Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas in 18th Century Boston

Dearest Friends,
As Christmas approaches, it's fun to imagine an 18th century home festooned with greenery and fruit with candles aglow, waiting for the flaming plum pudding to be served.  Colonial Williamsburg has pretty much franchised this concept of Colonial America. Don't get me wrong, it's beautiful, but not representative of the 18th century in the colonies, especially, if you lived in Boston.

Strolling the streets of this city in the 1770's on Christmas morning, you would be hard pressed to find a pineapple swag hung over the any doorway in the city.  Besides being an incredible waste of precious fruit, the residents of this New England city did not keep Christmas as most of us imagine a Colonial Christmas to be.  For starters, it was considered a "papist" holiday. Secondly, Christmas, as we celebrate it today, is a relatively modern concept, started in the 19th century and brought to new heights of shopping mania in recent times.

So for my holiday post, I thought it fitting to share with you a few entries from the diary of Anna Green Winslow to see how she celebrated the holiday in 1771.  Perhaps after things calm down this Sunday and I get a peaceful moment, I'll finish the wristband of my shift in homage to Miss Winslow!

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas!

Mrs. S.

December 24th
"Elder Whitwell told my aunt, that this winter began as did the Winter of 1740. How that was I dont remember but this I know, that to-day 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. I dined at unkle Winslow's, the walking being so bad I rode there & back to meeting. Every drop that fell froze, so that from yesterday morning to this time the appearance has been similar to the discription I sent you last winter. The walking is so slippery & the air so cold, that aunt chuses to have me for her scoller these two days. And as tomorrow will be a holiday, so the pope and his associates have ordained, my aunt thinks not to trouble Mrs Smith with me this week. I began a shift at home yesterday for myself, it is pretty forward. Last Saturday was seven-night my aunt Suky was delivered of a pretty little son, who was baptiz'd by Dr. Cooper the next day by the name of Charles. I knew nothing of it till noonday, when I went there a visiting. Last Thursday I din'd & spent the afternoon at unkle Joshua's I should have gone to lecture with my aunt & heard our Mr Hunt preach, but she would not wait till I came from writing school. Miss Atwood, the last of our boarders, went off the same day. Miss Griswold & Miss Meriam, having departed some time agone, I forget whether I mention'd the recept of Nancy's present. I am oblig'd to her for it. The Dolphin is still whole. And like to remain so."

December 27

John Henry so pray mamma, dont mistake me."
"This day, the extremity of the cold is somewhat abated. I keept Christmas at home this year, & did a very good day's work, aunt says so. How notable I have been this week I shall tell you by & by. I spent the most part of Tuesday evening with my favorite, Miss Soley, & as she is confined by a cold & the weather still so severe that I cannot git farther, I am to visit her again before I sleep, & consult with her (or rather she with me) upon a perticular matter, which you shall know in its place. How strangely industrious I have been this week, I will inform you with my own hand—at present, I am so dilligent, that I am oblig'd to use the hand & pen of my old friend, who being near by is better than a brother far off. I dont forgit dear little John Henry so pray mamma, don't mistake me"

December 28
"Last evening a little after 5 o'clock I finished my shift. I spent the evening at Mr. Soley's. I began my shift at 12 o'clock last monday, have read my bible every day this week & wrote every day save one."

December 30
"I return'd to my sewing school after a weeks absence, I have also paid my compliments to Master Holbrook. Yesterday between meetings my aunt was call'd to Mrs. Water's & about 8 in the evening Dr. Lloyd brought little master to town (N.B. As a memorandum for myself. My aunt stuck a white sattan pincushin for Mrs Waters. On one side, is a planthorn with flowers, on the reverse, just under the border are, on one side stuck these words, Josiah Waters, then follows on the end, Decr 1771, on the next side & end are the words, Welcome little Stranger.) Unkle has just come in & bro't one from me. I mean, unkle is just come in with a letter from Papa in his hand (& none for me) by way of Newbury. I am glad to hear that all was well the 26 Novr ult. I am told my Papa has not mention'd me in this Letter. Out of sight, out of mind. My aunt gives her love to papa, & says that she will make the necessary enquieries for my brother and send you via. Halifax what directions and wormseed she can collect."

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