The holiday season is upon us, and the Central Jersey area, like a child’s stocking by the fireplace, is brimming—in this case, with opportunities to experience and celebrate local history, especially the area’s colonial and Revolutionary War history.
Most of the opportunities are family-friendly, and provide fun and informative outings in close proximity to Ewing.
The premiere historical events of the season are those surrounding the turning point of the Revolution: Washington and his troops crossing the Delaware, their march to Trenton (through Ewing) and surprise attack on the British in Trenton, and the battles of Trenton and Princeton in the closing days of 1776 and early 1777.
The greater Trenton area was ground zero at this crucial moment in the history of our country, and nearly two-and-a-half centuries later, the events are brought to life at a number of venues during a week-long celebration known as Patriots Week.
One prominent venue for such events is the Old Barracks in Trenton, originally constructed in 1758 as a military barracks for English troops in colonial New Jersey during the French and Indian War, and variously used during the Revolution by both British and American troops as a barracks, jail and hospital.
The Barracks hosts a variety of fascinating events throughout the year, and is a primary partner in the Patriots Week festivities.
Leading up to Patriot’s Week will be British Occupation Day on Saturday Dec. 7, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., when the Barracks will present a “day in the life” of a British infantry regiment, as they drill, cook, care for their muskets, and ready themselves for battle.
Much more additional information can be found at barracks.org
Those British soldiers better be ready, because Washington and his troops are coming! The popular re-enactment of the historic crossing on Christmas Day (noon-3 p.m.) at Washington’s Crossing can admittedly be mobbed, but it is a bucket-type experience to be witnessed at least once.
Associated events are the rehearsal for the crossing, being held this year on Sunday, Dec. 8, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and a free lecture at the Washington Crossing State Park (N.J.) Visitor’s Center Museum on Saturday, Dec. 14 at 2 p.m.
The lecture is about the significance of the crossing and subsequent battles, as described in letters and diaries of those present.
Information about these events, and many, many others throughout New Jersey, can be found on the excellent and very informative “Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area” website, revolutionarynj.org.
The Trenton Downtown Association then hosts Patriots Week from Dec. 26-31.
The week full of Revolutionary events, talks, demonstrations, tours, battles and history always promises to delight and enlighten young and old.
Battles in the streets, a pub crawl, a colonial ball and a walking tour are just some of the highlights.
Go to one event, one day’s events, or one each day—but go! Schedules and descriptions are available online at patriotsweek.com.
One stop in Trenton might include Ellarslie, The Trenton City Museum, located in Cadwallader Park. Holiday events are scheduled, including the annual Holiday Boutique on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 7 and 8. Additional information about exhibits and events can be found at ellarslie.org.
Of course, there are activities happening all over, beyond Trenton. In Princeton, Morven Museum hosts the annual “Festival of Trees,” displaying dozens of holiday trees beautifully and creatively decorated for the season, including a submission by the West Trenton Garden Club. The festival runs through Jan. 5. More info at morven.org.
Lawrence Township also has offerings, including tours of the 1761 Brearley House, and a two-mile march down Route 206 in celebration of Colonel Hand and his troops holding the British back.
The Howell Living History Farm in Hopewell (howellfarm.org) is a great place to visit any time of the year to experience life on a 19th century farm. “Christmas on the Farm” takes place on Dec. 7 from 10 – 4.
A family outing to any of these events (or others) celebrating our history is a perfect way to enjoy what happened then, now! Happy holidays, and have fun!
Helen Kull is a member of the Ewing Township Historic Preservation Commission.