Let’s face it- Christmas time in today’s mad rushed society often leaves us feeling stressed, anxious, cash-strapped and well, empty. All the shopping, the myriad of advertisements, the onslaught of “to do lists”, the pressure of getting out Christmas cards in time, etc., etc., etc. I don’t think it was always this crazy. I grew up in the 1970’s where things were a bit more simple (think “red rider bb gun & Christmas Story), but even then consumerism had already taken a hold on American society.
For those of us who are sentimental and a bit idealistic, we might think of an “old fashioned” Christmas as a more favorable alternative to the current state of affairs. By old fashioned I think of the Northeast United States, family gatherings, a real Christmas tree (none of those synthetic plastic things that continue to crowd our landfills), white fluffy snow, candlelight, a real wood fire in the fireplace, caroling and home-cooked goodies.
Whether or not you’re a religious Christian who believes in the story of Jesus, Christmas is truly a time of reflection, peace and thankfulness. We reflect upon yet another year that has whizzed by; we try to find peace, promote peace and hope for peace which is otherwise greatly lacking throughout much of the calendar year; and we are generally thankful for our freedoms, our families, warm shelter and food to sustain us as we meander through the coming winter months of January, February and March.
In so keeping, our family and close friends from Camden, NY recently made a short pilgrimage (just over an hour’s drive) from our peaceful little valley to Cooperstown. There we found the Farmers’ Museum and their annual “Candlelight Evening”.
I must say that as we strolled the grounds with several thousand other human beings, the air was festive, peaceful and fun. If you ever wanted to see the “Quintessential Americana Yuletide Celebration”, then be sure to put this event on your calendar for next year.
The temperature was a perfect 35 degrees and there were several inches of new snow blanketing the entire living museum. The glimmer of thousands of tea light candles lit the paths, rock walls, buildings and stables. Old Saint Nick was meandering about the compound bringing cheer to wee-little ones as well as to the adults present. We enjoyed hot wassail out of a large iron kettle that was heated by the open flame of Maplewood harvested last season. The sound of fiddles, caroling and horse hoofs were in the air as we strolled here and there from the old Blacksmith’s Shop to the School House, the barns, the church and other enchanting nooks and crannies around one of the oldest rural life museums in the country. Singing along in song, sipping our drinks by the immense open bonfire, holding hands on the horse-draw carriage ride…. so beautiful, almost surreal and definitely an “old fashioned” Christmas feel.
I suppose what I like most about this whole experience was that everyone involved- the visitors, the museum volunteers, the caroling children & adults, even the animals in the live nativity seemed genuinely happy, peaceful & thankful. There were no presents exchanged, no over-commercialized buying or selling of goods and certainly no multi-media promotions on site. Just people interacting with people and enjoying the season like days of old.
With Christmas around the bend, it’s nice to know that this sort of gathering still goes on in America and that kindred spirits have a way to enjoy the festive season like their early-American ancestors once did.
Merry Christmas to all. Joyeux Noel. God Jul.