“If only I had some grease I could fix some kind of a light," Ma considered. "We didn't lack for light when I was a girl before this newfangled kerosene was ever heard of."
"That's so," said Pa. "These times are too progressive. Everything has changed too fast. Railroads and telegraph and kerosene and coal stoves--they're good things to have, but the trouble is, folks get to depend on 'em.”
― Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Long Winter
This evening the electric company performed a scheduled maintenance check on our power lines, which meant that we were without power for an hour and a half of the evening while the power company worked. Being without power, for even just a a short time like we were, is a small glimpse at what life would have been like for our pioneering ancestors. Without false lighting and without the sun, the house was incredibly dark. There was no WIFI, which meant no internet for us either. So there we sat in the darkness without electricity, without running water, without toilets, without television, without our refrigerator, without the electric stove, and without our cell phones or computers.
So what were we to do?
Nestled away in isolation in a Wisconsin winter could not have been a fun task for the pioneers. I'm sure there was a constant worry- worry if they had enough food to last, worry if the fire would go out, worry if they would be able to see anyone again other than their immediate family any time soon (well, that one feels a little familiar....). I'm sure it was incredibly lonely, and without an optimistic mindset, I'm sure it could be really draining too.
So what did those pioneer evenings look like? How did they pass the time without the distraction of modern day technologies stealing away their attention?
These old-fashioned activities are tried and true amongst the pioneers, and they might be nice to bring into your own family's evening too. Because, though modern conveniences can be a blessing, they can also be a curse. Like a thief in the night, they can swoop in and steal you away from what's important and sitting right in front of you without you even noticing, Though we depend on modern technologies for some things in our lives, maybe you'll consider trying one of these ideas to depend on for entertainment some night soon.
Play Music Together
Music was a huge source of entertainment for early settlers, if they were lucky enough to have an instrument around. For Laura Ingalls, it was Pa's fiddle, and for many other families it was a piano. If you're lucky enough to have someone in your household who can play, enjoy the enchantment of the notes as you hum along. If you don't, maybe you want to learn! There are lots of opportunities online to learn how to play. Or, sing some songs together! Singing was another pastime too.
Play a Board Game
Chess and checkers are just a couple of fun games that have been around for many years. Playing board games with family members can be a fun way to bond and chat while spending valuable time together.
Go for a Sleigh Ride
So most of us don't have a horse and sleigh just at our houses these days, but sleigh rides were a really popular Sunday afternoon activity, especially for courting couples in the late 1800s. If this is an option for you, I'd suggest you try it!
Go on a Moonlight Hike
A full moon shining on the snow can make for a bright and beautiful night. Dress in your warm clothes and head out to an open field to walk around and gaze at the stars.
Many families didn't own many books, but of the ones they did, the pages were well worn with use. Take the time to read a book aloud as a family or grab out the family bible and do some study together.
Picking up a hobby like sewing, crocheting, or knitting can make for a productive evening activity. You might also consider creating homemade Christmas cards or writing letters to loved ones- everyone likes to get personal mail!
Learning a little more about your loved ones through stories is a wonderful way to share memories and pass the time. Just the fact that you're engaging in conversation with one another rather than immersed in your own entertainment is hugely beneficial if you ask me :)
How do you spend your winter evenings?
Check Out Posts on These Topics: