November 23, 2010

An "1863 Thanksgiving"

On Sunday, I went to Old Bethpage Village Restoration to celebrate an “1863 Thanksgiving.” My first stop was at the Visitor Center to view the old-time photographs and wall-sized map of the grounds that are on display there. Then, it was out through the rear door to step into a different era.

Old Bethpage Village Restoration is a place that gives visitors the unique opportunity to travel back in time and experience life in a 19th century American village. On 209 acres of rolling hills and gravel paths, more than 55 antebellum structures -- all moved to the site from other locations -- provide the setting for costumed staff members to demonstrate various crafts such as blacksmithing, hat making, decoy carving, loom weaving, hearth cooking, and slate writing. The village also features historic music, military re-enactments, and old-time baseball tournaments.

With the sun sparkling through the deep orange hues of the surrounding trees, I spent the day strolling through the historic, antique-filled buildings, enchanted by their rustic decorum and old-fashioned charm, feeling as though I had just walked into a scene from the mid-1800s.

I was delighted by the Thanksgiving meal preparations. The air was permeated by the wonderful smells of wood-burning stoves, roasting food, and baking pies. I took in the savory aromas as a woman prepared vegetables at the fireplace in the Kirby House. All of the recipes and culinary methods used are from the 19th-Century. It was great to watch and really left me feeling as though I had experienced an old-world Thanksgiving.

At lunch time, I stopped in the Noon Inn -- a tavern from 1850 -- for a snack of birch beer and pretzels (the only items on the menu) and to listen to a storyteller. In the Layton General Store, I joked with a girl in Civil War-era garb as she attempted to capture a stray honey bee in a plastic cup while struggling to stay in character. I ambled slowly through the grounds of the Powell Farm, with its livestock, barns, carriage shed, smokehouse, and other out buildings all boasting hand-hewn beam and wood peg construction techniques.

Perhaps my favorite event of the afternoon was the fiddle playing in the one-room schoolhouse. This lively, foot-stomping music had my heart dancing along with every note.

Overall, Old Bethpage Village Restoration provided me with a wonderful jaunt into another time. It was the perfect way to spend the Sunday before Thanksgiving. I will be going back to the Restoration on an evening in mid-December for a candlelit evening of traditional Christmas caroling. Should be cool. :)

Today, may you wrap yourself in the ecstasy of a creative moment, remembering to always speak the language of hospitality and gratitude…

“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee;
and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee:
when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not he burned;
neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”

~Isaiah 43:2