Last Sunday, I participated in the Candlelight program at Pottsgrove Manor. Everyone should attend an evening reenactment event as it has a very different atmosphere than we have become accustomed to in our over illuminated, “blandscaped” twenty-first century. Even with the crowds and constantly being “on show,” there is something about candlelight that is soothing and makes these big spaces seem so much more intimate. Perhaps I belong in a museum because I remember having oil and gas lights in my home as a child and I find the yellow light of a few candles very soothing.
I’ve been to other “Twelfth Night” events and as someone who does not celebrate Christmas, I found the Pottsgrove Candlelight to be much more accessible. Don’t misunderstand me, we were portraying a Quaker home transitioning from the Christian celebrations of Advent to Epiphany (including Christmas and Twelfth Night) but our interpretation was on the social season and the balls. We had an event with music, plenty of good food and drink, and fancy dress. There were seasonal decorations but they were much simpler than the present custom, and you got the feeling that EVERYONE would have been welcome to join this celebration.
My role was to describe the process a gentleman went through to get dressed for the party. As reenactors, we spend a lot of money on our clothes and a great deal of research goes into ensuring they are historically correct. These clothes are often the first thing spectators at our events see. Ironically, now that I have my reenacting wardrobe, I give them about as much thought as I do my business clothes. I was surprised how interested people were in the mechanics of colonial dress and styles and fashions. As we wear these clothes, we see the stylistic differences (buttons or not, short versus long cuts, visible hand stitching, etc.) but the people who come to these events see us in completely alien attire so explaining why the coat had tails, why the pants only came to the knee, and such really seemed to fascinate the crowds.
So, find your lantern or candlesticks, don your best outfit and go to a Twelfth Night Celebration. It’s fun.