Sunday, November 29, 2015

Latta Plantation Christmas

Our beloved local plantation hosted their annual Christmas event. I've taken the kids to Latta twice, but this was the first time Jesse came with us and the first time the kids were able to see people dressed and engaged in 19th century life. It's much more exciting to see everything come to life.

I've taken the kids inside the main house, but not upstairs. While carrying both girls up the steep staircase, Jesse huffed, "The stairs are not up to code." It was very difficult to navigate crowded rooms and keep the kids from touching anything, so we spent very little time inside the house. 

The house was minimally decorated with small trees and simple wreaths, as was apparently the custom at the time. There were actual stockings hung over the fireplace, that would hopefully contain an orange on Christmas morning.

One of the obvious benefits of having "historical interpreters" in every room and area of the plantation is learning all the interesting stories and tidbits. One woman explained the origin of the saying, "Good night. Sleep tight. Don't let the bedbugs bite." I knew it was common for bugs to crawl in the straw mattresses,

but I didn't realize the mattresses were supported by ropes that had to be tighten before bed each night. If the ropes were loose the mattress would uncomfortably sag in places.

We toured the shed which houses various tools and stalls. I was hoping we could see a blacksmith in action. I guess I'll just have to speculate how all those tools were used.  

Jesse and I joked that this man must have pulled the short straw when receiving assignments for the day. Nonetheless, the strong cedar scent and sound of the axe hitting the wood enhanced the overall feel of the day.

The gardens and crops were open for visitors. We tried to explain to Jackson that everything he saw was grown, built, or raised on the plantation. It's hard for a four year old to imagine a life without Walmart, malls, grocery stores, and online shopping.

One of the historians informed us that the minimum requirements to be a plantation were to own 30 or more slaves, have 600 acres of land, and grow a cash crop. Latta's cash crop was cotton. In addition to being able to see cotton blossoms up close, we also watched a man weaving patterned fabrics on a loom.

It was a bit odd seeing turkeys a day after eating turkey.

A random girl was feeding horses (or mules?) from an enormous bag of apple slices. I don't know if she had permission, but it allowed us to see the horse and donkey up close.

It was easy to forget it was a Christmas event, though there was the occasional reminder such as Saint Nicholas wondering around.

For the most part, it was just a day to learn to about life in the 19th century, from the perspective of slaves, housewives, children, artisans, soldiers, etc.

A big appeal to Latta Plantation is seeing all the animals.

I assume this donkey was trying to scratch it's back. The kids were amused.

The most interesting thing to me was watching various workers cook. They were actually cooking meals and eating together. I assume these people use modern appliances at home, but I greatly appreciate the fact that this art of cooking is still preserved.

I was especially fascinated by the chicken over the open fire, which was cooked by repeatedly spinning a chicken hanging from a string.

Our family had a great afternoon together. We shared a picnic lunch, enjoyed the unseasonably warm day, and took our time exploring each new sight, sound, and smell. I took a silly picture with Jackson before we left as proof that I was there.

Most of the information was over the kids' heads, but I know they enjoyed the different experiences and spending the day together. This is the first of many fun Christmas events we plan to attend as a family.

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