Have a 1776 Family Home Evening

By Fayone B. Willes

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    Celebrate America’s birthday at home by trying to imagine what it would have been like to live in 1776. Then have a special family home evening devoted to recreating that spirit.

    Depending on the weather, turn down the furnace or turn off the air conditioner. Remember that the only heat colonial houses had came from fireplaces. No fair turning on the electric lights or a fan—they were unknown in 1776. It will be hard to keep from turning them on all evening. When it gets dark, light a few candles instead. Pour water into pitchers and gather bowls or basins for washing.

    Mother and daughters could wear mobcaps, aprons, and long skirts or dresses. Father and sons could roll their trouser legs to just below the knees and borrow a pair of sister’s knee length stockings to look as though they had on breeches. Cut shoe buckles from yellow construction paper and tape to top of shoes—everyone in those days wore buckles on their shoes.

    Cut an 18″ circle from white fabric (broadcloth, muslin, or an old sheet). Pink, zigzag, or hem the outer edge. Measure and mark 2″ from the outer edge all around with a pencil. Measure a piece of 1/4″ elastic to fit around your head to keep the dust out of your hair. Sew the elastic on marked line. Tie strings may be used to keep the cap in place instead of elastic (see illustration).

    Mobcap  Pattern Shoe Buckle Pattern

    Mobcap Shoe Buckle Pattern


    What’s for supper? Colonial mothers didn’t have stoves so they used their fireplaces for cooking. You might not want to blacken Mother’s pots and pans if you have a fireplace, but you can still have a colonial menu for supper. Remember to eat by candlelight!

    Easy Clam Chowder
    Indian Corn Bread
    Homemade Butter

    Easy Clam Chowder

    1 (10-ounce) can cream of potato soup

    2 cups milk

    2 tablespoons margarine

    1 (8-ounce) can minced clams, drained

    1/4 teaspoon onion salt or celery salt

    dash of pepper

    Combine soup, milk, and margarine in saucepan. Heat but do not boil, stirring occasionally. Simmer 5 minutes. Add drained clams and seasonings. Reheat.

    Indian Corn Bread

    1 cup yellow cornmeal

    1 cup sifted flour

    1/4 cup sugar

    4 teaspoons baking powder

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    1 egg

    1 cup milk

    1/4 cup shortening

    Sift cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Add egg, milk, and shortening and beat with a hand beater until smooth. Pour into a greased 8″ square pan. Bake at 400° for 20–25 minutes.

    Homemade Butter

    1/2 cup whipping cream

    1 tablespoon sour cream

    sprinkle of salt

    Pour cream and sour cream into a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake hard. (Have everyone in the family help because it takes a lot of shaking.) After a while a lump of butter will form in the bottle. Open the lid and pour off liquid or whey that is left. Put butter on a plate and press gently with a spoon to remove the last bit of water. Sprinkle with salt and serve on hot Indian corn bread.

    When the meal is over and the dishes washed and put away, gather around the fire or in a candlelit room. Ask your parents to tell you some things that happened to them when they were children. Have everyone share interesting stories about their ancestors. Sing patriotic songs. Read stories from the Bible (most colonial homes had a Bible and often this was their only book). Talk about why America is a special land to all Latter-day Saints.

    Work on your knitting or crocheting or carve something from a bar of soap. Mothers used to give little children a string and a box full of buttons to keep them occupied. While your hands are busy have a good visit with the family.

    Play favorite colonial games like blindman’s buff or huzzlecap (dropping pennies into a bottle). Have a spelling bee. Pop corn, crack nuts, and drink apple juice or cider for a snack. (In 1776 cider was the most popular beverage.)

    You might find that you will go to bed earlier than usual. Colonial children went to bed soon after dark. Remember that no one had running water 200 years ago, so use the water pitchers and bowls set out for washing and brushing your teeth. Hot water can be heated on the stove.

    If you hold a family home evening like this during the winter, you can build a fire in the fireplace and ask your mother to make a bed warmer by putting hot coals in a pie plate lined and covered with aluminum foil. Just before you pop into bed move the pie plate back and forth between the sheets so they will be toasty warm.

    Illustrated by Phyllis Luch