I hope you enjoy these excerpts from Christmas past as much as I do.
This excerpt comes from a letter written by Kate Bowen to The Republican in 1925 about a Christmas in 1886. You can find the rest of the letter here.
When Will returned to Kansas - what should he do but see that a copy of the Republican be sent to me every week and a notice I read in it put me in the notion of writing this letter. It stated that an entertainment was to be held at the Kidderville school house to raise funds for the Christmas tree. That sent me to thinking of a Christmas tree and entertainment I participated in in 1886. When the settlers were all new in that locality and most of them were poor. There was not an evergreen tree within a hundred miles that I knew of!This next excerpt was written by a Marie A. Olsen in 1935. In it she discusses Swedish traditions carried on by Swedish settlers in Stotler, Ks who arrived in 1870-1880.
We had moved from Richardson Co Neb. to Hodgeman Co Ks in the early spring of 1885 and brought a family of five little girls and as Christmas drew near we realized we had brought them away from many things they had always enjoyed at that season of the year. We realized it was up to us to find the best substitute we could. That fall the first district school had began in the little school house!---which was of sod --- and we had a good little Sunday School every Sunday afternoon and preaching every two weeks. Mr. Reed was our Superintendant and it was a union school. We met there to take steps to have a Christmas tree and entertainment We counted our pennies and made our plans, sent Mr. Will Burns to
Some had taken part in programs not so long before in good big Sunday School entertainments and they taught the exercises to our little S.S. One especially comes to my mind, which some of you will remember called "Little Grandpa and Grandma Blackeyes". Little Jimmie Henderson and Little Effie Meyers took the parts and I can see them yet. Each with their sparkling black eyes and dressed for the part, and a little pupil stood between them to recite the piece.*
There were two cottage organs in that part of the country our own and the Leepers. We put ours in the wagon three times a week and took it to the school house where we met for practice. Ella Leeper played nicely and she was our organist and the songs were the fine old Christmas hymns "Joy to the World" "Low in a Manger", and "Merry, Merry Chiming Bells", and many others that for generations have rung out in the Christmas air and cheered the hearts of God'd people.
The school house was crowded and not even standing room. Many were there that had never seen a Christmas tree and many were carried back to their childhood and younger days in their old homes back East. Many tender memories were awakened that had long been dormant and as we seperated that night and rode to our homes under the lovely Christmas stars that seemed to me to always shine brighter in the clear Kansas atomsphere we all felt the solemn influence of our Christmas entertainment.
This next one comes from an account written by Adolph Roenigk.
Christmas at Fossil Creek in 1868 was spent in jollification. A month prior, and from that time on, to the approaching holiday the making of eggnog, Tom and Jerry and other drinks was the main topic of conversation among the boys at the station. I was the youngest of the force, always obliging and accommodating, and was sent to Hays City for the necessary wherewith, a three-gallon jug of whisky.
Christmas morning the making of eggnog commenced. Some was taken straight, and it was not long until John Cook and I were the only sober men on the place. The different qualities of the men’s makeup showed themselves; some began quarreling and I was compelled to act as peacemaker. Not that I cared for any fistic encounters, but in the evening while three of us were sitting on a bench the quarreling was renewed, when a fellow named James Clark pulled out a revolver and leveled it at the other fellow’ head, asking him to repeat what he had said. I was not within reach to grab the gun, sitting at the farther end of the same bench with the other men and right in range of the weapon. I could do nothing better than to keep quiet. I was angry and struck with remorse, as in getting the whisky I felt guilty of being the cause of that man’s death if that fellow had pulled the trigger. But the language was not repeated and the gun was put away. Watching my opportunity, I slipped it away from him, and then gathered up all the guns in the dugout and took them over to Cook’s, telling him of the occurrence.From the diary of Luna E. Warner, A Kansas Teenager, 1871
I stopped with Cook that night but little sleep did we get, as the boys made the night hideous with their noise until near morning. That was the last time for me to lend helping hand in such a jollification.
December 22-Louie and I skated up to the cabin. It snowed before we got back. Snowed all day. Uncle Howard drew us a load of wood Alf came from Cawker, brought Ma a letter from Genelia. She and Mr. Curtiss are going to be married Christmas at Uncle Eli's. Uncle Howard came over as usual to stay all night.
December 25-Very cold. The coldest still morning there has been. Uncle Howard got ready to go to Cawker. We all went with him-Mr. Morse, Gena, Henry, Alf, Arabella, Mr. Wilder, Nellie Ray, Ma, Louie, and I. We sat in the bottom of the wagon with the hot stones. Had turkey supper, then the wedding came off and Genelia was married to Mr. Curtiss for life. Then we all went to the dancing hall. The hall was crowded. I went to supper with Mr. Hoffman and danced schottish like everything with Mr. Phillips. We started for home after five.From the Diary of Abbie Bright 1870-1871, a school teacher.
Except for not going anywhere on Christmas, which stems from my father never being home on the holiday when he was a child, I can't think of a specific Christmas tradition. We used to go to my in-laws on Christmas morning for breakfast consisting of all the fixings including chocolate gravy and biscuits.
Dec. 28--Christmas is past. I spent it at my brothers, with the children--and a plenty of apples, nuts, pop corn, homemade candy and cider. I had a pleasant time.
It was so cold Mrs. Bee [Butler] did not want me to come up Fri., but I was determined to go.
She gave me a pair of drawers to wear, that were made out of a blanket, and they kept me warm, except my feet, which were frost bitten a little. If women rode crosswise like men, how much warmer and better it would be.
Kit seemed to like the outing, and travelled well.
There was no school Monday. I came down by way of Fees Hall in the p.m. When I turned the corner there, a team came up behind me to pass, but Kit would not let them. She started to run, and run she did for three miles, with the team close behind us. A little way from Mrs. Bees [Butler's] they turned off, and Kit slacked up.
That was the fasted riding I ever did.
They say Kit never lets a team pass her.
What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions that have been passed down through generations?If you'd like, in the name of fun, write your own diary entry of what your Christmas would be like. One commenter will, using Random.org, receive a surprise gift.
Born and raised in Kansas, where she currently lives with her husband and children, Christina loves to read stories with happily ever afters, research, take photos, knit scarves, dig into her ancestry, fish, visit the ocean, write stories with happily ever afters and talk about her family and Jesus.
Her debut, The Guardian's Promise, releases from Love Inspired Historical March 2014