Sunday, December 27, 2020

Colonial Ball Through the Years

Nearly each day during the week between Christmas and New Year's Facebook's memory of the day was of the three of us attending the Colonial Ball during Patriot's Week in Trenton. I was actually surprised by how long this has been a tradition for our family.

Patriot's Week started about a decade ago now. That hardly seems possible. I think it took until the second year of the ball for me to bring it up to Don. He surprised me by enthusiastically saying he wanted to go. At that point none of us had Colonial attire, but he wore a tux he bought in 2000 when we had several events in a year where black tie was encouraged. 

The ball is designed as a chance for the reenactors gathering to wear their finery and hang out with each other. The public is invited for a nominal fee (this year it was $17.76 in advance, or $20 at the door). In exchange we were fed sandwiches and salads, and were given dance lessons so we had a shot of understanding what we are doing. The same caller also leads barn dances at Howell Living History farm. The steps are often similar. The barn dances, held three times a year, ask for $3 donation and are extremely kid-friendly.

In 2008 I wore a black dress and pearls. Ashley dressed up, too, as did Elizabeth, her American Girl Doll. Look how tiny Ashley is! 

In 2009, a year later two of us dressed in Colonial attire. Don dusted off his tux. Elizabeth also wore Colonial attire, but she does that most of the time. I cannot find the picture from 2010 or 2011, but I did blog about the 2011 ball.
 In 2012 we decided to go modern again.
In 2013 we wizened up and brought Maia for Ashley. This is around the time Cousin Hayden started to join us, too. My parents have been attending the ball since 2009. For each dance you need a partner. Everyone is friendly, and it is very easy to find a dance partner (especially if you are willing to learn the man's part), but both of us prefer dancing with Don. Fortunately he prefers dancing most of the dances. Note, Ashley is wearing the same dress she wore in 2009 (which she received the day after the ball in 2008), but with a skirt under it to lengthen the dress.

Patti and Neil also often join us at these dances. Patti loves dressing up.

In 2014 the ball was held at the Marriott hotel instead of at the Masonic Temple. It didn't feel the same. Again, Maia, my parents, and Hayden joined us. I also visited with Doreen, a classmate from high school, and saw other people interested in Trenton's history. 

In 2015 the ball returned to the Masonic Temple. For the first time my sister Melissa and her daughter, Aimee, joined us. This is the first year we have to place ourselves so Ashley is not blocking our faces. This was also the first year Ashley wore heels to the event.

In 2017 we did not purchase our ball tickets in time. In previous years we showed up at the door and paid $20 each (could have paid $17.76 plus fees had we purchased them in advance) and partied. That year they instituted a cap. 


In 2018 I made sure to purchase our tickets the day they went on sale. Good thing as it did sell out. The ticket price was raised to $25 each. Still a bargain for a night of dancing and light food while wearing period attire. Patti, Neil, my parents, Melissa, Hayden, and Aimee skipped it this year. It was odd just going as the four of us (three of us, plus Ashley's friend, Maia). The biggest challenge was keeping the camera safe and still dancing. Heidi (Maia's mom) has a friend (Jean) who loaned the girls their period attire. Heidi used her seamstress skills to adjust them to their tiny frames. They felt wearing the Colonial dresses would make their evening more fun. As they danced every dance (we sat out one to take pictures), alternating the man and the woman's sides, they looked like they were having fun. I brought my Colonial gown out of retirement for the event. It felt a little big on me. I remember the sleeves and bodice feeling tighter. The waist is a drawstring, and I had to bring that in further, too. The best part was we remembered many of the steps. Maybe this will be the year we go more often than the ball (there are monthly gatherings in Princeton of English Country Dancers).

My drawstring waist kept slipping
In 2019 we bought our tickets ($25 each) the day they went on sale. They sold out the morning of the ball. Maia came with us again, which is always a treat. Maia and Ashley danced every dance. Don and I had to take a couple of breathers. Our caller, Sue Dupre, threw in a new-to-us dance that required three dancers. Poor Maia was left out, but she made some other friends for the dance. We didn't recognize as many people, but that was okay. We had a lot of fun and danced the night away. One note: they pushed the tables to the outer edges and opened the library to give us more space to dance. The band only took a brief 10-minute break, barely long enough for us to take pictures.


I don't know how long this link will be available, but in 2020 Sue Dupre gave a lovely talk in Patriot's Week (Day) about Colonial Balls. It was a sad substitute for the ball. Hoping the ball can return in 2021.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

2020's NYC Window Displays

We braved a trip into The Big Apple to see The Tree and the windows. It was a bit different in 2020 because of COVID. Windows we have really enjoyed in past years (think Lord and Taylors and B. Altman's) are no longer open. Others (like Bloomingdales) always feel too far to walk since we often walk away not enjoying them. If you want to see a complete list of 2020 windows, visit: .

We limited our trip to Sak's Fifth Avenue and Macy's.

Sak's windows focused on how holidays are being reimagined for 2020.

"No Jazz Club. No Problem. We'll take the music to the streets."

"Over the East River and Through the Neighborhoods
to Grandfather's House We Go."

"New Year. New 'do. Getting ready for the countdown is more fun with my BFF."

Love the chameleon

"Heroes come in all shapes and size. Some even wear wear tutus."

"This year we are rewriting the family dinner."

"Time for the annual game of Whose House Wore it Better."

Macy's windows thanked everyone for coming. Even Santa stayed home this year.

My favorite window ... thanking people in many different languages.

The red circles are to encourage social distancing.

Next time we complain about how busy the City Sidewalks are, we'll pause and remember this year when they were not busy enough and count our blessings.

City Sidewalks, (Not) Busy Sidewalks

Thanksgiving weekend I blogged about missing out on some Christmas traditions, especially going into NYC to see The Tree and the windows. The closer we got to Christmas, the more I realized I still wanted to go into the City, even if it was to drive down 5th Avenue and look at the tree from the safety of our car. It didn't feel like Christmas without a trip to Rockefeller Center.

Talking it through with Don, we decided to drive in on Christmas Day when it would likely be less crowded. Less crowded during a pandemic is a bit of an understatement. We hardly came without six feet of ANYONE, and hardly saw anyone without a mask (a notable exception was a woman sitting on her front steps smoking a cigarette). 

The day's adventures are better told through pictures.

No lines, no crowds near The Tree

Hardly any people or cars in Times Square

Hardly any people or cars near Macy's

Travelers, what travelers? Hard to explain the expression it is
as busy as Grand Central Station based on Ashley's first trip to Grand Central Station.

Found a few people in Times Square

No people no cars on Fifth Avenue

Each circle represents where a family unit should stand waiting to take
their picture in front of The Tree. There was no line.

No people here, either. A couple of guards, a few tourists.

No one hanging around Broadway, either.

In front of the windows at Macy's asking people to stay socially distant.

My favorite window --
I could stand back several feet to take the picture without anyone else in it.

"Even Santa is working from home" this year.

New York City is very quiet. People wear their masks or risk up to a $1,000 fine. The businesses are grateful for the few tourists who do visit.

Someone suggested I create a small album with pictures of a deserted New York City. These are historic times. They will pass.

As Tim from Broadway Up Close says: "One day closer to Broadway!"

Christmas Reimagined for 2020

Back in April, I naively thought certainly by Christmas we would be gathering in person to celebrate Jesus's birth. I even thought by the summer we would have a make-up Easter service with all of the pomp and circumstance of the traditional celebration (2012) that takes place on Easter morning. 

Long before Thanksgiving we knew that was not to be. That is when I blogged what Christmas 2020 might look like.

I wanted to write an update.

We did get a live tree. We even managed to get the tree from our usual tree farm, even though this year they culled their trees and had very few of the right size. Next year there will be even less. Even though they are only a mile from our house, and normally we walk or ride our bike to his farm, we drove anticipating we would have to go to a different farm to actually find a tree. We got lucky and took the first tree we saw.

As always, the tree magically grew between the farm and home.

We put many less ornaments on the tree this year, partially because we were not entertaining and because of the kitten. I failed to appreciate Glinda Dragon would be the one to climb the tree the most.

Mike and Debbi's annual holiday party was canceled. Instead he decorated his front yard and encouraged people to drive through their horseshoe driveway to admire their light show, and drop off donations for the local food pantry.

In an effort to find some holiday cheer, we joined Six Flags and both drove through the park and walked through the park.

Church services are always an important part of the Christmas Season (as well as throughout the year). We wondered how we would be able to feel the magic of the season.

Over the years we have started the Christmas season with Princeton Theological Seminary's "Carols of Many Nations" service. When I visited PTS's website around Thanksgiving, and there was no mention of that service, I was disappointed. A few weeks later I learned they were making a virtual service to debut on Friday, December 18. They combined live footage with videos of alumni reading scriptures from around the world with footage from past years (mostly 2019). They managed to keep the spirit of the service and spread it to everyone interested.

From 2019

Passing the flame of candlelight virtually

We also attended Muhlenberg's candlelight service, something we hope we can do before Ashley graduates in 2024. We watched it with Ashley, who pointed out her friends.

On Christmas Eve we attended our first drive in worship service. At the end the pastor let us leave our cars to hold plastic candles (the intention had been to have a traditional candle lighting ceremony, but it was too windy to keep the flames lit). We hung out for a few minutes afterwards keeping our distance, but marveling how nice it was to see real faces again. 

Because the midnight service we usually attend decided to only have a shared 5 pm and 8 pm virtual service, we decided to "attend" the American Church in Paris' candlelight service many hours later. I've been attending their services weekly. I enjoyed "introducing" Don and Ashley to the various pastors and musicians. Their church is oddly feeling like home.

Christmas Day we did drive into New York City to see The Tree and the windows. The City feels eerily quiet. No hustle, bustle. No crowds.

As we drove home we played family Kahoot on zoom with Grammy, Papa John, Rebecca, Melissa, and families. I wish we had timed the day better to be home (picture from Melissa's Facebook page).

We stopped by to wish my parents a Merry Christmas. In lieu of the traditional family dinner each family unit visited one at a time and exchanged presents. My parents sent us each home with the makings of Christmas dinner.

We then ate our dinner at home, just the three of us.

We tried to participate in the annual lighting of the luminaries in our neighborhood, but failed. First off all the rain made it impossible to do on Christmas Eve, so we all agreed to wait until Christmas night. The day escaped from us. By the time we came home the nice day had turned bitterly cold and windy. I stubbornly set them up, but could not get them to light. Just felt like a metaphor for 2020.

Patriot's Week turned into Patriot's Day (December 26th). The annual Colonial Ball morphed into a talk by Sue Dupre on the history of balls in America. She included facts she always wanted to include during the ball (but did not have time) and showed videos of us dancing at the ball. Larry Kidder gave a different talk about the Battle of Princeton, and someone else gave a talk about blacks in the military. I learned more blacks fought for the British because they promised them freedom from slavery than fought for the Americans who made no such promise. Makes sense!

New Year's Eve ended the holiday season with a fire pit in our backyard instead of the traditional town bonfire. Not quite the same, but we hope now that we have the fire pit we will enjoy friends over to enjoy outdoor socially distant fun. I miss seeing people in person.

In some ways I loved not having to hustle around, especially when we had an early snow, but I as with much of this year, I missed seeing people and having the shared experiences. 

Friends have started to receive the vaccine. I look forward to receiving mine.

Happy New Year!