Sunday, December 9, 2018

Christmas Traditions in the 1700s

By Tiffany Amber Stockton

Last month, I shared about the history of the New York Symphony. If you missed that post, you can read it here:

Now, let's go from the crafted instruments of music to holiday traditions.

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Christmas Traditions - 1700s

I wavered and pondered and struggled over the topic I'd select for today's post. With Christmas right around the corner, I didn't want anything to feel "contrived." On the other hand, the theme seemed perfect.

So, today, I'm going to cover Christmas traditions in the 1700's.

Christmas wasn't always celebrated the way it is today. In fact, the Puritans of Massachusetts banned any observance of Christmas, and anyone caught observing the holiday had to pay a fine. Connecticut had a law forbidding the celebration of Christmas and the baking of mincemeat pies! A few of the earliest settlers did celebrate Christmas, but it was far from a common holiday in the colonial era.

The first record of Christmas trees in America was for children in the German Moravian Church's settlement in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Christmas 1747. Actual trees were not decorated, but wooden pyramids covered with evergreen branches were decorated with candles.

The custom of the Christmas tree was introduced in the United States during the War of Independence by Hessian troops. Decorations included lace, ribbon, tin, food items and lit candles. Most other early accounts in the United States were among the German settlers in eastern Pennsylvania. Just as the first trees introduced into Britain did not immediately take off, the early trees introduced into America by the Hessian soldiers were not recorded in any particular quantity. Even so, it is known that the Pennsylvanian German settlements had community trees as early as 1747.

Decorations were still of a 'home-made' variety. Young Ladies spent hours at Christmas Crafts, quilling snowflakes and stars, sewing little pouches for secret gifts and paper baskets with sugared almonds in them. Small bead decorations, fine drawn out silver tinsel came from Germany together with beautiful Angels to sit at the top of the tree. Candles were often placed into wooden hoops for safety.

One of the primary reasons Christmas wasn't celebrated is due to its pagan association. Puritans and Protestants alike frowned upon any connection to this celebration. Any observance was made primarly by German and Dutch colonists in the Middle Colonies. German gifts such as nuts and apples were given to needy children by St. Martin and St. Nicholas know to be the forefathers of Santa Claus as we know him today. Kris Kringle evolved from the German name for the Christ Child (Christkindlein). Dutch settlers coming to America changed St. Nicholas to Sintr Claes who became the gift giver.

However, as the dawning of a new century approached, we begin to see a greater occurrence of the traditions so many celebrate and enjoy today.

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* Do you have any German or Dutch ancestry/roots that have influenced what you do today?

* What traditions are special in your home?

* What traditions did you have a child that you continued with your own family?


Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having a very active imagination and cited with talking entirely too much. Today, she has honed those childhood skills to become an author and speaker who also works as a force for literacy as an educational consultant with Usborne Books. On the side, she dabbles in the health & wellness and personal development industry, helping others become their best from the inside out.

She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, along with their two children and two dogs: Nova, a Shiba-Inu/Besenji mix and Nugget a Corgi/Chihuahua mix, in Colorado. She has sold twenty (21) books so far and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. You can find her on FacebookTwitterGoodReads, and LinkedIn.

1 comment:

  1. When our children were home, we gave them a pair of pajamas to be opened on Christmas Eve. Their stockings also arrived as close as possible to the sleeping child so they could be occupied when they first woke up on Christmas morning, and not tackle the tree before parents had their first cup of coffee. Priorities, ya know!