For thousands, Christmas week in the Delaware River towns means historical reenactments.
It starts with the massive Christmas-Day reenactment at Washington Crossing Historic Park in Washington Crossing, PA, but it hardly ends there. So let’s start at the beginning and follow the cannon fire from there.
You’re forgiven if your historical IQ is, um, a little low. But if you’re from around these parts, it’s worth your time to become better acquainted with George Washington’s legendary river-crossing under the cover of darkness on Christmas night 1776. Regardless of whatever you remember reading in a seventh-grade textbook, that night, we became a nation.
These days, the moment’s remembered by hundreds of reenactors who don meticulously authentic uniforms and climb aboard replica boats to paddle across the river to Jersey in broad daylight. The crossing part’s kind of dependent on how the river’s running that day. If it’s too high, or too low, or too icy, it’s nixed. But the rest of the reenactment will go on as planned, either way.
It starts at 1 p.m. and it crowds up fast (in part because it’s free), so plan to get there early. Or, as long as you don’t mind missing out on the speeches and much of the staging, grab a seat on the Jersey side. If you’re the kind who doesn’t mind paying for a little extra comfort, the park’s selling a limited number of VIP passes for $65 ($120 for two). It gets you a prime seat in an enclosed tent stocked with light refreshments. No word on the heat situation.
A more inclusive telling
After Christmas, the action moves downriver to the Old Barracks Museum in Trenton, NJ, for what’s known as Patriots Week. Basically, it’s six days of demonstration and presentations that describe Trenton’s place in the Revolutionary War, culminating with reenactments of the Battle of Trenton and the Battle of Assunpink on Saturday, December 29.
Sound a little dry? Think again. A lot of these presentations describe sides of the war that never found their way into your seventh-grade textbook, like the Marbleheaders, an informal regiment of black men who helped ferry Washington and his white soldiers across the river and later fought in the Battle of Trenton. (Hear more about them on Friday, Dec. 28, at 1:30 p.m.)
Or John Honeyman, a Griggstown, NJ, butcher who became a spy during the months leading up to the war-turning Battle of Trenton. Or was he? Familiar as his story is among historians, the evidence that he ever functioned in this capacity is sketchy at best. And yet, his legend grows. Decide for yourself. Tim Stollery will get more into the story on Friday, Dec. 28, at 3 p.m., and then point you to the places that some clues may still exist.
And you were planning to just veg out with Netflix for the week?