Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Russian Christmas at CTES: Directions and patterns

4th Grade Star Tree
On Dec. 22, the Cavendish Historical Society spent the day with the Cavendish Town Elementary School students teaching them not only aspects of Russian history and how it relates to town history,  but enjoying special treats from Svetlana Phillips, and learning various arts and crafts projects with Margo Caulfield and Pang Ting. Thank you to our volunteers for making this day so special. 

Everyone was too busy listening, creating and eating to take pictures, except for the one Pang Ting took of the completed fourth grade project.

As promised for students and staff a like, here are further directions for making the items from the Cavendish Town Elementary School’s Russian Christmas:

Matryohska Dolls: The kindergarten made these in two sizes using the pattern found on-line (we whited out the NOEL and didn’t use the legs) By taping a shape of the doll taped to the back, they’ll stand. Lots of other styles and patterns (including a nutcracker) are available at Decoupage Du Noel Russe.

Christmas cards made in the style of Gzhel pottery (blue on white).  The first graders used stencils and cobalt blue paint on white card stock to create beautiful Christmas cards. Stencils were made using paper punches and the left over card stock from cutting out the Matryohska dolls.

Snowflakes and Snowflake Ballerinas: The third grade learned to make sixpointed paper snowflakes and some used them to create SnowflakeBallerinas. 

Pointed star in one snip decorated in Russian Gzhel patterns and used to form a Christmas Tree. Using the Five Pointed Star inone Snip the 4th graders made a five-pointed star that they stenciled and decorated in the style of Gzhel pottery. The dried stars were then hung in the hallway to form a Christmas Tree.

Christmas trees that are gift containers: The pattern is available on-line, but you’ll need to scroll down to see it. You can make the containers any size. Punch holes in the sides of a larger one and put an LED light inside.

Five-Pointed Start Made with Twigs: Use five twigs (or whatever else you have handy) and make sure they are of equal size.

Lay them so they are parallel to one another | | | | |

Tie or use small rubber bands so they look like this \/\/\

Lay the one /\ over the other and you should see the 5 pointed star shape appear. Tie off the remaining loose ends and you will have a five-pointed star.

Depending on how you wish to use it, wrap ribbon around the connecting points. 

Paper Trees: The staff room was decorated with paper cut trees, snowflakes and other items. To make the trees, download the pattern.  After you’ve printed your tree pattern cut in half, using the guidelines at the top and bottom lengthwise. Fold two sheets of 81/2 X 11 paper lengthwise. On the folds, line up the template and hold in place with paper clips and cut out. While the directions call for sewing the two trees together, tape or a glue gun will also work. If you are having trouble downloading a template, e-mail margoc@tds.net for a copy in PDF.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Celebrating a Russian Christmas in Cavendish

As part of understanding the heritage of the many countries that Cavendish residents have come from, this holiday season the Cavendish Historical Society (CHS) is celebrating Russia.

While many will immediately think of Cavendish’s connection with the famous Russian writer and Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who lived in our town for 18 of the 20 he was in exile, the first Russians came to our area in the early 1900s.

While an influx of Russian Jews settled in Burlington, Vermont in the late 1800s because of religious persecution, economic opportunity is what brought Russian immigrants to Claremont, Springfield and Cavendish. In Claremont, they came from the provinces of Minsk, Wilensk, and Grodnensk, which were between Moscow and Warsaw near the Polish border. Since the Gays went to Eastern Europe to recruit workers for their Cavendish mill, it is expected that many of Cavendish’s Russian immigrants came from similar areas.

Former Cavendish postmaster Sophie Snarski’s family was an example of what were known as  “chain immigrants”- they came to the area because relatives who settled here told them to come because there was work. Sophie described her family as being from a part of Eastern Europe that “sometimes we were Polish and sometimes we were Russian.” Learning Polish from her parents, she also picked up quite a bit of Russian. “It wasn’t very good Russian,” she would add.

While Cavendish does not have a Russian Orthodox Church, Springfield and Claremont both started congregations in the early 1900s, which continue today.  

Peter the Great
Soviet era tree ornament
Not only do customs and traditions very throughout Russia, but significant alterations where made during the Soviet era. 

Thanks to the influence of the Tsar Peter the Great and his travels to Europe,  Christmas was celebrated in Russia on December 25, complete with Christmas trees, gifts and even St. Nicholas. After the 1917 Revolution, along with other religious holidays, Christmas was banned. While the religious aspects of the holiday would not reappear again until 1992 with the fall of communism, in the 1930s, Stalin thought it would create a more stable society by having rituals and traditions.

Father Frost and Snow Maiden
Reinstating many of the folk customs, the focus was on New Years not Christmas. Instead of Santa Claus or St. Nicholas, Ded Moroz, Father Frost, who is often accompanied by his granddaughter and helper Snegurochka, Snow Maiden, brings the presents on New Years Eve. The tree, complete with decorations, lights and stars, is also reserved for New Years. 

The Christmas season begins November 28 and goes until January 6. All dates are given according to the Old Style calendar used by the Russian Orthodox Church, which is 13 days later than the secular calendar. The official Christmas and New Years holiday in Russia lasts from Dec. 31 (New Year’s Eve) to January 10 but some Russians are now observing Christmas on December 25.  Learn more by watching the two part series How to Celebrate Russian Christmas. 

Many of those who came to Cavendish, were from villages, where it would have been customary to place a sheaf of the year’s grain crop and decorate it with ribbons. If you notice the swags on the Museum and Cavendish Stone Church, you’ll see that these traditions continue. Instead of wheat, it’s likely that many of our Russian immigrants would have used flax, once grown in Cavendish, as well as other items found in nature-birch and pinecones.

On December 22, CHS will be holding a series of workshops for the students of the Cavendish Town Elementary School (CTES) where the students will engage in a “hands on activity,” as well as sample Russian Christmas goodies, as follows:
K: Matryohska doll ornaments
1st & 2nd Grade Gzhel style pottery Christmas cards (stenciling)
3rd Grade snowflake chains and ballerinas
4th Grade  Pointed star in one snip decorated in Russian patterns
5th Grade Christmas trees that can also be a gift container or an ornament
6th Grade Star ornament made with twigs

A very special note of thanks to Svetlana Phillips, who now lives in Cavendish, but who grew up in the Ukraine during the Soviet era and like many had parents that were both Russian and Ukrainian. Svetlana has shared many of her stories, recipes and materials to help CHS organize this event.

If you are interested in helping with a workshop, please contact margoc@tds.net or call 802-226-7807.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Candles for the Museum

The lights are on at the Cavendish Stone Church. The Cavendish Historical Society is looking for battery powered candles to put in the Museum window as well. If you have some you'd like to donate, e-mail margoc@tds.net or call 802-226-7807.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Twenty Mile Stream School by Mary Adams Fulhum

Memories of Mrs. Mary Adams Fullum, widow of Wallace Sullivan Fullum of Twenty-Mile Stream Cavendish.
Mary was born in Cavendish 9 April 1836, daughter of Proctor and Mary (Baldwin) Adams. (see Families of Cavendish, Vol. 1, and Vol 3). 

"A Few Reminiscences of School District Number Five, Twenty-Mile Stream, in Cavendish"
by Mary Adams Fulhum, Bellows Falls, Vermont.  Written in 1910.

                  Sometime in the last years of the 17th century, my maternal grandfather, Thomas Baldwin,became an inhabitant of the Twenty-Mile Stream School District, bringing his bride and their very few belongings by ox team from Massachusetts, to the historic Captain John Coffeen Place, leaving my grandmother there while he prepared a home for them.  It was a little log cabin in the northwest corner of the district and the northwest corner of the town as well.  In those early years his milling had to be done by carrying bags of grain on his back and later on horseback to Chester, I think. 

                  There were born to them nine children—six boys and three girls.  My mother next to the youngest of the children, commenced her schooling in a room in the home of Mr. James Smith, now [1920] the home of the Willis Spaulding family.  Between the terms of school she helped about the household duties.  She learned to spin both flax and wool and also to weave them into cloth which later was colored and made into garments for all members of the household by a seamstress hired by the family for the purpose.  The boots and shoes of the family were manufactured by a traveling cobbler or shoemaker who made a business of going from house to house, plying his trade or "whipping the cat" as it was then called.  After a while several industries had started up in the immediate neighborhood. There was a carding machine for forming the wool into rolls, ready for the spinning wheels which had previously been done by hand cards.  Then a starch factory was put in operation by Esquire William Smith where people could dispose of their surplus potatoes to be made into starch. In the meantime the people had built themselves a schoolhouse near the center of the district, that being the old one that was torn down in 1861. 

                  About the year 1820 my paternal grandfather, Salathiel Adams Sr., located in the south end of the district on the place known I think, as the Shurtleff Tavern, and in which he also entertained travelers.  It stood on the rise of ground directly across the road from where Mr. Walton Green's barn now stands.  After awhile his two sons Salathiel Jr. and Proctor Adams, joined him and built themselves homes—one on each side of him.  Salathiel Adams Jr. built where Walton Green now lives and Proctor where John Dix lives.  The brothers made an industry of hop raising, each one having a house for curing or drying them.  They also had a mill for cider making a little farther up the stream.  Proctor gave up his interest in both of these enterprises after a few years and so they were continued by Salathiel. Salathiel also had and operated a mill across the stream for sawing lumber.  The cider mill was washed away in the freshet of 1869, but the sawmill is now standing.  

                  Seventy years ago, the little burg at the south end of the district afforded quite a number of different vocations. Salathiel Adams was a carpenter and a joiner and conducted both cider and saw mills.  Salathiel Adams Sr. was a cooper.  Proctor Adams was a shoemaker.  Stillman Marsh was the blacksmith and Zenas Clark was the tanner.

                  The school operated in an orderly fashion.  Each family in the district sent its quota of scholars to the square roofed schoolhouse and most of them were a good large quota at that. The schoolroom had two rows of seats around its outer edge and between 40 and 50 lads and lassies took their allotted places upon them.  At night when the oldest were lined up for the last spelling, they reached fully across two sides of the schoolroom.  There was usually held two terms of school of three months each in each year.  Each district had the ruling of their own affairs. They held yearly meetings and appointed a Clerk, Treasurer, Prudential Committee and Tax Collector, to conduct the affairs for the year.  The laws of the State of Vermont required each district to maintain a certain number of weeks of school at their own expense.  When they complied with that, they could draw from the Town a certain amount of State money which the State provided each Town for that purpose.  There came a time when several of the districts in our town failed to comply with the requirements of the State, thereby losing their portion of public money.  The surplus money was then distributed amongst those that had conformed to the law—the Wheeler School being one of them.  It enabled the people to maintain the two terms of four months each for two or three years, but by that time, the delinquents had got their eyes opened to the situation and returned to their proper way.

                  Three generations of my family have conned the rudiments of their education within the walls of the two schoolrooms.  My mother, myself and my children.  My first teacher was Sally Hall, a daughter of Captain James Wharrol Hall, then living just outside the district's limits in the town of Reading.  For over half a century, this Cavendish District was my home.  May God's Blessings rest upon it." 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dia de los Muertos Workshop: Nov. 1

Día de los Muertos, Día de los Difuntos or Día de Muert

As part of the Cavendish Historical Society's Hands on History and Honoring Our Heritage programs, the annual Dia de los muertos workshop will be held on Nov. 1 (Saturday) from 3-5 pm at Gethsemane Church Parish Hall, off of Depot Street in Proctorsville. Activities including decorating sugar skulls, making Papel Picado (paper cuts), paper flowers and more. This is a free event but donations are appreciated to help with expenses. 

An ancient Aztec celebration in memory of deceased ancestors, Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 1 (All Saints' Day) and November 2 (All Souls' Day). The holiday is especially popular in Mexico, where it is a national holiday, it is also celebrated in other parts of South America and in communities with strong Latino roots.

Mexicans celebrate the Day of the Dead joyfully, and though it occurs at the same time as Halloween, All Saints' Day and All Souls Day, the traditional mood is much brighter with emphasis on celebrating and honoring the lives of the deceased, and celebrating the continuation of life. The belief is not that death is the end, but rather the beginning of a new stage in life.

The origins of the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico can be traced back to the indigenous peoples of the area, such as the Aztec, Maya, P'urhépecha, Nahua, and Totonac. Rituals celebrating the lives of ancestors have been observed by these civilizations for at least the last 3000 years. In the pre-Hispanic era, it was common to keep skulls as trophies and display them during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth.

The festival that became the modern Day of the Dead fell in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, about the beginning of August, and was celebrated for an entire month. The festivities were dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl, known as the "Lady of the Dead", corresponding to the modern Catrina.

Beliefs and customs

Plans for the festival are made throughout the year, including gathering the goods to be offered to the dead. During the period of October 31 and November 2, families usually clean and decorate the graves. Most visit the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried and decorate their graves with ofrendas, or offerings, which often include orange marigold called Flor de Muerto, or zempoalxochitl, Nahuatl for "twenty-flower.” Toys are brought for dead children (los angelitos, or little angels), and bottles of tequila, mezcal, pulque or atole for adults. Families will also offer trinkets or the deceased's favorite candies on the grave. Ofrendas (altars) are also put in homes. In some parts of Mexico, such as the towns of Mixquic, Pátzcuaro and Janitzio, people spend all night beside the graves of their relatives.

Altars are decorated with cempazúchil flowers, images of saints, candles, traditional foods and things that once belonged to the deceased to honor and please the spirits. What the spirits consume is steam from the food. They do not digest it physically; they extract the goodness from what is provided. After the spirits leave, the living visit each other in their homes and exchange the prepared food. Images of favorite saints are frequently placed on the altar to elicit special divine protection for loved ones. A towel, soap and mirror are also seen on the altars for the spirits to freshen up before feasting on their favorite foods.

In some cases chairs are placed for the spirits to sit and rest. In the state of Veracruz the Totonac's an indigenous group suspend a wooden board from the ceiling used for the altar. They also suspend local fruits such as bananas, jicamas, limes, oranges, and mandarins from the ceiling. Traditionally these altars are decorated with green tepejilote leaves that are fashioned in the style of suns, stars, and pineapples. The Totonac's also embroider skirts, blouses, napkins, and tablecloths because it is believed that the spirits use these clothes to carry away their food.

The colors of the various items on the altar have the following meaning:
Purple: signifies pain, suffering, grief, and mourning.
Pink: celebration
White: purity and hope
Orange: sun
Red: the blood of life
Yellow: cempazuchitl are marigolds that symbolize death. Petals are used to make a trail so that the spirits can see the path to their altars.

"Calaveras" – short poems mocking epitaphs of friends, sometimes with things they used to do in life originated in the 18th-19th century, after a newspaper published a poem narrating a dream of a cemetery in the future.”

A common symbol of the holiday is the skull (calavera), which is represented in masks, called calacas (colloquial term for "skeleton"), and foods such as sugar skulls, which are inscribed with the name of the recipient on the forehead. Sugar skulls are gifts that can be given to both the living and the dead. Other holiday foods include pan de muerto (or "bread of the dead"), a sweet egg bread made in various shapes, from plain rounds to skulls and rabbits often decorated with white frosting to look like twisted bones.

The traditions and activities that take place in celebration of the Day of the Dead are not universal and often vary from town to town. Ocotepec, north of Cuernavaca in the State of Morelos opens its doors to visitors in exchange for 'veladoras' (small wax candles) to show respect for the recently dead. In return, the visitors receive tamales and 'atole'. This is only done by the owners of the house where somebody in the household has died in the previous year. In some parts of the country, children in costumes roam the streets, asking passersby for a calaverita, a small gift of money; they don't knock on people's doors.