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Colonial love: Yuletide at St. Mary's City

historic st. mary's city

Young visitors to Historic St. Mary's City get a lesson in how to make colonial short-cakes.

St. Mary's City, MD - With the Yuletide fast approaching, Historic St. Mary’s City found a clever way to not only celebrate the holiday spirit but educate visitors about colonial Maryland as well Saturday, Dec. 3 during its last program of the season.

The birthplace of religious freedom and one of four English roots to America, St. Mary’s City has slowly but assuredly emerged as a microcosm of Williamsburg in its own right—historically a century earlier—but one without the 20th-century sprawl which eventually enveloped the Virginia site.

Some exciting things are happening at the site of Maryland’s first capital. A new wedding arbor is planned at the former Farthing’s Ordinary, now the museum gift shop. New facilities have just been installed at Chancellor’s Point where a forthcoming kayak launch is expected to open in the spring. A new climate-controlled laboratory to house the multitude of artifacts unearthed by archaeologists over four decades is nearing completion.

The next two years will prove instrumental in the next major project: a historically accurate recreation of Leonard Calvert’s house, home of the first governor of Maryland. Archaeologists first unearthed the structure in 1980 after historians had sought the site for two centuries. It’s location was a vital clue in determining the design of the former capital as it was noted in historical documents as being on the corner of two key streets.

There were, in fact, taverns and innkeepers in Colonial St. Mary’s. Van Swerigen’s Inn and Smiths Ordinary are both noted in the historical record. Quietly and without much fanfare, the historic park has erected recreations of both establishments. These two places lend themselves marvelously to programs such as Saturday’s holiday tour through a festive reenactment of colonial trials and tribulations.

There was Robert, a poor indentured servant seeking to woo the affections of another at Yuletide, and a cast of colonial characters offering various forms of advice for the young lad from stocking a good larder to having wit or the gift of dance. They arm him with a cloved apple and he sets out in search of a 17th-century romance.

One aspect of the program featured a hilarious puppet show, which in its mischievous way illuminated visitors about the English Civil War in 1645, which had repercussions in the New World.

Historically, there are accounts of an early Maryland Christmas. Peter Friesen, HSMC director of education, recounted the colony’s first Christmas, celebrated aboard the Ark and Dove.

“It was a bit of a rowdy event,” Friesen noted. “Father Andrew White, who kept meticulous records, recorded that much wine was drunk.” Many got sick from the revelry and 12 of the voyagers died as a result.

Robert fared much better, mustering up the courage to ask the lady of his hopes for her hand for a holiday with a happy ending. 

Saturday’s event was the last of the season at Historic St. Mary’s City, which will reopen to the public in March.

Contact Joseph Norris at joe.norris@thebaynet.com

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