A Magical Sleigh Ride

sleighrideChristmas History 27.  The following quote is taken from Sketches of New England, or Memories of the Country (1842) by Nathaniel Shatswell.  He describes taking a sleigh ride to visit a neighbour, some festivities, and then a moonlit sleigh ride that turns into a race.

If there is snow on the ground, however, everything assumes a different aspect. No sooner is dinner passed, than a project is on foot to drive over to some country neighbor’s, ten or fifteen miles off. The horses are all in requisition; the largest sleighs are procured; the colts are attached to the cutters; and the whole family start off for a merry sleigh-ride. Two hours, at most, are sufficient for the drive, and cheerful faces and warm fires are waiting your arrival. Then comes the merriment of the evening. The young folks hastily arrange the dance, and while partners are procured, and places selected, old Peter Peterson, who has played for fifty years to sires and children, tunes up the violin. Contra dances, cotillons and jigs, come each in their turn, and while the old people crack of marriages and courtships, births and burials, in the corner, or go with the housekeeper to cheese-press and pantry, the others merrily foot it till called to supper. Then comes the clattering of knives and forks, the cracking of the lively cider, the merry laugh, the broad jest, the quick repartee; then the games which country folk only know how to enjoy, some to the rattling gammon, some to the sober whist; others play at hunt-the-slipper, or magic music, or blind-man’s-buff; and sports, rough and boisterous perhaps…

The moon is up over the mountains; the broad mantle of pure white snow is spread over hill and valley, reflecting a whole world of coruscations in the soft, pure light; the trees are cased in ice; the bells ring sharply on the frosty air; the roads are perfectly trodden and smooth as glass; and the horses, eager for home, seem to fly over the surface. Thick buffalo-skins, wrapped about the whole person, afford complete protection from the cold, and the keenness of the clear atmosphere but adds to the excited feeling which the festivities of the evening had inspired. At first, the party proceed in long and rapid train towards home. Soon, some eager aspirant dashes by you in his cutter, to take the lead; others contend his power to do it, and urge on their rapid steeds: then comes the run, — the racing by, — the loud shout,— the cheerful huzza of the successful sleigh load, — the dexterous driving, — the cheering on of the horses, — the crack of whips, — the hearty laugh at the defeated rivals; and last, not least, the glorious boasting of the party first at home.

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7 Responses to A Magical Sleigh Ride

  1. Ged Maybury says:

    Another world. No phones, no Facebook. If you wanted connection, you got your butt outdoors and *traveled* to meet, face-to-face. Dance, play, eat, joke, ‘court’ etc. On the surface, seemingly, so much healthier. (What went untouched and unsaid was, of course, invisible to every writer of the time.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ged Maybury says:

    I’m aware, right now this morning my time, that that episode did other things for me. There is a bit of Vincent in me: the sense of being a drifter/failure/oddball/loner who does not and never can fit. The bipolar (mild, admittedly. Gee! I can’t even do THAT well enough!!), and the creative.

    But most strongly the need to be recognised. And the constant burn that I’m not. (Nothing burns me except me, of course. The cause is not external)
    Which kind of asks a question: would my need EVER get fulfillment? Are there some of us so scarred as to never let it all in, and let it stay and add nurture to the creative soul?
    Is this a recognised condition? Something Vincent suffered from too?
    Or is it just another side to the wonky gem called Autism?

    Thx for nudging me with the Dr Who reference. I didn’t pay any attention at the time to ‘Who wrote that?” So common with TV/movies.

    Liked by 1 person

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