We received our first Christmas greeting of sorts when Jane Peters Estes delivered in person her delightful and informative presentation, “A Christmas Past” to our November Historical Society meeting at Riverton School.
Like a time-traveler from the 19th century attired in authentic holiday apparel of the American Civil War era she explained the origins of dozens of Yuletide customs and traditions and cited various sources to support her findings.
The highly regarded and sought after lecturer has published articles in Civil War Lady Magazine, Citizen’s Companion Magazine, Philadelphia Bride Magazine and People Magazine. Her well-researched stories about the inception of mistletoe, wreaths, Christmas trees, and Santa Claus, of course, proved a welcome diversion for an audience suddenly faced with thinking about the preparations for the holidays that lay ahead.
She frequently illustrated her historical narrative with antiques and collectibles such as vintage greeting cards and postcards, children’s toys, and typical Civil War era Christmas gifts. An audience of historical society types must be a tough crowd to teach new tricks, but Ms. Estes succeeded with such examples as the “church baby”—a handkerchief doll used by little girls during the Civil War which, if dropped during the service, made no noise.
Perhaps Ms. Estes’ less well-known holiday references such as the infamous 1826 Eggnog Riot at West Point appeared to elicit the greatest fascination from the audience. All eyes were certainly on her when she agreed to show the room what held up her hoop skirt.
And, on that note, we end this recap of that most entertaining presentation.
Note to readers: If you see on any Community Calendar an invitation to hear this exceptional speaker, please consider this summary an endorsement to attend. Jane’s other topics include: Civil War Nurses, Fashions of the 1860s, Victorian Mourning Customs, History and Lore of Weddings, Women’s Lifestyles of the 1860′s, Vivandieres, Pets of the Past, and Women at the Battle of Gettysburg. - John McCormick, Gaslight News editor