Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

“we past Christmas day very agreeably”

Henrietta and Robert Liston were genuinely curious about the New World. (See previous posts here and here.) In her journals, Henrietta noted facts that she found interesting, described the foods they ate, and was astounded at the natural beauties, particularly the flora, of the countryside. Traveling on the east coast of North America was a challenge but one that the 45-year-old Mrs. Liston and her 55-year-old husband met with aplomb, courage, and even laughter.

The first night after leaving Mr. Jones’s Hospitable roof, we were obliged to take up our quarters, in what was called an Inn, Consisting of one room containing two Beds, one for the family, the other for Strangers; there were two young Men travelling on Horseback, besides several Inferior Guests, & I found that all the Party, except our Servants who were in a ruinous outKitchen, must lodge in this Chamber. . . .
One of the Group around the fire appearing intoxicated, & seemingly disposed to amuse himself with a Pistol, I took the Daughter of the House aside, & declared our readiness to be contented with any place, in order to Sleep in a separate apartment from these Men. She regretted that there was nothing but an empty Garrat, used for keeping Corn, without fire or door, & an open window. it was frost & snow, but we had taken our resolution, & we repaired to an old flat Bed, that happened to be in this miserable Place &, indeed, we were within a very little of being frozen to Death, notwithstanding an Eddadown [Eiderdown] Green silk Bedcover with which we travelled, & it was with some difficulty the Girl, next morning, could prevail on the Savages to let me approach the fire so as to thaw my fingers.

On Christmaseve 9Sunday December 24 1797), the Listons reached Fayetteville:

[I]t is a flourishing Town, upon a Branch of the Capefear River & nearly at the head of the navigation—before the [Revolutionary] War it was called Cross Creek. We were visited by a Scotch Gentleman, named [Robert] Donaldson, with whose family we past Christmas day very agreeably.

No doubt they were happy to spend the day with a fellow Scot, but Mrs. Liston does not give any details of the festivities. On New Year’s Eve, they arrived in Charleston, South Carolina. Two hundred years ago, Christmas and New Year’s Day—unlike today with its frenzied gift buying—were spent quietly at home or in paying social visits to friends; special foods for the occasion would have been served. Perhaps the Donaldsons prepared one of Mrs. Liston’s newly discovered favorites:

our most frequent food, & infinitely the best of its kind, was Pork & Corn bread . . . it was fresh & most excellent meat, . . . always broiled upon the Coals, & when we happened to get a few fryed Eggs to it, it was the best food possible & with Corn bread (no other is known) baked upon a hoe, in general, & call[ed] hoe cake.

(More about the Listons’ travels in the next post.)

Excerpts are taken from “1797. Tour to the Southern States—Virginia, North & South Carolina” in The Travel Journals of Henrietta Marchant Liston: North America and Lower Canada, 1796-1800, published in hardcover and eBook.

posted December 11th, 2014 by Louise, Comments Off on “we past Christmas day very agreeably”, CATEGORIES: Charleston. SC,Food,Holidays,Liston, Henrietta Marchant,The South,Travel

On this day in 1786 …

Disappointed that her cousins Isaac and John Mifflin did not accept her invitation to Christmas dinner in New York, Hannah Thompson wrote again to John on December 28 describing a wintry practical joke.

I suppose Aunt Norris for your entertainment, on Christmas Day, told you of the Slaying [sleighing] match that Mr. Houston in Second Street gave his Daughters. Dear Papa dear Papa do give us a Slaying—at last he consented, told them to get ready and dress themselves warm, Which they accordingly did and came running. We are ready papa; he ordered the Servants to have some burnt Wine against they came back. He desired them to step up stairs with him before they went; as soon as they got into an Attick Chamber, he threw up all the windows, and seated them in two old Arm Chairs and begun to Whip & Chirrup with all the Spirit of a slaying party. And after he had kept them long enough to be sufficiently Cold, he took them down & cald for the Mulled Wine, and were all very glad to sit close to the fire and leave Slaying to those that were too Warm.
Compliments of the Season to Cousin Isaac & yourself, and send you each a Cookey as you wont come here to eat them.

This excerpt is from In the Words of Women, pages 226-27.

posted December 28th, 2011 by Janet, comments (2), CATEGORIES: Amusements,Holidays,New York,Weather

“I keept Christmas at home this year … “

Young Anna Green Winslow, whose parents lived in Nova Scotia, was being schooled in Boston and living with her aunt. In these excerpts she describes the weather on Christmas Eve 1771, how she spent Christmas itself, as well as January 1.

Decr 24th.— … today is by far the coldest we have had since I have been in New England. (N.B. All run that are abroad.) Last sabbath being rainy I went to & from meeting in Mr. Soley’s chaise. … Every drop that fell froze. … The walking is so slippery & the air so cold, that aunt chuses to have me for her scoller [scholar] these two days. And … tomorrow will be a holiday, so the pope and his associates have ordained. … *

Decr 27th.—This day, the extremity of the cold is somewhat abated. I keept Christmas at home this year & did a very good day’s work. …

1st Jany 1772—I wish my Papa, Mama, brother John Henry, & cousin Avery & all the rest of my acquaintance … a Happy New Year. I have bestow’d no new year’s gift as yet.** But have received one very handsome one … [a book]. In nice Guilt and flowers covers. This afternoon being a holiday I am going to pay my compliments in Sudbury Street.

* Anna’s remarks reflect the Puritan dislike for Christmas.
** Gift-giving, if it prevailed at all in Puritan New England, took place on New Year’s Day.
For another excerpt from Anna’s journal, click here.

These excerpts are from a reprint of The Diary of Anna Green Winslow—A Boston School Girl of 1771, edited by Alice Morse Earle (Bedford, Massachusetts: Applewood Books, originally in 1894), pages 9-10, 13. The image is of a miniature owned by Elizabeth C. Trott, Niagara Falls, New York.

“… we were well satisfied …”

English-born Ann Head Warder, wife of Philadelphia merchant John Warder, visited the United States in 1786-87 and kept a wonderfully descriptive journal for her sister Eliza to read. Food figures prominently, as you’ll see in the days leading up to Christmas.

11th mo. 5th. … Dine … on venison, the first I have eaten here, which I think preferable to ours, as the flavor is milder.

11th mo. 6th. … [Visited friends] had a good supper of oysters, in that freedom which we only feel when at home.

11th mo. 8th. … [dined again with friends] First rock fish, next mock turtle, ducks, ham and boiled turkey, with plenty of vegetables, and after these were removed, we had floating island, several kinds of pies with oranges and preserves. When we were well satisfied, left the men to their pipes and went up stairs to our chat. …

11th mo. 10th.—This morning most of the family busy preparing for a great dinner, two green turtles having been sent by Forbes & Stevens, of New Providence. … we concluded to dress them both together here and invited the whole family in. … We had a black women to cook and an elegant entertainment it was—having three tureens of soup, two shells baked besides several dishes of stew, with boned turkey, roast ducks, veal and beef. After these were removed the table was filled with two kinds of jellies, and various kinds of puddings, pies, and preserves; and then almonds, raisins, nuts, apples and oranges. Twenty-four sat down at table. I admired the activity of the lusty cook, who prepared everything herself, and charged for a day and a half but three dollars.

12th mo. 6th. … Little Billy Morris last night had convulsions and continued in them for several hours, but today he is recovering fast. The cause proved to be from eating too many raw cranberries, many of which he swallowed whole. People here are not half attentive to children’s food, they eat too many highly seasoned and rich things themselves and the dear babes partake with them. After dinner … out sleighing, which I found much more agreeable than expected. …

12th mo. 25th.—Our Christmas dinner consisted of a fine saddle of venison, with other things.

The excerpts do not appear in either of our books; rather, they represent new material from our ongoing research. They are from Ann Head Warder’s journal which appeared in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1894), Volume 18, pages 54, 55, 57-58.

posted December 19th, 2011 by Janet, Comments Off on “… we were well satisfied …”, CATEGORIES: Food,Holidays,Philadelphia

“I wish … you would come & eat yr Christmas dinner here”

Hannah Harrison married Charles Thomson, secretary to the Continental Congress (1774-1789), when she was forty-five. In 1785, she joined her husband in New York where Congress was meeting and lived there until his retirement in 1789. Hannah corresponded with a young cousin, John Mifflin, in Philadelphia, regaling him with amusing stories, one of which is in a letter of December 1786, which also included an invitation to Christmas dinner.

I am now at this Present writing a prisoner. Piles of Snow on each side of all our street only a narrow passage beaten in most all the streets. They visit, Jaunt, & go to Church in Sleighs. … I am afraid of meeting those flying machines in some of those narrow places. To keep out of danger, I stay at home. A few days ago, two Gentlemen were driving thro one of those narrow places with high banks of Snow on each side, they saw a Sleigh coming full tilt, the Horses had taken fright and disputed the way with all they met. The Gentlemen thought it the wisest way to save themselves to jump out of their Sleigh & leave their Horses to contend with each other, which they did, one droped down dead, and the other 3 almost dead. And so ended their frolick.
I wish cousin Isaac and you would come & eat yr Christmas dinner here. I will give you as good mince pies & as fat a turkey as you can procure either from Molly Newport on Market Street [Philadelphia]. You wd be delighted with the Visiting parties a wishing a happy New Year to each other and eating of Cukies*, a little cake made for the occasion.

* Cookies. It is said these were invented accidentally by a Dutch baker who was testing the oven for warmth. He called them koekje.

This excerpt is from In the Words of Women, Chapter 8, page 226.

posted December 15th, 2011 by Janet, Comments Off on “I wish … you would come & eat yr Christmas dinner here”, CATEGORIES: Amusements,Food,Holidays,New York,Weather

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