New Year’s Day Traditions 

In early colonized America, New Year’s Day was celebrated on March 25th, following the Julian calendar used in Europe since antiquity. It was not until 1752 when the beginning of year was switched to the Gregorian calendar (losing eleven days in the process) that the first of the year became January 1st. In other cultures, the New Year varies in its beginning, from the Spring equinox in the Zoroastrian tradition, to early winter in the Chinese lunar calendar to the Fall in Judaism.   As in other cultures, certain traditions were followed on New Year’s Day in colonial America—many of which placed the day above Christmas as a festive day. At the time Christmas was often observed, particularly in Puritan regions like Connecticut, as a solemn religious holiday so it was New Year’s Day that was a day for visiting and enjoying treats a practice first observed by those of Dutch descent in the New York Colony.   Nieuwjaarskoeken, a thin, crispy cinnamon flavored cookie imprinted with a design imprinted on both sides was eaten topped with whipped cream. Spiced wine was often shared among young women in a traditional called “wassailing.” Sauerkraut was a common food for German Americans, while Southerners ate Hoppin’ john a dish of black-eyed peas flavored with salted pork or bacon and served with rice and mixed greens—featuring ingredients that came to North America with enslaved Africans and adopted universally. Today Americans in the South still eat Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day for luck—a practice also followed by people in the Caribbean in various culinary iterations.  For the enslaved, New Year’s Day, was also called “Hiring Day” or “Heartbreak Day” because it was when debts of the previous year were settled among the White community. Enslavers would sell or hire out their human chattel to pay these debts, …

 Westport Museum for History & Culture Completes Restoration of Historic 7-sided Cobblestone Barn, Unique in the State, Groundbreaking Begins on Garden Revitalization in December 2022

 In Summer 2023, a new green space will be coming to downtown Westport. Visitors will be able to enjoy lovely grounds, meet friends and simply take a break at Westport Museum’s Revitalized grounds and gardens. Work will begin in December 2022.  The site design was inspired by an archival plan developed by Silvia Erskine Associates in the early 2000’s. Lyonsplain Architecture, Growing Solutions and Fairfield County Engineering advanced the design to further enhance and complement the property and to ensure the walkway system is accessible to all. Growing Solutions’ selection of plantings is deer resistant, incorporates plenty of CT-native and historically significant species, and is attractive throughout the seasons.  The plan includes winding paths through native flower beds and shrubbery that welcomes pollinators. Walkways will be fashioned from the original, antique bluestone pavers that were originally on the property but were removed in 2017 and replaced by engraved and plain bricks. The bricks—purchased by donors as part of a Historical Society fundraiser—will be reset as decorative edging around the new pathways and in other designated areas.  “The garden revitalization is integral to creating a welcoming, beautiful campus anchored by the historic cobblestone barn and the Bradley-Wheeler House,” said Hanna Przada, owner, and lead architect of Lyonsplain Architecture. The firm’s work includes high-end residential as well as commercial and cultural projects. “New plantings, walkways, and benches will vibrantly activate the space to create interest and engagement at the far end of the town.”  The new garden design is part of a larger project by Lyonsplain Architecture, a woman-owned firm specializing in the cultural design and the restoration and revitalization of historic spaces. Lyonsplain oversaw the heritage restoration of the Museum’s 7-sided Cobblestone Barn, which is the only one of its kind in Connecticut and one of the few in New England. …