Of late my reading material has covered a couple of interesting books.
One of which I gave as a Christmas gift to myself, and in keeping with the season, was James Ballowe's Christmas in Illinois: A Collection of Holiday Memories, Recipes, and Images.
The book does not go in chronological order, but has material organized under various headings: "Christmas in Illinois History," "Living Traditions," "Songs and Symbols," "Christmas Outdoors," "Eating Merrily," and "Memories." The book is enhanced by lovely photos, and recipes; plus a fine bibliography.
Some of the items that caught my attention were such as these.....
That due to the overly-rambunctious nature of the early Christmas and New Year festivities in some regions, which seemed to carry a healthy dose of the medieval "Lord of Misrule," many were endeavoring to develop a family-oriented holiday. The New Englanders' holiday of choice was Thanksgiving, and this they carried to the Midwest, with success. However, by the 1840's and 1850's Christmas and New Year's were being more celebrated, but with a more family focus, and many of the traditional Thanksgiving foods being used for the later holidays.
The other thing that caught my attention was that one of the favorite, and traditional, were molded chocolate cockroaches. This was followed by other insects molded from chocolate.
The other book I had the opportunity to read is A True Picture of Emigration, by Rebecca Burlend, and her son Edward Burlend. Rebecca and her husband John Burlend, traveled, with five young children, from England to Illinois in 1831. Later, when Rebecca was able to return to England for a visit the two grown children she had left there, she recounted her experiences to her school teacher son, Edward. The pamphlet was later used to give prospective immigrants a view of what might face them in America.
The style is very straightforward, and more effective for it, as Rebecca describes the arduous years before they were finally comfortable.
One can just imagine the horror she experienced when she saw that her little son had crawled onto the bowsprit, and then fallen asleep. So, with great presence of mind, she stayed silent, and just as silently signaled her husband to the danger. The boy was carefully rescued.
The book is a treasure. While Rebecca's son, Edward, who was both a teacher and a poet, did the writing he did not try to add flourishes. His mother's reflections, memories, and information are offered in a unassuming manner. She was endeavoring to offer a clear picture to any considering such a monumental undertaking.
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I am a Springfield, IL based storyteller with a fascination for how folklore travels, and for history.