Category Archives: Holidays

Christmas at the Historical Society

2016-12-22-002I can’t take any real credit for decorating the Historical Society. I did do some additional touches, but the majority of the work had been done in the weeks before by other volunteers. They did a great job in getting the place ready for the holidays.

The recent gift of a rope bed became the centerpiece of a festive display. Rope beds were what they are called. Instead of boxe springs or a mattress, which is what are modern beds are made of, a rope bed was a bed frame with rope being used to create a web in the frame for someone to lay upon. It is possible that some type of mattress would be put on top of the ropes, but in this case the mannequins were placed on the ropes.

The rope bed was a central piece in ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas display. Two adult mannequins were dressed for “a long winter’s nap,” 2016-12-22-001except the children were up and standing next to their parents’ bed. The baby was asleep in the cradle. A corner of the bed covers were pulled back so visitors could see how the ropes were strung to create a surface. I do wonder how comfortable the bed would be. While in Scotland, I slept in a twin rope bed that did have a mattress on it. As I remember, it wasn’t that comfortable. I didn’t sleep well in the bed.

In one of the front rooms is a display to Virginia O’Hanlon, the little girl who wrote to Francis P. Church, the editor of the New York Sun, one of the prominent newspapers of the city at the end of the nineteenth century. The eight-year-old wanted to know if there 2016-12-22-013was a Santa Claus. Church’s famous editorial defending the existence of Santa Claus is known throughout the world. The display also included a copy of Church’s reply.

Following are some images from the society. I wanted to get these posted before the year ended and the holiday season fades from memory.

2016-12-22-003Oh, the photo here is of what has become known as the “Evil Clown.” There’s a debate among the volunteers of whether or not this toy is scary-looking. I think that everyone would agree that no one would give such a painted toy to a child of today. At some point in the distant past, this toy must have been beloved by some child. Nonetheless, by today’s standards this clown has scary-looking features. What do you think?

 

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Spooky Stories

2016-10-29-002Before we leave behind Halloween, I attended two story-telling events that were great.

The Historical Society had Linda Ford, formerly of Sleepy Hollow, come in and tell spooky stories for the season. Linda now lives in northern Florida, and you can take the girl out of Sleepy Hollow but NEVER take the Sleepy Hollow out of the girl.

Linda retold The Legend of Sleepy Hollow as well as told stories that I had never heard before. They were great. She told a story by Ray Bradbury, who had given her permission to tell it years ago, that I later found out scared a friend of mine out of her wits when she first read it. The sanctuary of home, of that place where we are invincible and nothing can harm us, is turned upside down after a long, scary walk through a hollow that turns out to be the place of relative safety, as the woman who arrived home unfortunately found out.

I got a chance to talk with Linda for a few minutes. She misses living in Sleepy Hollow but, like all retirees–and younger people of normal means–are discovering, the taxes in Westchester are too high to be affordable. I cannot own a house here, which is why I only rent. (Actually, I’ve rented everywhere I’ve ever lived, except when I was in2016-10-20-001 my parents’ house.) She would love to return to the area, but would have to live a few hours away. Thankfully in that regard, there are some options. She did, however, have some wonderful things to say about the southern storytellers with whom she had met and discussed their craft.

The following Sunday, I attended a storytelling session with David Neilsen, formerly Major André, who did a wonderful telling of stories in the Washington Irving Memorial Chapel in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. Whereas Linda Ford told her stories from memory, Neilsen read his from a book, but his reading was very dramatic.

My favorite story was the one where the students are gathered in the cemetery trying to raise the dead on Halloween and a young British boy shows up and talks with them. They believe that he is a ghost and call for him to go back to where he came. He does–the parking lot, where his parents were anxious to leave. He explains that there are so many interesting people you can meet in the cemetery–like the group of high school students who were killed one Halloween night by a runaway truck.

Two different storytelling techniques, both exceptional in their own way.

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Beekman Avenue Terror

This pumpkin-headed scarecrow is at the top of Beekman Avenue in Sleepy Hollow, standing in front of the clock. I snapped it last Saturday, during the fall festival on the street.

It’s that time of year again.

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Historical Society’s Valentines

(2016-02-13 001)Before the month is over, and wanting to have a posting on Leap Year Day, here is something at the Historical Society.

No, I have not changed my mind from my last post. I still think Valentine’s Day is for people with not a romantic bone in their bodies. However, in honor of the day, the Historical Society installed a display of Valentines from the past. Many of them look to be from the late 19th-early 20th century.

For those you who like Valentine’s Day, enjoy. For those of us who don’t, it’s still interesting to look at artifacts from a bygone era.

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The Month of Valentines

(2015-08-18 031)When I lived in Pittsburgh, I used to have “I Hate Valentine’s Day” parties. And people came. Men, women, couples, singles, straight, gay, all came because we shared the same belief: the sappiness of an insipid holiday.

I’ve always believed that one should be romantic and do nice things for one’s significant other–whether married or just dating–all the time. Why would someone need a holiday to do this once a year when one does it constantly throughout the year? My philosophy.

(2015-08-18 026)While in Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving, I went through some things in my storage bin (something else that needs cleaned), and I came across some of the decorations I used for the parties. So, I brought them back to New York with me.

Part of my contempt for Valentine’s Day stems from misinformation.  According to Catholic Online, not much is known about Valentine and there (2015-08-18 029)are various stories told about him; he may have been two men who were merged into one saint, like Saint Nicholas. However, none of them deal with him in a romance with anyone. The story I know best is that he was imprisoned for being a Christian and he made friends with his jailer’s daughter, to whom he taught Christianity. On the day of his death (which may have been February 14, although no one seems to agree on the year), Valentine left his friend a note telling her to be faithful and to continue to believe. It was signed, “Your Valentine.”

(2015-08-18 027)So, the story was one of conversion. Other stories talk of him marrying Christian couples and even trying to convert Emperor Claudius II, which did not work. In any event, besides being the patron saint of lovers and married couples, he is also the saint of beekeepers, the engaged, young people, epilepsy, greetings, fainting, travelers and plague. Because there was so little known about Valentine, the Roman Catholic Church removed him from their General Calendar, but he’s still considered a saint.

(2015-08-18 028)More intriguing to me is the assertion, cited by Catholic Online, of two 18th century English antiquarians that Valentine’s Day was established to off-set the pagan holiday of Lupercalia, which is February 15. This makes complete sense to me.

I already did a post on Lupercalia. For that matter, I also discussed Valentine’s Day, but I fleshed it out a bit more by including Catholic Online information.

For those of you who need Valentine’s Day, enjoy. For the rest of us, it’s just another day.

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Christmas at the Historical Society

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Entryway decorations

Since the season does not end until January 7, at least for me, I thought that I’d share the photos of the decorations at the Historical Society. Last year, I helped decorate, but I didn’t have time to help this year. Actually, these past three months I haven’t had the time to volunteer at all, so it was nice to be back.

Unlike last year, there is a big tree in every room on the first floor. This is one idea that I embraced years ago. Although I did not put up a tree this year, I usually put up a tree in every room of my apartment. This includes the kitchen and the bathroom. The idea behind this is that the holiday should be reflected in every room. The trees are not always big. The bathroom tree is no more than six inches high with small ornaments. Actually, the main tree in the living room is only five feet; I have no large tree. I came up with this idea years ago, and I was surprised that the concept behind it had been popular in early America.

Though trees would not become popular until after Queen Victoria’s Prince Albert brought them from his native Germany to Britain, and the tradition made its way across the Atlantic, in Washington Irving’s day it was believed that the holiday season should be represented in every room. The people would bring pine tree branches, pine cones, holly and mistletoe in from outside to decorate their mantles, shelves, dressers, wherever. The house would also have a nice scent of pine.

Washington Irving's desk at the Historical Society

Washington Irving’s desk at the Historical Society

Unfortunately, I was not able to attend any of the holiday events at Sunnyside, Washington Irving’s home. The one year I went, they had the branches of pine and holly throughout the rooms of the house, as well as a wonderful bonfire in the yard. They had hot apple cider to keep the chill of the night at bay. (Too bad the temperature was close to 60 degrees. I fondly remember that trip to Sunnyside.

Happy new year to all!

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Happy Holidays!

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The Empire State Building, lighted for the holidays

Well, the terrible term is over.

I was able to finish one class, finish an incomplete, and get another incomplete in another class, which will be finished by the end of January.

What a nightmare.

I’ve always believed that the end of the year, regardless of what you believe or disbelieve, should be one happy season. Go out and enjoy the season. Have some fun. We survived another year, which is something to celebrate. Spend it with people you care for, not people you can’t stand. (You know who they are.)

Though late, better late than never. Here are the few images I took before Christmas came. I wish I was able to do some of the things I wanted to do, but I just couldn’t get around to it. Well, there’s always next year.

Happy holidays!

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