The collection of letters to Santa that appeared in this space last week epitomized life in the rural regions of northern New York a century ago. At Christmastime, children from families living a common, low-income existence asked Santa for the simplest of items: a pencil and notepad, candy and nuts, or clothing to keep them warm in the winter. Toys and playthings were often secondary requests if they appeared at all.
But the simple desires from long ago reflected something other than just poverty. A good number of rural folks were self-sufficient, and all family members, even young children, took part in the daily chores of life: working the fields and garden, milking cows, collecting eggs, adding logs to the fire, and so on. An early understanding of the effort behind daily sustenance was evident in children’s annual humble Christmas yearnings for pencils, books, and treats for the tummy, suggesting an appreciation for things in general, and gifts in particular.
Among those who came to the Adirondacks and developed a deep admiration for this rustic lifestyle was Samuel Coplon, who embraced the people, reciprocated their generosity, and in time became a nationally known hero of North Country Christmases, earning him the title Santa Claus of the Adirondacks. Continue reading
Clermont State Historic Site’s holiday season continues on Saturday, December 16 with a free Open House from 11 am to 4 pm.
Visitors will be able to enjoy the mansion’s rooms lavishly decorated for the holidays, warm up with hot mulled cider in the Visitor Center or toasted marshmallows by a roaring bon fire. Continue reading
The Newburgh Historical Society is holding their annual self-guided Candlelight Tour on Sunday, December 10, between noon and 5 pm.
The 1830 Captain David Crawford House, the Society’s headquarters located at 189 Montgomery Street, is the starting place for the Tour.
The house tour features a diverse assortment of public and private spaces within and beyond the City of Newburgh’s East End Historic District. These include city and suburban houses homes in the rehabilitation process and some of Newburgh’s most important landmarks. Continue reading
In conjunction with the City of Johnstown’s Colonial Stroll holiday activities, Johnson Hall State Historic Site will hold a Holiday Open House on Friday, December 1 from 5 to 8:30 pm.
The Hall will be decorated for the holiday season and will feature live 18th century music performed by Liaison Plaisantes in the second floor hall. Mulled cider and ginger cookies will be served at the Slave Quarters fireplace. Continue reading
The St. Lawrence County Historical Association will hold their annual Holiday Open House on December 1st from 4 to 8 pm. Festive floral arrangements, refreshments, holiday music, and family history will fill the air at this holiday event which is open to the public. The Canton Garden Club provides fresh greens, floral arrangements, and early American Christmas tree decorations like gingerbread, dried apples, and lace.
The Holiday Open House will include live seasonal music provided by a variety of local musical talent: the Canton Central School Vocal Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Kimberly Busch; R. Merrie Song & Friends, performing early American carols; local musician John Danis; and the Noteworthy Handbell Choir. Continue reading
“I went out after a Christmas tree and some laurel, through seas of mud,” wrote Jervis McEntee on Christmas eve, 1881, “to the place where I always go on the cross road between the Flat-bush and Pine bush roads. It rained a part of the time and turned into a snow storm on our return.”
Another year, McEntee’s usual places for a tree were so wet that he settled for a small hemlock on the side of the hill where he lived. It was a hill that offered a panoramic view of the entire village as well as the Rondout Creek and the Hudson River. His father James, an engineer who had helped build the nearby Delaware and Hudson Canal, had built the first house on the hill and the family still lived there. Continue reading
By combining technology with time-honored techniques of interviewing and storytelling, this holiday season can be an ideal time for people to hear and preserve eyewitness accounts of life experiences from loved ones for future generations, says an historian at Baylor University’s Institute for Oral History.
“One thing almost all Americans share is regret that when we were children, we did not listen better when our parents, grandparents and older relatives or friends told stories about people and places alive only in their memories,” said Lois Myers, associate director of the institute. “Such oral traditions may be the most fragile links to our family history.”
With sound or video recordings, people can uncover and preserve the origins of family rituals — such as holiday celebrations, common sayings or even recipes, Myers said. Continue reading