Funny how we sometimes assume we know something and for years (maybe a lifetime) never question. Never ask.
I’d heard of Old Home Days in New Hampshire for decades. While on summer vacations over the years, I’d attended quite a few, in small rural towns speckling the central New Hampshire landscape. At these marvelous festivities I’d met fascinating craftsmen; watched all kinds of trades in action, from wooden bowl carving, to wool spinning, to fused glass creations; and devoured decadent baked goods from fresh kettle cooked corn to Maple Sugar Cotton Candy, which I have decided (with the means of the official editorial decision-making capabilities at my disposal) is worthy of an initial-capped, esteemed-looking name. (It is also, by the way, definitely worth the calories. Although, given the way it dissolves so sweetly on your tongue, surely the calories must be at rudimentary levels, if not non-existent.)
Yet, for all the crafts I’ve witnessed and delicacies I’ve imbibed at various Old Home Days, as a vacationer from “the South,” I never knew the history of the occasion. I always assumed somewhere in each town there were, indeed, old homes open for public tour on this one beloved day of the year. I never thought to ask if my assumption of the name was correct. Silly enough, I never even thought to ask where the tours were and if I could attend one. I guess I was too busy standing in line for every Maple Sugar Cotton Candy bag I could afford.
But I recently learned that after the Civil War, many men who returned home to the rugged, unforgiving New England fields, often headed south and west for easier farming. (It certainly earned it’s nickname of “The Granite State.”) In 1899, the Governor of New Hampshire decided to try to change the tide and encourage native New Hampshirites to return to the land of their roots. He figured if he could just draw them home in droves, families would realize how much they missed the beauty of their old home place. He organized, aptly named, an “Old Home Week.” Towns across the state welcomed native New Hampshirites to revisit their old homesteads, revisit the land dotted with crystal clear lakes and sweeping vistas, revisit the land of their youth. And they did. Many visited for a long week, catching up with friends who had grayed and bent a little but who still had youthful jubilee in their voices when talking of their New England childhoods together. As they reminisced, they soaked up the forgotten beauty of the landscape.
Roads that wind and unfurl, opening up to one scenic overlook after another. Mountains that curl their backs up into the pulled wisps of clouds, who themselves are stretching across the azul summer sky.
Intricate marvels of nature that await anyone who will slow down and let the beauty envelop them.
Lakes that lazily take in the bounty of the scenery and offer it back serenely, reflected among the water flowers that dot their shore.
The original “Old Home Week” was a success. Families moved back to the beauteous land they didn’t even realize they had missed so dearly. New Hampshire’s population increased. Over the years, the celebration shortened to a single day, but the intent of celebrating the charm of New Hampshire and its people is still thriving today, 116 years later.
I’m excited to be a part of my small town’s celebration next weekend as a true New Hampshirite myself, no longer one just vacationing through who knows the deliciousness but not the history. Mind you, I am also hankering for some Maple Sugar Cotton Candy.
I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you… have set my feet in a spacious place. Psalm 31: 7-8