A Quiet Easter

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, April 7, 1912: Had a long time deciding whether or not to go to Sunday School this afternoon, as I rather expected some company. At last I made up my mind to go regardless of the rain. Easter came today and didn’t bring me any goodies.

Recent photo of house where Grandma grew up.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Was Grandma hoping that some relatives would stop by for Easter? Since the Muffly family didn’t have a phone they may not have always known whether or not someone was planning to visit.

I’m always surprised how little the Muffly’s celebrated holidays.  For example, on Thanksgiving, 1911 Grandma wrote:

Today is Thanksgiving. We didn’t have such a terrible sumptuous repast either. I would have liked to have had a piece of a turkey gobbler and a dish of ice cream, but we were far from that. I sat at home all day doing miscellaneous jobs which I didn’t relish any too well. . .

14 Responses

  1. My mother – born in 1905 – had similar experiences. Life was simpler, harder, easier!

    • I like the way you juxtaposition harder and easier. You expressed it so succinctly and accurately–some things were harder; other things easier.

  2. I’m thinking Miss Helena Muffly may well have been expecting/hoping for family to visit…I say this only because when living in Seattle (12 mths in 1994) I noticed Easter was much more of a family celebration than here in Australia where it’s mostly about Easter Bunny, Easter Eggs & Hot Cross Buns, esp for the children :-) oh.. and Church, of course, for those who are religious.
    Is it common practice, across the USA, for extended family to get-together for Easter? … Cheers, Catherine.

    • My extended family got together for Easter when I was a child. Of course, there was church in the morning–but we also had a family Easter egg hunt that aunts, uncles, and cousins gathered for. Many families have a big meal that includes ham on Easter.

  3. Although you would not expect the celebration and treats that we have today on the holidays, one hundred years ago. An egg was a treat for my mother born 1908 in Ireland. The eggs were for selling and only the grandmother got an egg. However, the children took turns to get the top of the grandmother’s egg. I joked with her that she being one of 16 children, she must have waited 2 weeks for her turn. On Easter, the children were each given an egg and my mother used to dribble the yolk on her chin to wear to church to show everyone that she had eaten an egg. She admitted that everyone else most likely had an egg that morning too but she was so proud. In the US, it was an occasion for extended family to gather for an Easter meal.

    • What a wonderful story! It’s hard to imagine today how frugal families needed to be back then–and how having an egg was a big deal. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Perhaps life was financially difficult, almost certainly more physically demanding and perhaps fewer friends close by. We take for granted how easy it is for us to stay in touch. I hope you have had a very happy Easter.

  5. I would have thought that living out on a farm they would have been able to have bigger meals on holidays. Kind of sad. I just read about her collecting the eggs and now no fun for Easter. Glad she made it to church anyway. What church did they attend? When I was growing up we didn’t have a big family dinner like we did for Christmas and Thanksgiving. I wonder why.

    • She never mentions the church by name in the diary, but I think that she attended the McEwensville Baptist Church. There were three churches in McEwensville at that time: Lutheran, Baptist, and Reformed. Based on deduction from clues in the diary, I believe that she attended the Baptist one. For more details see the the Feb. 5, 2011 post titled Which Church Did Grandma Attend?

  6. Oh and the house looks like it’s in great shape. Maybe could use a coat of paint but it’ll look so nice when all those daffodils open up. The houses my parents grew up in are gone, and those of my grandparents too. Sad.

    • It is a very nice looking home–and the person living in it obviously enjoys gardening.

      The first house that I lived in after I got married is now abandoned. Houses seem so permanent–but they really aren’t As you said–Sad.

  7. Sheryl, I too was struck at how little attention was paid to holidays in J.P.s diary — tho it was set 50 years earlier. Makes me wonder just when we started to have such a holiday preoccupation — Valentines, St. Patrick’s day, Easter, Memorial Day, 4th of July, and on and on. Certainly seems later than 1912.

    • It makes me feel better that your relative’s diary was similar. I keep wondering if the Muffly’s were less close to their relatives than many other families in that era. It makes me feel better to know that holidays probably just weren’t celebrated back then like they are now.

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