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Traditional American Holidays Through Grandma Moses Eyes

Grandma Moses Picture


One of the things that endeared Grandma Moses, as Anna Mary Robertson Moses was known, was her ebullient painting of tasks and times that were important to the hearts of Americans. She masterfully brushed her naïve paintings in an almost childlike way, but filled with pictured memories of the many years of a lifetime of living. She painted scenes that in her time were no longer a part of the daily existence of most Americans,but that harked back to their distant memories of their own “Grandmas”. The simple, but hardworking lives of the former generations were evoked in that dreamy and softened way that the years between so generously gave them. In return, modern day people were reassured of the soundness of their roots and the cultural DNA they came from.

Grandma Moses is an artist ideally suited to accompany us as we travel through some of our favorite celebrations of the year, and celebrate her art, at the same time.

Grandma Moses Picture

Grandma Moses recalls a buggy ride

‘Good Fun’ – By Grandma Moses

‘Good Fun’ , painted in 1957,is one of her famous winter scenes with colorfully bundled group riding a horse pulled sledge full of cut evergreens for Christmas.
Good Fun
She was probably most famous for her winter fun paintings. Whether it was Thanksgiving “catching turkeys” or sledding down snow covered hills, there were many opportunities to use the backdrop of winter for illustrating some of the many ways country folk made use of their time while waiting for spring planting to arrive.

Winter was brightened by the holidays of Thanksgiving and christmas, and capped off with the festivities of Maple Sugar time.

Grandma Moses Picture

Rural Simplicity in Autumn – sometimes a season is the celebration


Sometimes holidays aren’t official, and in America, especially, we love to celebrate important local events. Maybe that is passed down from our forebears. The community times of quilting bees and barn raisings were all looked forward to and took place in their own seasonal times of year. Grandma Moses helped record the celebrations of holidays from the self sufficient tasks of the farming culture she was a part of, and recorded how many Americans took advantage of times to get together and have fun while they worked.

Times Of Fellowship And Community

Quilting Bee

quilting bee

Gathering for quilting bees


Quilting Bee

Grandma Moses painted the special holiday times we all take part in within our collective calendar throughout the year. Included were those event special to early Americans: the quilting bees, sugaring off, and making apple butter.


“As a hard-working, elderly widow who advocated traditional American values like industry and self-sufficiency, and whose appearance and mannerisms bespoke of a bygone era, Moses perfectly embodied an idealized representation of the archetypal “benign great grandmother,” -J.E. Barnes

The County Fair

County Fair

County fairs were a time to show off canned goods, garden produce, and livestock. It was a brief holiday during the growing season for those in Agricultural pursuits.

The County Fair

Red Checkered House

Artwork Oil Paint of Grandma (Anna Mary Robertson) Moses - The Old Checkered House, 1853, 1945-1946 on Tin Sign by Masterpiece Collection (20*30cm)
Artwork Oil Paint of Grandma (Anna Mary Robertson) Moses – The Old Checkered House, 1853, 1945-1946 on Tin Sign by Masterpiece Collection (20*30cm)

One of the publics favorite subjects was that of the Red Checkered House. Grandma Moses painted it numerous times, and it is still a way to celebrate old fashioned America.

Instead of a print or painting, this is reproduced on tin. Great for Rec rooms and kitchens.

We Love To Skate

Grandma Moses : in the 21st Century
Grandma Moses : in the 21st Century

A fascinating look into the paintings of Grandma Moses.

The Origins of Halloween

Originally, this was a Church holiday:

” … In the eighth century Pope Gregory II moved the church festival of All Saints to November 1. The move in part offered a substitute for the popular pagan celebration of the Celtic New Year, which honored both the Sun god and Samhain, Lord of the Dead. The Celts believed at the New Year the dead came back to mingle among the living. As the ghosts thronged about the houses of the living, they were greeted with tables loaded with food. After feasting, masked and costumed villagers, representing the souls of the dead, paraded to the outskirts of the town leading the ghosts away. Horses, sacred to the Sun god, were often sacrificed, and there are some records of human sacrifice during the festival.

… Even into the eleventh century, many pagan beliefs were accepted by Christians-beliefs such as the fear of Fate, the use of medicinal herbs with incantations, sacrifices at springs and crossroads to the spirits of the place

… .In the tenth century, Abbot Odilo of Cluny began celebrating the November 2nd following “All Saints’ Day” as “All Souls’ Day” to honor not just the martyrs, but all Christians who had died. People prayed for the dead, and many other superstitions continued. Food was offered to the dead, and it was often believed that on these two festivals souls in purgatory would take the form of witches, toads or demons and haunt people who wronged them during their lifetimes.” – Christian History Institute article,2007

The American Interpretation


“In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers, than about ghosts, pranks, and witchcraft.

At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season, and festive costumes. ”

That is largely the way it is celebrated now, perhaps with less of the sense of fun, and more morbidly centered on the darker and more frightening side of the holiday.

In this scene, Grandma Moses shows the night alive with activity. The trick or treaters dressed up in sheets and the jack o’lanterns, along with the traditional holiday colors of orange and black recall Halloween for the painter and the viewer.



A very American holiday.



What is Halloween? In America, it is the time to dress up in costumes and on “Beggar’s Night” parade through the neighborhood, visiting houses on the block for free goodies, especially favorite candies and candy bars. Many people hold parties on Halloween, and decorate their homes and businesses with appropriately scary decorations.

Pumpkins play a big part in decorating and celebrating Halloween. Carving out faces and making the pumpkin into a lantern is a favorite activity. Anything “spooky” becomes part of the event.

Bethany Lowe's Folk Art Halloween
Bethany Lowe’s Folk Art Halloween

Grandma Moses

Portrait of Grandma Moses On Her Farm

Portrait of Grandma Moses On Her Farm

Grandma Moses

Introduce your children to her art

The Year with Grandma Moses
The Year with Grandma Moses

A book that focuses on a year in Grandma Moses’ world, to delight anyone with scenes from all seasons. Great way to encourage your own budding artists.

Grandma Moses Quote

“I paint from the top down. From the sky, then the mountains, then the hills, then the houses, then the cattle, and then the people. “

Over The River…and Through the Woods – to Grandmother’s House We Go!

To Grandma's

Over The River to Grandma’s House, from an old Thanksgiving song.

Over the River To Grandma’s

‘Over The River To Grandma’

The song that means “Thanksgiving holiday” to many is recalled by this painting in its title.My own grandmother remembered the bells on the horses as they drew a sleigh through the snow, and this is the picture that is conjured up for us. Not just the sleighs, but frozen creeks and the fun that was a part of what could be very hard winters burried deep in snow.

About the song

Over the River and Through the Woods

Over the river and through the woods,

To grandmother’s house we go;

The horse knows the way

To carry the sleigh,

Through the white and drifted snow, oh!

Over the river and through the wood,

Oh, how the wind does blow!

It stings the toes,

And bites the nose,

As over the ground we go.

Over the river and through the woods,

To have a first-rate play;

Oh, hear the bell ring,


Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day-ay!

Over the river and through the woods,

Trot fast my dapple gray!

Spring over the ground,

Like a hunting hound!

For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river and through the woods,

And straight through the barnyard gate.

We seem to go extremely slow

It is so hard to wait!

Over the river and through the woods,

Now Grandmother’s cap I spy!

Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?

Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!


Catching Your Own Turkey

catching the turkey

Food for The Table – Catching The Turkey

Catching the Thanksgiving Turkey

Catching your own turkey for the Thanksgiving feast is a truly an event of the past for the vast majority of us, but the traditional feast of roast turkey with all the trimming is essentially intact.

In Grandma Moses time, as in today’s holiday, Thanksgiving was a time for families of America to meet together while remembering the Puritans, the debt to the Indians, and generally give thanks to God for the bounty of the harvest that year. It is a time to reflect on one’s many blessings while getting as stuffed as the centerpiece of the meal, the Roast Turkey.

Another scene of “Catching the Turkey”

Thanksgiving – Catching the Thanksgiving Turkey

turkey scene

One her favorite subjects

Catching the Turkey

Because “Catching The Turkey” was one of her favorite themes, there are a number of variations on it. It is obvious that snowy scenes were one of those that she liked, there are so many of them. I love the wide range of seasons, and have a hard time choosing between them.

Winter Scenery


Christmas tree time

Christmas tree time

Let Me Help!

Christmas Eve – and tales of sugar plums…



This artwork of Grandma Moses is not so well known as the others. It portrays the fantasy of Santa Claus, his sleigh, and reindeer flying up into the sky.

A favorite tale of many during the Christmas Eve rituals of leaving cookies for Santa, perhaps reading the “T’was the night before Christmas” poem… and awaiting the big event, Christmas!

Twas The Night Before Christmas

Christmas Eve Tradition – puzzles

At my house we like to have a puzzle to put together on Christmas Eve. Here is one with a Grandma Moses picture.

Service Is Over 250 Piece Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle
Service Is Over 250 Piece Wooden Jigsaw Puzzle

Part of the fun is the puzzle and part is the pretty picture at the end. This has both pieces of the fun.

I love the details and the large amounts of color that gives just enough challenge for a Christmas Eve session of putting together the puzzle.

Christmas and Christmas Eve – Waiting for Christmas

Waiting for Christmas

Waiting for Christmas

Waiting for Christmas

Waiting for Christmas

Surely one of the most beloved of holidays, Christmas in America has followed quite a journey to come to the present form. From the earliest Puritans who did not observe it at all, to the exuberant Victorians who created many of the traditions we now know as an integral part of Christmas, for many Christmas is filled with cut evergreens, shiny lights and decorations, sweets galore and festive social events.

For me, one of those people who loves Christmas, there is far too much to say on the topic for this tribute to Grandma Moses, but you might wish to look at Christmas pages about traditional ways to celebrate. I like the Advent devotional times that create an atmosphere of reverence for the holy event that this holiday celebrates.

Christmas Traditions

In a nutshell, it is the holiday in which we celebrate the nativity of Jesus, “Jesus is the reason for the season”, as they say. It included the type of family closeness and joy that Grandma painted into her depictions of this holiday.

Notice the expressions on the children’s faces as they await Christmas morning- the dreams of sugar plums are delayed in the excitement which puts off sleep to the very last possible moment.



Holiday Celebration

Christmas celebration caps the year with family gathering together to open presents, enjoy the decorations and engage in a holiday feast.

No matter which American holiday is your favorite, it seems that Grandma Moses painted a dear, old fashioned memory to match it.

I hope you enjoyed this sampling of her charming work which helped open the way for many other folk paintings to be appreciated.