Christmas by the Sea

12.17.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut
Mystic Seaport ~ 12.17.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut

Yesterday we decided to take advantage of our new membership to visit our local living history museum, Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America & The Sea, to see what Christmas might have been like around here in the 1800s. The museum has a shipyard that is currently restoring the whaleship Charles W. Morgan, other historic ships, a coastal village, a planetarium and indoor exhibit galleries.

12.17.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut
12.17.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut

(above)  Undecorated Christmas tree atop the main mast of the training ship Joseph Conrad, indicating that this vessel will be in port on Christmas.

Watching a coast as it slips by the ship is like thinking about an enigma. There it is before you – smiling, frowning, inviting, grand, mean, insipid, or savage, and always mute with an air of whispering, “Come and find out.”
~ Joseph Conrad
(Heart of Darkness)

I have to admit at first I was a disappointed, somehow expecting to walk into a twinkling winter wonderland. But later I remembered that they didn’t have electricity back then! Candlelight was an ever-present fire hazard. And it wasn’t until after the mid-1800s that Christmas trees became popular. So Christmas was not such a big thing at that time. In fact, the shopkeeper (below) at Stone’s General Store explained to us that no one expected to receive more than a single homemade gift. And that if we didn’t see what we needed to make our gifts in her store, then she would be pleased to order the items for us.

12.17.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut
12.17.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut

Even in the homes of the wealthy the holiday decor was simple. I love the winter afternoon sun filtering through the curtains (below) in the Thomas Greenman House parlor.

12.17.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut
12.17.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut

We stopped by the Mystic Print Shop and, with close supervision, I was allowed to print my own 19th-century Christmas card on an old press. Christmas cards were then the “latest” rage in Victorian fashion.

12.17.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut
12.17.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut

There were wreaths on every door in the seafaring village and on some of the windows, too. For the present I leave you with pictures of a few of them!

12.17.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut
12.17.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut
12.17.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut
12.17.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut
12.17.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut
12.17.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut
12.17.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut
12.17.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut
12.17.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut
12.17.11 ~ Mystic, Connecticut

16 thoughts on “Christmas by the Sea”

  1. Hi,
    Sounds like a great place to go and visit. I love the idea of the wreaths decorations made from sea shells, the people back then certainly were creative.

    1. Mystic Seaport is a wonderful place to visit – we finally got a membership because there is no way to see and do everything in one day. It was nice seeing so many different kinds of wreaths – there is no end to the creative possibilities…

  2. It made me very happy to learn that xmas was so much simpler back in the 1800’s. That one handmade gift was all that was expected and that the decorations were so simple too. I hope we go back to living like that.
    Love the wreaths too.
    But my favorite part of the post was the photo of you.

    1. Rosie, I included the photo of me just for you! 🙂 I knew somehow that you would be pleased! 😉

      Me, too, about the simplicity. Christmas can be magical and simple at the same time. In recent years we’ve been having a gift basket. Everyone who wants to or can afford to contributes small gifts to the basket and then we pass the basket around and everyone can fish out one item at a time until all the gifts are gone. It’s fun trying to predict who will choose what… Dad just likes to browse through the basket when his turn comes around and we have to nudge him to pick something out to move things along. Auntie forgets to wait for her turn and snatches things out of the basket for her friends in elderly housing. One year a curtain caught on fire (someone put a candle too close to it) while we were all laughing at the festive chaos… It’s always wonderful!

    1. The wreaths must have smelled good but it was so cold that day I just shot each picture without stopping to take in the scent, heading quickly indoors!

  3. Hi Barbara. Nice, Christmassy post. The rigging on the ship certainly is intricate. I like the idea of printing your own Christmas card. Merry Christmas! Jane

    1. Thanks and a Merry Christmas to you, too, Jane! I’ve often wondered how sailors can know which ropes do what – it must take a lot of spatial intelligence to sort it all out.

  4. Hi Barbara, things were so simple back in those days. Good to know you got to visit such a historical place. I’m glad to see you in the picture 🙂 [you know I had a thinner version of you in my mind, I don’t know why 😉 ]

    I love the wreaths and oh, they are decorated with oyster kind of shells! very creative. Christmas is almost here and I wish you & your family “Merry Christmas” Keep smiling 🙂

    1. Maybe you somehow remember the younger me, Sonali! 🙂 In the four years since Tim had his heart attack I have gained fifty pounds and it has been most distressing to me. It must be stress, middle age, or the side effect of one of my migraine meds, which is weight gain. Maybe it is all of the above. Sigh………

      I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas or whatever holiday you may have celebrated this time of year! Looking forward to reading about your new adventures in the coming year! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Jane, for the nomination, I very much appreciate the honor! However, I don’t “do” awards because they seem so much like chain letters to me. I hope you’ll understand if I don’t participate…

  5. The wreaths are very beautiful! I like how they incorporate things collected from the sea. That’s wonderful you were able to make a card on the old printing press. Were you happy with the results?
    All the best of the season to you and your family, Barbara!

    1. Thank you, Cait, I liked the sea and evergreen connection, too! The card was just one color, green, as I had to roll the ink over a block carving of the scene, which was a boy on a sled with a dog chasing after him. I hung it up with the other cards we received and will probably bring it out each Christmas as a nod to the “olden” days.

      Hope your holidays were merry and bright up there in Canada!

  6. That is one cool Christmas by the beach. I enjoy and admire the ingenuity and artistic process of those who made the wreaths using shells and other sea treasures. I had a few visits at the beach this Christmas. We even saw Santa by accident. Magical!
    Wishing love , peace and joy today and everyday…

    1. Thank you, Island Traveler! I hope your Christmas was joyful, merry and bright – how lucky to accidentally see Santa on the beach!

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