Family Traditions: Washington's Birthday

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This past weekend we visited one of our favorite historical parks, Washington's Crossing, to celebrate General George Washington's 284th birthday. This is the second year we visited the park for the event and, luckily, it wasn't 18 degrees with snow and ice covered grounds this time around (although the snow did make for a beautiful scene).


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Last year at Washington's Crossing  During the Birthday Event

The festivities were almost the same as they were last year and included historical portrayals of colonial life, live blacksmith demonstrations, lessons in quill calligraphy writing, recipes for Martha Washington's "Great Cake" recipe. In addition, there was a fife and drum band performing throughout the event and a cannon setting off great booms across the river (resulting in quite a few crying children as well!).

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In addition, all of the historical buildings are opened up to the public where you can get a glimpse of the simplicity of life, dress up like a soldier or a lady, and sit inside one of the replica boats they use for the crossing on Christmas Day. I can't even imagine piling  dozens of soldiers into them with their supplies, huddled for warmth as they try to maneuver around icebergs in the damn near frozen river in the middle of the freezing night to catch some Hessian solider by surprise. I also can't imagine cramming a hundred bodies into the tiny pub at the entrance to the park. Pile that with the lack of hygiene/sanitation and it's a wonder so many survived to begin with!

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At the beginning of the event, the children are give a postcard on which you place stickers you received after visiting each of the attractions. Collect them all and it is a "Happy Birthday" message to Mr. Washing they can color and send to the president.

Later in the day, all are invited to take place in singing Happy Birthday to Mr. Washington and partake in some tasty birthday cake, which he cuts the first piece of with his sword! (You can see a picture of it HERE. We were far in the back so I couldn't grab a pic for myself.) I was able to snag a quick pic of my boys with General Washington himself, who is portrayed by John Godzieba. We have seen him perform a few times, and I have to say he really is wonderful at his job!
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After cake (which sadly I couldn't partake in due to my Lenten Promise, we traveled a few miles down the road, towards the Thompson-Neely House, across the Delaware canal, to visit the grave site of Captain james Moore along with several graves of unknown soldiers who died before the Battle of Trenton on Christmas Eve, 1776.

    "Although no Americans were killed during the Crossing and the First Battle of Trenton, others did succumb to exposure, disease or previous injuries. James Moore, a 26-year-old artillery captain from Alexander Hamilton’s New York company of artillery, is the only veteran buried in this plot whose identity is known. His original marker, since replaced, was inscribed, “To the Memory of Cap. James Moore of the New York Artillery Son of Benjamin & Cornelia Moore of New York He died Decm. the 25th A.D. 1776 Aged 24 Years & Eight Months...”
                                                                                   http://www.washingtoncrossingpark.org/

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The grave site is about 1/4 mile into the homestead sight from the parking lot (and over a spillway were were not prepared for!) It's an incredibly moving sight when you approach the raves, eerily humbling in its own way. Knowing that the families of all of those unknown soldiers probably never had any real closure of their deaths, not knowing where their loved one was buried to even visit their final resting place, and to know that they were most likely buried in a hurry in the bitter cold on Christmas Even, where they suffered terribly waiting for a battle to begin instead of with their children (or even parents since many were so young to begin with).

There are easily miles of walking trails across the park that I'd love to visit when the weather becomes a bit more tolerable. Next time, though, we will definitely remember to bring waterproof shoes!




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