Category Archives: Events

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Easter Traditions

Easter-COAM

My daughter and I love Easter time.  Alex because she gets time off school and me because I love chocolate eggs!

As it is nearly upon us, we were talking about Easter the other day and that set me thinking about what Easter actually is and how its traditions came about?

Easter is a very important time for Christians as it celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Because Jesus died during the Jewish festival of Passover, the early Christians attached Easter to Passover.

I always get confused as to when Easter actually is as the date varies from year to year.  Apparently this is because the date for Passover is based on a lunar (phases of the moon) calendar, so Easter Day can be as early as 22nd March or as late as 25th April.  That’s because Easter Day is the Sunday following the first full moon after the first day of Spring.  Easter Day is always a Sunday as this is the day when Jesus rose from the dead, giving new life to the world,

Where did the name Easter come from?  Well some people believe it comes from the ancient pagan festival of Ostara which celebrated the coming of Spring and new life after the dark of winter.  This festival, which coincided with the time Jesus died and was resurrected, was taken over by the early Christians to celebrate the new life that Jesus gave the world when he rose from the dead.

The run up to Easter is called Lent which represents the 40 days and nights when Jesus was tempted by the devil in the desert.  As Jesus did not eat or drink during this time, some people give up a favourite food or drink for Lent.  That is why people eat Pancakes on Shrove Tuesday as traditionally it was a way of using up all the fattening ingredients in the house before fasting for Lent.  Clever!  The name Shrove comes from an old English word shriven which means to confess and receive forgiveness for ones sins.  The first day of Lent is called Ash Wednesday which comes from the tradition of putting a small cross of ash on peoples forehead at Ash Wednesday church services to remind them that they rely on God for forgiveness from their sins.  Easter officially ends 49 days after Easter Day with Pentecost or Whitsun, when Christians remember that God sent his Holy Spirit to help them.

What about the eggs, I hear you say?!  Since pagan times, eggs and chickens have symbolised fertility and new life.  The early Christians took over this meaning to help them remember the new life Jesus brought after he rose from the dead.

As we all know, Easter Eggs are brought by the Easter bunny!  During pagan times, hares and rabbits were a symbol of new life as they have such big litters.  The story of the Easter Bunny really took off in the 19th century and over time has evolved into the Easter Bunny bringing chocolate and toys as well as eggs.

Finally, when tucking into my Easter Day lunch, I’ve often wondered why we eat lamb at Easter?  One reason is that many years ago people believed the devil could take the form of any animal except the lamb.  Others believe that Jesus would have eaten lamb at the last supper.

I hope that you will spend some time at the Museum over the Easter holidays as there is lots going on.  I’m off now to buy some chocolate eggs!

By Gill Whitehead
Museum Volunteer

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Culture, Crafts and Communities

culture event at COAM

Culture, Crafts and Communities

Visit Chiltern Open Air Museum on 1 April for our By Donation day and discover how our historic buildings evoke memories for different communities living in the Chilterns.

Anna Pool from the Learning Team writes about how all communities find resonance in our wonderful collection of historic buildings from the Chilterns.

Do you ever go abroad and feel like you are at home in the surroundings? It’s funny how certain environments, buildings or objects resonate with our own personal histories and often visitors to COAM experience this. Perhaps it is because we all share a common experience of everyday life as human beings, despite our age, country of origin, mother tongue, religion or any other factors which can be seen diversive.

Certainly when I first took my Mum on a tour around the Museum I was fascinated by how many memories it brought back for her, particularly the 1940s Prefab. We spent a lot of time in there while my Mum relayed many memories of visits to her Aunt’s Prefab home in the 1950s; of washing clothes in a copper boiler just like the one in the kitchen; of listening to the wireless and of course photographs of my mother, as a baby, being pushed in a pram just like the one in the back bedroom. Sometimes it can be a particular object in a building that holds a personal memory. For me it is the highchair in the prefab’s sitting room which evokes special memories for me, as my Mum had kept a similar one which she used for my brother and I back in the 1970s, and I later used with my eldest child who is now 16. Every time I see it I am transported back in time!

It’s not just visitors from Britain that recognise the economic design of our Prefab. While showing a visitor round recently, I was surprised to hear that she had seen many Prefabs still being used as family homes in rural Russia.

Just next to our Prefab is a Nissen Hut, a military type of building of which there are some examples still around in this area. I have been lucky enough to hear many of our visitors recall memories of their own experiences of these unique buildings.

A similar Nissen Hut was used as a synagogue by the Jewish community in Haversham, near Wolverton, Buckinghamshire during WW2 until it was closed in 1947. The South Bucks Jewish community will be joining us on our opening day at COAM and will be holding their Shabbat service between 10 am – 11 am. Visitors are more than welcome to join the service and I hope to hear one or two stories from the group later in the day!

culture round house

While running education workshops I often hear both adults and children describe how they have seen or done something very similar in their home countries. The Iron Age Roundhouse seems to be a magical place of memories where visitors describe how their grandmother in India still grinds grain using a rotary quern and bakes her bread in a clay oven just like the one they see in the roundhouse. Others have walked towards the building declaring that they are ‘back in Africa’ where round homes are still built using wattle and dorb with a thatched roof.

Even during ‘wash day’ workshops I have talked with visitors from Poland and Czechoslovakia who used to help their mother wash their clothes using a wash tub and wash board; and then there is the unmistakable smell of carbolic soap which can transport any of us over a particular age, right back to our childhood!

I am sure that as you are reading this you are thinking of a building or an object that you may have seen from our collection that has special meaning for you. Please do come along on Saturday 1st April, to see some of the stories and memories we have collected from local community groups who will be joining us to support this spectacular event. And if you have not yet visited COAM then I invite you to come along to our opening event and find out which building evokes the most memories for you! To mark the opening of the Museum for the 2017 season the 1st April will also be a ‘by donation day’ for this day only we are waiving standard admission prices and allowing visitors entry to the Museum by paying a donation only.

Look out for the West Indian Story teller performing during the day at 12 pm, 2 pm and 3 pm, as well as craft demonstrations with opportunities to join in from 11 am – 4 pm including traditional weaving, Iron Age cooking, basketry and traditional thatching demonstrations in our Medieval barn.

We look forward to welcoming you to our multi- cultural day of sharing stories on 1 April, the first day of our new 2017 season.

This special multi-cultural event is kindly funded by Arts Council England.

 

 

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Summer Nights to Brighten the Winter Gloom

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Taking a look back at our 2016 wedding season there are some amazing photographs of how wonderful our site looks when it’s alive at night.

In the darkness and gloom of winter looking back at our summer season is a good reminder of how magical evenings can be….when the darkness doesn’t descend at 4.30pm.

 

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In addition to our weddings we run several events that allow you to roam the Museum in the evening. Our Enchanted Museum Event is one of them, and we will be running this very special event again on the 13th May 2017. The event has a magical theme and gives visitors the chance to explore the Museum in the evening until 8.30pm.

 

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The unique and different ways that the Museum’s buildings can be used and decorated is fantastic, and the addition of tents, tipis and marquees offers lots of ways to personalise the space.

I’m very excited to be joining the amazing team at COAM as their new Events and Hospitality Team Leader. It’s been a pleasure to look though all these wonderful photographs of the site and I am very much look forward to making all the events and weddings this year as successful as they have been.

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Should you have any enquires about weddings, we are currently taking bookings for 2018 onwards. We are always delighted to host such a special occasion.

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Caroline Melia
Events and Hospitality Team Leader

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40 Artefacts for 40 Years: Artefact 1 – RAF Cap

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This July the Museum will be celebrating 40 years since it was founded in 1976.

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Christmas Fundraising Appeal

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An invite to act like landed gentry…

Have you ever wondered why carol singers go house-to-house or where the expression ‘umble pie’ comes from?

This year, we’d like to invite you to act like the landed gentry.
Turkey wasn’t around in medieval times and the choice of the rich was goose or, in the country, deer. Lords and Ladies would eat the best parts of the deer and might pass what was left to the poor. The deer’s heart, liver, tongue, feet, ears and brains were known as the  ‘umbles’ and  made into a pie, hence the origin of our modern day expression ‘eating humble pie’.

So this year, please will you consider leaving your ‘umbles’ to the Museum and making a small donation to help us keep history alive.

This year the average amount each household is expected to spend on Christmas is £822. It costs us around £1000 a day to run the museum.

You can give online easily here or drop a Cheque into the office.

We have a packed 2015 season with terrific special events for visitors, thatching projects for our historic stables and cottages, new features in our working farm and exciting new literacy workshops for schools so we humbly ask for your support in making these happen. Thank you so much for all your support in making the museum a success.

By the way, in case you were wondering about the carol singers, they were thrown out of churches for disrupting the services, as they took their caroling literally, singing and dancing in circles.

As a thank you for your gift and for all your wonderful support this year, here are the staff of Chiltern Open Air Museum singing just for you….

On behalf of the Chiltern Open Air Museum Team I would like to wish you a very merry Christmas.

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Spooky Halloween Spectacular Attracts Thousands of Visitors!

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Halloween Fancy Dress at Chiltern Open Air Museum

 

Our Halloween Spectacular on the 31st October 2014, saw over 2000 people visiting the Museum in lots of fantastically creative, and spooky Halloween costumes. Visitors watched in awe as our fire breather entertained the crowds with his fire poi and his heated fiery breath! Herne the Hunter on horseback wowed the crowds and played games with younger visitors. Children decorated their own trick-or-treat bags, made scary masks and puppets and made delicious spiders. Screams could be heard from visitors who were brave enough to take on the ‘Spooky Walk’ as our ‘Scarers’ jumped out at them. The Mad Hatter and his tea party guests, spooked and enchanted visitors as they stoically entered the walk to cries of ‘Off with her head!’ and if we do say so ourselves, the volunteers and staff played their character roles superbly. Bats, spiders and ghosts haunted the site and the Museum’s apple store was simply electrifying!

 

Fire breather at Chiltern Open Air Museumfire breathingfire poi

 

This was a hugely fun, scary and successful event, thank you so much to everyone who emailed and messaged with such lovely feedback, and thank you for all the great suggestions for next year’s Halloween. This event could not have been so ‘Spectacular’ without the hard-work and creativity of all of our wonderful volunteers, so a big thank you to all of them. Make sure you put our 2015 Halloween Spectacular in next year’s diary!

 

Spooky mad hatters tea partyHerne the hunterChildren in Halloween fancy dresshalloween event fancy dressfamily visiting halloween spectacularspooky halloween windowHalloween witch

Lots more images can be found on the Museum’s Flickr stream.

 

 


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How to make history unboring for children

How to make history unboring for children

How to make history unboring for children

Stuck for ideas to make history fun and fascinating for your kids? Whether they’re into Vikings, Victorians or cavemen, there are plenty of ways you can delve into the past to keep them entertained this summer. Siân Hammerton-Fraser, Visitor Experience Manager here at Chiltern Open Air Museum, has some great suggestions for making history come to life!

1. Be part of the action: Taking the kids to see a re-enactment is an exciting way to bring history to life. Chiltern Open Air Museum stages a series of ‘living history’ events throughout the summer, where they can watch a Roman siege engine being fired, meet the riflemen of Wellington’s Army, try on a knight’s helmet and learn a few Medieval dance moves.

2. Log on for inspiration: Visit www.bbc.co.uk/history  forkids for historical games, quizzes and activities, from building a pharaoh’s tomb to creating your own Bayeaux Tapestry to playing ‘Viking Quest’ where you build a ship, cross the seas to loot a monastery and return home to claim your prize. Perfect for a rainy summer’s day.

3. Go on a fossil hunt: Budding palaeontologists will love the challenge of searching for and then identifying fossils. They are often found on beaches, in quarries, on farmland and even in people’s gardens – anywhere that sedimentary rocks are exposed. Start by joining an organised fossil hunt. Try a local geology society or venture further afield with somebody who knows the site well and can guide you safely.

4. Trace your roots: Looking into family history together gives children an insight into the lives of their ancestors and helps bring their own piece of history to life. Create a family tree, ask older relatives what they remember about their families and dig up old letters, photographs, heirlooms, medals and anything else stashed away in the attic.

5. Dress up: You don’t need a well-stocked fancy dress box to be an ancient Egyptian, Roman, or Victorian chimney sweep for a few hours. Let their imaginations and creative skills run riot. For example, an old white sheet will do for a toga, just glue on some gold trim or ribbon, plait together some wool or use thin rope for a belt and complete the look with sandals and a centurion’s sword made from cardboard covered in tin foil.

6. Cook up a storm: Help them learn about what people ate in different eras by trying out a few recipes. Host a Victorian tea party with a Victoria Sandwich cake as the centerpiece, or if you’re feeling adventurous, how about making a Medieval meat pie?

7. Guess who lived there: Visit historic local buildings or just point out interesting architecture in your area. Can they guess the eras of buildings and who lived there? What were their lives like? Were they rich or poor? Can they re-create the different architectural styles at home with Lego?

 

Pre-fab living room

8. World War One centenary: This year marks 100 years since the outbreak of World War One. Take them to see a local war memorial and talk about how the war started and what life was like for soldiers in the trenches. Instead of using history books as references, download an interactive World War One app aimed at kids.

Terrific Tuesdays
For some supervised outdoor fun, find out more about our Terrific Tuesdays holiday sessions.
The museum also offers a variety of children’s party packages, which includes themed outdoor and indoor activities and access to the adventure playground.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @ChilternOAM to keep up to date with our latest news and offers.

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