Setting up the Village

   Readying our historical village for the summer season is a great undertaking. Curtains, bedding, and tablecloths are laundered and ironed; straw mattresses are fluffed; floors are swept and windows are washed. With help from Erna Friesen, who has volunteered to wash and iron the village linens this year, we arrange everything from the elaborate Himmelbad (heaven’s bed) in the Chortitz housebarn’s Groote Stow (parlour room) to the humble teacher’s schlopbenkj (sleeping bench) in the private schoolhouse.

   Rather than hiding away their bedding in a linen closet, the Mennonites put them on display. The Himmelbad, so named for its cloudlike appearance, is piled high with layers of wool or feather mattresses and sheets, with pillows on top. The Groote Stow was a showroom for silent signs of status: the dowry chest, the clock, the china cabinet, and the guest bed stacked high with richly embroidered bedding. The very best needlework would be on the top layer – a way for Mennonite women of the house to show their artistic skill. The Groote Stow also doubled as a guestroom, and the Himmelbad was used to host overnight visitors.

   Our Chortitz housebarn’s Groote Stow would not be complete without a Kroeger Clock. Each winter we bring it indoors to protect it from the harsh winter temperatures. The Kroeger Clock represents a tradition of Mennonite-made clocks and a culture of time consciousness.

   The Mennonites loved to plant lush flower and vegetable gardens and kept beautiful fruit orchards. Mennonite women in particular expressed themselves through the decorating of their homes and yards with flowers. This affection for flowers can be seen in the names given to Mennonite villages in Manitoba, such as Rosenort, meaning “Place of Roses”.

   Some flowers were planted near the house in window boxes. Mennonites particularly enjoyed geraniums (Ommeraunje). Each spring here at MHV, pots of geraniums which have been kept indoors through the winter are set in the windows all around the Village. Mennonite women also planted such flowers as the Hollyhock (Stockroos), Lilly (Lelje), Marigold (Stintjnoagle), Rose (Roos), and Pansy (Schwaulum-Uag). Thanks to the hard work and support of the Steinbach and Area Garden Club, this Mennonite gardening tradition is kept alive each year at the Mennonite Heritage Village.

Opening for the Season

   Both the Village and the Livery Barn Restaurant (LBR) will open for business on Friday, May 1. Remember that guests who just come for lunch at the LBR are not required to pay admission.

About the Author

Gary is responsible for the overall management of MHV. Guiding the staff, informing the board, and networking with officials, volunteers, corporate sponsors, individual donors and other guests. He has a business diploma and a MA in Global Studies from Providence Theological Seminary. With his family he did humanitarian work for 18 years in Asia, including being a CEO of a Compost Enterprise in China. He loves to discuss the Mennonite story and how it is relevant in our world. Learn more about the MHV.

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