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Tag Archives: Moravians

This and That

John and I enjoyed a cup of peach cider on the porch this afternoon. With the light fall breeze waving the back door to and fro, the respite was peaceful. Holding the warm mug and savoring the tart, yet sweet, flavors was made better only by the ginger snaps I dunked in the mug.

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English colonists introduced gingerbread to America. “We ate gingerbread all day long,” wrote the Virginia diarist William Byrd in 1711, referring to a day he spent training for the local militia. Germans who emigrated to Pennsylvania added Lebkuchen to the American gingerbread repertoire; Moravians in North Carolina rolled gingerbread dough paper-thin to make delicious crisp cookies; and Swedish settlers brought along their recipes for pepparkakor, which are the cookies we now call gingersnaps.

Eighteenth-century Americans also developed a fondness for soft, cakelike gingerbread. Mary Ball Washington, George’s mother, created such a confection, studded with raisins and orange rind, in her kitchen. When General Lafayette paid her a visit in 1784, she served him some, accompanied by a mint julep—and the gingerbread cake came to be known as Lafayette Gingerbread.

The Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg, Virginia serves a delicious ginger cake. I have fond memories of walking the streets with a mug of cider in one hand and one of those cookies in the other. Served warm, they are fragrant, as well as delicious.

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Cider was most often drunk by all ages during the eighteenth century.

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One recipe/receipt gives these simple instructions for Hot Spiced Cider.

“Pour a gallon of cider into your kettle. Drop two cinnamon sticks and eight cloves into cider. This may be heated hearth side. You may wish to add one quart of scuppernong wine for extra flavor.”

As I inhaled the flavors from my cup, I realized that the combined smell of fruit and spices would have also beckoned everyone to the fireplace in every one room cabin.

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Good things in life don’t change, but we need to remember to choose them. A safe harbor of fellowship can be found on a porch or around a fireplace; the century doesn’t matter. It’s the people we are making the memories with who are the most important. My Nanna taught me the added bonus of dunking ginger snaps to savor cider or hot tea.

Author Beverly Lewis says, “Growing up around Amish farmland, I enjoyed the opportunity to witness firsthand their love of family, of the domestic arts – sewing, quilting, cooking, baking – as well as seeing them live out their tradition of faith in such a unique way.”

Hope you can taste that cup of cider or tea now, and don’t forget the ginger snaps.


A Day of Thanksgiving: July 4, 1783

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Picture of Alexander Martin  Late in June of 1783, Governor Alexander Martin of  the newly elected state of North Carolina, at the urging of the legislature, issued a proclamation stating that July 4 should be celebrated as a “Day of Thanksgiving and Peace.”

The proclamation read, “Resolved that the fourth Day of July, be and is hereby appointed a Day of General Thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God for the gratious Interposition of divine providence in behalf of this Nation: that it hath pleased him to deliver us from the Calamities of War, and Crown our wishes with the Blessings of peace; and that His Excellency the Governor notify the same by Proclamation.”

The Moravians were an industrious, inventive, highly organized, devout people who valued education for all. Their way of life can be observed today at a living museum called Old Salem.

They also had a strong pacifist tradition, dating to their founding amid the religious struggles of the 15th century as a “peace church.” Members were forbidden to serve in the military. They lived by the teachings in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.

It’s little wonder that by 1783, the Moravians in Salem were thrilled that the battles were over. During the Revolution, both British and rebels harassed them, collected fines, and even attacked them physically. Some young men hid in the forest to escape being pressed into service. A few did join with the rebels; the church forgave them later.

The Moravians kept detailed records and diaries of each day in their community, and these words commemorate that day in 1783.

“According to the order of the government of this State we celebrated a day of thanksgiving for the restoration of peace. The congregation was awakened by the trombonists.

At the beginning of the preaching service the Te Deum was sung, with trombone accompaniment.

The Watch-Word for January 20th, the day on which the Peace Preliminaries were signed, was: The God of Jacob is our refuge, which was preached by Br. Benzien. The service closed with the singing of: Glory to God in the highest.

At two o’clock there was a happy love feast, during which a Psalm of Joy was sung with thankful hearts.

In the evening at eight o’clock the congregation again assembled in the Saal, and the choir sang: Praise be to Thee, Who sittest above the cherubim.

Then the congregation formed a circle in from the Gemeinhaus, and from there passed in procession through the main street of the town,with music and the antiphonal song of two choirs. The street was illuminated. Returning to the Gemein Haus the congregation again formed a circle, and with the blessing of the Lord was dismissed to rest.

Hearts were filled with the peace of God, evident during the entire day and especially during the procession, and all around there was silence, even the wind being still.” (from Records of the Moravians in North Carolina)

The Love Feast, a Moravian tradition that is more a celebration of community than a sacrament, was a regular part of this community. The simple meal included coffee heavy with cream and sugar, plus a sweet bun.

The log Gemenhaus, built in 1756,  burned and was rebuilt in 1788.

The church, call the “Gemeinhaus” even in the earliest records of the community of Bethabara, served as a residence for the minister and other church workers and had a “Saal” – a “meeting hall” – for the congregation; the most accepted translation of “Gemeinhaus” being “congregation house.”

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Moravians believe in the clear word of God;“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” Lamentations 3:22,23 The first printed edition of the Daily Texts (Losungen) was published in Herrnhut, Saxony, in 1731. The title page of that edition quoted this passage from Lamentations and promised a daily message from God that would be new every morning.

For each of the 365 days in the year, they read from the Daily Texts that give them a specific Word/watchword for the day and a doctrinal response.

During the crucial days of the Revolution, the German-language edition was printed in Philadelphia by Heinrich Miller, who had worked for Benjamin Franklin when he first came to America. The daily text for July 4, 1776, was from Isaiah 55:5-“Behold, you shall call nations that you know not, and nations that knew you not shall run to you” (RSV).

This all-day celebration is the first one documented in our country, and this is still reenacted today in Old Salem.

Several years ago, John and I participated in the walk around the square on July 4. Just like in the year of 1783, there was singing thankfully of the day we celebrated. As I look forward to July 4, 2016, I am truly grateful to be an American. Learning about the lives of those that fought for our country during the Revolutionary War, I am amazed at their courage and perseverance to battle against England; they were fearless.

Happy Fourth of July!