the days of old New England at living history events where museum interpreters dressed in period clothing demonstrate life and skills from Colonial New England, including: tree tapping, sumac spile making, sap boiling over a fire, open hearth cooking, and other early American skills.  Read the rest of this entry »

Explore History & Culture through Food

Explore History & Culture through Food

One way to get some inspiration for your next winter culinary adventure is to visit living history museums such as Historic Deerfield and Old Sturbridge Village.  Both institutions offer hearth cooking classes.  Additionally, a stroll through Old Sturbridge Village during the winter time offers you a peek into New Englanders’ daily living routines and food preparations from the 19th century.  Visitors can see firsthand what types of recipes 19th century Americans were preparing during the cold months of the year.

Sample dishes that were prepared during the winter season include chicken pie, broiled sweet potatoes, stewed beets, soup, hot cakes, Indian Pudding, and breads.  Be sure to remember hot chocolate and coffee too! 19th century New Englanders roasted and brewed coffee at home. It was a season for lots of baking, hearty soups/stews and meats.

Don’t forget to revisit Lydia Maria Child’s The American Frugal Housewife. Her section on vegetables explains how vegetables should be stored during different seasons.  To read an excerpt, download our Jan/Feb edition of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts.

In addition to learning about history through the lens of food, food can also be a great catalyst for learning about other cultures. Read the rest of this entry »

Historical Re-Enactments Bring History to Life

Historical Re-Enactments Bring History to Life

Reenactment at Historic Deerfield.

Living history programs and events in Western Massachusetts happen all year round and include local historical re-enactors portraying the life of New Englanders centuries ago at encampments and school programs.  They often showcase the skills and activities of people during war time periods such as the American Revolutionary War or the Civil War.  Participating historians help to preserve the heritage of our region’s past and the study of American history.  In addition to encampments, some units engage in battle reenactments which are rehearsed recreations of actual battles.  Read the rest of this entry »

Volunteer & Cultural Opportunities to Honor Veterans on Veterans Day in Western MA

Volunteer & Cultural Opportunities to Honor Veterans on Veterans Day in Western MA

November 11th is the perfect chance to honor our Veterans, and there are many opportunities to do so.

When someone has lots of experience in a profession, we call them a veteran in their field – veteran teachers likely have years and years of experience, and veteran nurses have spent decades in healthcare. When we hear the word “veteran” without the name of a profession attached to it, however, it usually means only one specific thing – military veterans. While the term “veteran” is frequently associated with those former military members who have fought in wars, it actually applies to all honorably or medically discharged former military members who served for at least two years – regardless of whether or not they engaged in combat.

Veterans Day, a national holiday celebrated every year on November 11th, provides communities with the opportunity to learn about and offer appreciation for the service provided by military veterans. While many veterans fought in wars, many others served during times when the United States wasn’t engaged in combat and supported the country by participating in community projects, offering assistance during national disasters, and offering security to important government officials and locations. Regardless of your views regarding US participation in wars, Veterans Day serves as a time to thank those who have dedicated a part of their lives to serving their country.  Read the rest of this entry »

Community Renaissance Festival Makes History Come Alive!

Community Renaissance Festival Makes History Come Alive!

The 14th Annual Community Renaissance Festival hosted by The Massachusetts Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies brings history to life! There will be sword demonstrations, juggling, Tarot reading, dancing and music!

Living history and open-air museums and events provide interesting insight into the ways in which we engage with historical information. Renaissance fairs first emerged in the United States in the 1950s, as part of a larger interest in medieval culture and music, resulting is placemaking events that support learning through engagement.

Living history challenges actors and attendees to think about history beyond events, learning about customs, dress, accents and behaviors. Vendors sometimes sell foods and items traditional for the time period. Living history, unlike historical texts or documentaries, is hands-on and interactive. Some renaissance and other living history events provide demonstrations of skills such as blacksmithing, and early printing methods. People of all ages who enjoy dressing up can feel like a more active participant by donning their renaissance wear along with the actors.

The 14th Annual Community Renaissance Festival hosted by The Massachusetts Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies will be highly entertaining and educational. This event will take place on Saturday, May 1, 2016 from 11am-4pm. Attendees of all ages will have the chance to witness and learn about jewelry making, pottery, weaving, and woodworking. There will be sword demonstrations, juggling, Tarot reading, dancing and music. Plus, a book sale will allow for continued historical learning after the event.  Read the rest of this entry »

Living History Sheds Light on the Holidays of the Past

Living History Sheds Light on the Holidays of the Past

Step back in time to a simpler day when holiday celebrations involved cooking over an open fire and illuminating homes with candlelight – the month of December offers opportunities to experience holidays celebrations of the past at three different historic villages! Families can explore, watch demonstrations, and engage in hands-on activities in order to learn about the ways in which the holiday season was honored in early New England.

Modern technology has certainly had an impact on the ways we decorate for and celebrate the winter holidays – early winter in New England now involves strings of lights and blow-up snowmen rather than windows lit by candles and evergreens adorned with cranberry strings. This holiday season, families can take a step back into the past, to a simpler time when holiday celebrations involved candles and open hearth cooking. By taking advantage of upcoming holiday-themed living history events, families can dive into the history and culture of western Massachusetts’ holidays past while adding a new tradition to their own celebrations!  Read the rest of this entry »

New England During the Civil War

Living History Gives Educational Insights Into Life in Another Time

Storrowton Village Museum will present an interactive, educational tour titled “Storrowton and the Civil War,” Tuesday, May 19 from 6-7 p.m., offering an inside look at how folks in the Northeast coped with the Civil War and the absence of our men who were called to duty or joined the patriotic fervor.

Participants will meet “townspeople” and hear their personal stories and points of view regarding the Civil War. Storrowton Village volunteers will be portraying the characters of the time as our visitors travel through the Village’s historic buildings meeting residents, shopkeepers, farmers, family members, and tradesmen along the way, all with information and their own experiences to share. Read the rest of this entry »

Community Rises to Honor Veterans in Western MA

Volunteer & Cultural Opportunities to Honor Veterans on Veterans Day in Western MA

November 11th is the perfect chance to honor our Veterans, and there are many opportunities to do so.

When someone has lots of experience in a profession, we call them a veteran in their field – veteran teachers likely have years and years of experience, and veteran nurses have spent decades in healthcare. When we hear the word “veteran” without the name of a profession attached to it, however, it usually means only one specific thing – military veterans. While the term “veteran” is frequently associated with those former military members who have fought in wars, it actually applies to all honorably or medically discharged former military members who served for at least two years – regardless of whether or not they engaged in combat. Read the rest of this entry »

7 Living History Events in Western Mass this Fall

Living History Events Bring Multi-Faceted Education Experience for All Ages

Combining the magic of theater and the mystique of history, living history events provide families with the opportunity to experience the past (and its people) as they were – in character and in context. By teaching history with a theatrical – yet incredibly realistic and accurate – approach, the age range to which a topic appeals becomes wider, allowing younger children to learn about the aesthetic aspects of certain historical eras, while their older counterparts explore the culture, politics, and relevance of the same time periods

Season of Thanks: Society of the 17th Century, Hall Tavern Visitor Center, Historic Deerfield, MA.

Early fall in western Massachusetts brings with it this year a wealth of immersive living history events, affording families a multitude of opportunities to learn experientially about a variety of historic eras, events, people, and practices. By attending one (or many!) of the upcoming living history events, families can explore new ideas and deepen their preexisting understanding of the roots of modern American society. Read the rest of this entry »

Christmas by Candlelight: A Celebration of the History on Holiday Traditions

Old Sturbridge Village hosts Christmas by Candlelight
Celebration of favorite holiday traditions, music & food
Nine evening events set for Dec. 7-9; 14-16; 21-23

The legend of Santa has complex origins, blending diverse tales of magical gift givers with Christian beliefs. Dutch settlers in 17th-century New Amsterdam (New York) brought with them the legend of Saint Nicholas (Sinter Klaus), a 4th-century Christian saint from Turkey known for his generosity to children.

Take a break from the overwhelming wave of commercialized holiday “spirit” that the post-Thanksgiving season brings – visit Old Sturbridge Village for Christmas by Candlelight, which offers an incredibly wide variety of family-friendly holiday activities, performances, demonstrations, readings, crafts, and more!  Villagers dressed in period costume will share holiday traditions from early New England – many of which formed the foundation upon which modern day holiday celebrations have been built!  Families can learn about the roots of traditions such as yule logs, roasting chestnuts over a fire, building gingerbread houses, and even having a Christmas tree!

Friday-Sunday evenings from 4-9pm through December 23rd, the village will come alive with performances by Victorian carolers, Celtic music groups, handbell choirs, chorus groups and fife and drum corps.  Visitors can view an exhibit of exquisite handmade gingerbread houses or see a miniature New England village decorated for the holiday, a model train show, or a 100+ piece nativity scene.  There will be hands-on ornament making (using tin, and utilizing basic skills used by early New England metalworkers), as well as other holiday crafts.

A visit to the village can become a new holiday tradition for families, and is also a fantastic way for families to learn about history – hands-on!  Each of the traditions being practiced and/or demonstrated throughout the village is specific to a particular period in American history, and families can work together to place each of their activities into a broader historical context.  Visitors can actually see “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” and hear why they were a favored treat in early New England. They can also learn the origins of candy canes, mistletoe, fruitcake and how poinsettias were introduced to this country.

For more information on Christmas by Candlelight, call Old Sturbridge Village at 800-733-1830 or visit www.osv.org.  Admission includes a free second visit within a 10-day period and any guests of second-day visitors receive a 25% discount on their admission. You could also inquire with your local library to see if they have a museum pass to OSV to lend.  Monson Free Library,  Westfield Athenaeum Library and Wilbraham Public Library all have passes to lend.  Check with the nearest library near you too.

Did You Know?

The old folk tale of Hansel and Gretel, made famous by the brothers Grimm, inspired many Germans in the early 1800s to create model witches’ houses from hard gingerbread. Building fanciful gingerbread houses at Christmastime spread to America by the late 1800s.

  •  Most early New Englanders did not celebrate Christmas.  They saw Christmas celebrations as dangerous foreign (pagan) perversions of pure Christianity and an excuse for sinful behavior.
  • Yule logs began as a pagan reminder of the light and warmth of the sun on cold mid-winter nights. The word “Yule” is derived from the old Anglo-Saxon word “hweol,” which means “wheel” – a pagan symbol of the sun. The burning of a Yule log originated with the Druids, The modern practice of decorating trees and buildings with flashing electric lights seems to be a logical extension of the lighting of candles and bonfires at Christmas time.
  • Christmas trees were pretty much only a German tradition until the 1840s, when Queen Victoria’s German husband, Prince Albert, gave her a Christmas tree surrounded by gifts, and the custom began to catch on in the English-speaking world.

 (Source of Facts & Photos: Old Sturbridge Village)

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