By Laurie Gordon
The keepers of Coursen Corners in Fredon bring history to life each year by celebrating 12th Night in period costume and educating the public in a fun way. Pre-schooler Teddy Adams, of Fredon, loved the singing minstrel so much that he requested multiple songs. Though it was January fourth, the songs were all Christmas-themed tunes, and balladeer Don Thoenig delighted in playing for the lad and others who came to the 12th Night celebration at the historic Coursen Homestead.
“This is fun and I liked the music,” Adams said.
That's what this annual celebration is all about. The Keepers of Coursen Corners dress in 18th century period clothing and keep the rarely seen tradition of celebrating 12th Night alive.
“We want to keep 12th Night alive and show people history and this lovely historic home,” said Myra Snook.
Ginny Wask, Ginny Richardson and Snook were the founders of the Keepers of Coursen Corners in effort to save the house and perpetuate history in the community.
“When we took over the home a number of years ago, we were fortunate that over the years, the various tenants had kept it in good shape,” Snook said. “They had covered the fireplace, but when we uncovered it, it was in perfect shape and they'd even left the kettle.
Over the years, rooms have been restored to emulate the original home which was purportedly a log cabin built in the mid 18th century by Johannes Coursen and his wife, Gertrude Van Tuyle which consisted of four rooms on the first floor with a chimney across the corner of two rooms. There were three bedrooms on the second floor. The kitchen, located on the southern end of the house, had a large bake oven to the right of the chimney.
Una-Lee Williams was working in the kitchen preparing meals of old right on the original hearth. Pot roast, potatoes, carrots and onions as well as stuffed cabbage were on the menu as was a 12th Night cake prepared by Jane Butz.
“I remember growing up - 12th Night was much more celebrated,” she said. “My family would go to Hayek's Market (still located in Newton) and purchase items and the colors for 12th Night were blue and purple,” Williams said.
She added that George Washington loved celebrating 12th Night.
“It was his favorite holiday and he loved to dance,” she said of the history she'd read. “On Christmas Day things were more subdued back then and he would read, but come 12th Night there was a big party.”
“Their 12th Night cake must have weighed five pounds,” Butz said. “They used 40 eggs and it's like a pound cake so it must have been huge. Still, around Paris, 12th Night is a big celebration and you can find something called Galette all around.”
The Coursen Homestead was fully decorated for Christmas as people strolled in and out admiring the rooms restored to their original form and tasting the food.
“It's a great celebration of history,” Thoenig said. “We love doing this every year to keep 12th Night alive here in Fredon.”
The home stands next to Lodestar Park in Fredon. For information or to arrange a tour, call 973-579-1490, or visit the website, https://coursenscorners.wixsite.com/coursenscorners