Winter Walk at Historic Mill Creek

Wear your muck boots and join naturalist Kyle Bagnall on a guided walk at Historic Mill Creek. Meet in the parking lot where we’ll begin a leisurely stroll of about 2 miles along the trails, looking for signs of an early spring. Waterproof boots are recommended as we’ll likely experience wet trails and some uneven terrain. Admission by donation.

The reconstructed Ste. Anne's Church decorated for Christmas with garlands and lit candles.

It’s A Colonial Christmas at Colonial Michilimackinac

Historic Interpreters getting ready to celebrate Christmas at MichilimackinacThe sun sets on the Straits of Mackinac. Fires crackle in stone hearths. The smell of treats and warm beverages fill the crisp winter air. Laughter, conversation, and more can be heard emanating from inside the palisaded walls. It’s A Colonial Christmas Saturday at Colonial Michilimackinac in Mackinaw City.

 From 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. (last admission at 6:00 p.m.) the holiday traditions of the 17th and 18th centuries are alive for all to explore. As visitors enter through the secondary entrance off Straits Ave under boughs and decorations, lanterns will light the path to the palisaded walls, as the historic residents of Michilimackinac invite you into their homes to celebrate.

 “A Colonial Christmas is a chance to dig deeper into the lives of the historic residents of Michilimackinac and explore even more of this history of the Straits of Mackinac,” said Mackinac State Historic Parks director Steve Brisson. “We hope our visitors find it to be an enriching and fun event that will help us all appreciate the history of holiday traditions.”

 Upon entering the South Southwest Rowhouse, travelers will be welcomed with hot chocolate and the chance to look at available wares (and purchase tickets to the event, if you don’t already have one). Upon exiting the Rowhouse, more lanterns will light the paths, while the smell of treats and the fires burning in the fireplaces indicate the buildings to enter. You are now on your own to explore at your own pace.

A cake, tea, cookies, and candles set on a decorated table.

Various treats to be found at A Colonial Christmas, including the King’s Cake, in the center.

 At the Merchant’s House you’ll find coriander cookies and seats around the fire, where you’ll learn about Réveillon, the French tradition of eating a night-time meal after Midnight Mass, including many desserts. In the Northwest Rowhouse the French celebration of New Year will also be observed, as it played a major part of the holiday festivities. Here you can sample the King’s Cake, but be on the lookout for the ‘bean’ that will make you king for the day.

 In the Barracks you’ll learn of British and German military traditions, as the soldiers may have celebrated the holidays with feasting, storytelling, and games. Enjoy a treat and learn about the tradition of the Christmas pie. British holiday traditions will continue in the British Trader’s House, as 18th century stories will be told while guests sample comfit. Ghost stories will be told in the Soldier’s House, which was a popular holiday tradition.

 Wassailing will take place in the Priest’s House, where hot wassail will be available as you make your way into Ste. Anne’s Church, which will be dressed for Christmas Mass and you’ll learn about the first Christmas at Mackinac.

The reconstructed Ste. Anne's Church decorated for Christmas with garlands and lit candles.

The Church of Ste. Anne decorated for Christmas.

 The celebration continues outside, as popcorn will be available on the porch of the Guardhouse. Over on the parade ground you’re encouraged to join a game of Trap Ball, a game played all year, but especially during the holiday season.

 Finally, down in the Treasures from the Sand exhibit, you’ll learn how the soldiers and fur traders decorated their houses for the holidays and have a chance to make your very own decoration to help decorate your own house.

Tickets available online or upon arrival. Last admission is at 6:00 p.m. Call 231-436-4100 for more information.

 Visitors are encouraged to dress warmly, as the buildings at Colonial Michilimackinac are not insulated for the cold weather. Restrooms will be available in the South Southwest Rowhouse.

 Much of Colonial Michilimackinac has been reconstructed based on archaeological excavations, including its 13 buildings and structures, many of which will be open featuring special activities during A Colonial Christmas. The fort and fur trading village was founded by the French in 1715 and is depicted today as it was in the 1770s when occupied by the British. 

Twilight Turtle Trek

Mackinac Island Turtle Trek – A lantern-lit ski and snowshoeing trek through some of Mackinac Island’s natural winter wonderland. The trail begins at Greany Grove (corner of Arch Rock Road and Huron Road) with a bonfire and hot chocolate. The trail is groomed, track set, lit by lanterns and approximately two miles long. This is a free event sponsored by Mackinac State Historic Parks, Mackinac Island Community Foundation and the Mackinac Island Ski Club.

Family Fun Night at Fort Mackinac

Join us at Fort Mackinac for ice cream, games, and more, then stick around for Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory at dusk! Sponsored by Doud’s Market and Mackinac Associates. This is a free event! Part of the Mackinac Island Fudge Festival. Enter through the Avenue of Flags (rear) entrance. #thisismackinac

Wit and Mirth: Leisure and Recreation During the Fur Trade

Even in the Great Lakes wilderness, the historic residents of Michilimackinac knew how to have a good time. Join the interpretive staff at Colonial Michilimackinac June 17 for “Wit and Mirth: Recreation at Michilimackinac”, a day full of entertainments that will allow guests to play games of skill and chance, take tea with the neighbors, hear historic poetry, laugh at jokes, and more.

All events are included with regular admission to Colonial Michilimackinac, and all events take place during normal operating hours (9:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., last admission 6:00 p.m.).

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

9:30 a.m. – Fort Michilimackinac Open
10:00 a.m. – Bales, Barrels and Boxes: Supplying the Great Lakes Fur Trade Program
10:30 a.m. – Artillery Firing Demonstration
11:00 a.m. – Card Games at the Soldier’s House Program
12:00 p.m. – Literature at Michilimackinac Program
1:00 p.m. – Voyageur Games Program
2:00 p.m. – Gardens of Michilimackinac Program
3:00 p.m. – Artillery Firing Program
3:30 p.m. – Dice Games at the Merchant’s House Program
4:30 p.m. – Some Tea and Loaf Sugar: Tea at the British Trader’s House Program
5:30 p.m. – Music and the Fur Trade Program
6:30 p.m. – Musket Firing Demonstration
7:00 p.m. – Fort Closed for the Evening

Les Feu Follet

The following is excerpted from Were-Wolves and Will-O-The-Wisps: French Tales of Mackinac Retold, written and illustrated by Dirk Gringhuis. The stories in this book are the basis for Fort Fright, an annual event that takes place in October. Fort Fright 2022 takes place October 7-8 – click here for tickets

Les Feu Follet

 Marie and her husband Robert along with their baby, Jean, lived in their home outside of Fort Michilimackinac. One warm summer day, Marie’s cousin, young Jacques from Montreal, came to pay a visit. Marie was delighted when Robert suggested that he take a day’s trip to meet with some courerurs de bois near the Ottawa Indian village of L’Arbre Croche, the Crooked Tree, Marie was quite content to stay at home with her young cousin, the baby and a Pani woman servant. Panis were Indian slaves, prisoners taken in Indian wars who served as domestics.

 All went well until evening when storm clouds began to form over the lake and white caps showed their plumes far out in the lead coloered water.

 The women watched it approach the cabin. Now the sky was very dark except for the brilliant lightning forking lakeward. Marie began to worry about Robert and asked the Pani woman to split some slivers off the Christmas Log (always preserved year by year) and to throw them on the fire to prevent the thunder from falling. She then glanced at the door and was relieved to see a branch of white torn still in place. This bush was thought to be a divine lightning rod. The custom had probably come from the fact that thorns such as these had crowned the Saviour’s head.

 Gradually the rumble of thunder and the lightning passed. By not it was dark. Marie’s fears began to rise once more as her husband failed to return. Going to the window she peered into the darkness. Suddenly all were startled by a shrill whistle. Even Jean in his crib, began to cry. Quickly, Marie slammed the shutters clossed, and bolted them. “I saw the feu follet dancing over the fields, if I had not shut it out it would have entered and strangled us!” she cried. “Le Bon Dieu preserve Robert this night!”

 Her cousin tried to comfort her. “Do not fear, Robert your husband can take care of himself.” he said. “If you like, now that the rain has stopped, we can go looking for him.” A sturdy young man, he moved toward the door confidently trying to ease his cousin’s fears. Jean was sound asleep and the Pani woman was a good nursemaid. Marie made up her mind. Robert was never late, something must have happened on the trail.

 “Let us go,” she said, wrapped a shawl around her shoulders and handed a lantern to Jacques. “I know the path well.”

 As they walked Jacques, trying to keep her mind from her missing husband asked, “What are the feu follet like at Michilimackinac, cousin?”

 “They are not always dangerous and they appear as lights above swampland. When twin lights are seen in the twilight, they are called Castor and Pollus and this is a happy omen.”

 “This I had not heard,” said Jacques, lantern held high, watching the dim trail ahead.

 “But,” Marie continued, “When a single light appears it is named Helene. Then he who sees it must throw himself on the ground and cover his face. For the light holds an evil magic that lures the traveler to desert bogs or steep ravines then leaves him there to die … But Robert does not believe in them” Jacques shook his head. “Grand-pere who came from Caen in Normandy said that the feu follet there, are male and female and are supposed to be those who have sinned against purity. Therefore the Normans call maidens who have sinned, fourolle, such as ‘fourolle Jeanne’ or ‘fourelle Mignonette’. The Evil One gives them power to turn themselves into bright lights leading travelers to their deaths.”

 Marie shuddered.

 “Perhaps it is time we shouted for Robert” said Jacques. Together they called out his name again and again, for now the ground was getting miry and frogs croaked dismally close by. The lantern threw weird shapes against the dark trees, and Marie held her shawl tighter around her shoulders. Still there was no answer. Desperate, the young wife uttered one last despairing cry. It was answered instantly by a pistol shot. With a shout they both sprang forward through the underbrush. There in the swamp was a figure up to his waist in the sucking mud. It was Robert.

 Together they made a bridge with their hands and soon the weary traveler was in his wife’s tearful embrace.

 As they made their way happily homeward, he told his story. Returning later than expected from the village, he had become lost in the storm. All at once he had seen a light and followed it only to plunge into the swamp. He cried out for help until he grew hoarse and all he heard was the mocking laughing of goblins. At last, when he thought all hope gone, he had heard his wife’s final cry. It was then he had fired his pistol.

 “Perhaps now, mon cheri, you will believe in les feu follet?” asked Marie.

 Robert nodded, thoughtfully, “You were right, ma petite. I believe!”