Tuesday, December 11, 2018

19th Century Christmas Customs

 By Kimberly Grist

Many English traditions were forgotten after the Revolution, as Americans sought to establish their own beliefs and ways of doing things that fit with their unique identity. It was only after the first half of the 19th century when Christmas customs were reinvented. Ancient traditions from previous generations were combined with modern American influences and slowly shaped Christmas into a unifying holiday 

Interesting Facts:
  • Congress was in session on December 25, 1789.
  • Christmas wasn't decalred a federal holiday unil June 26, 1870.

Christmas Trees

In 1834, Britain’s Queen Victoria brought her German husband, Prince Albert, into Windsor Castle, introducing the tradition of the Christmas tree and carols that were held in Europe to the British Empire. 
Courtesy of Old Sturbridge Village
Influenced by German immigrants, Americans began setting up an evergreen tree in their house for the holiday and putting small candles, sweets, and toys on its branches. 
Christmas Trees were first sold commercially in the United States in 1851 and were randomly cut down from the forests. Approximately 30-35 million real (living) Christmas trees are sold each year in the United States

Saint Nicholas

The story of Saint Nicholas, a Christian holy person in the third century was known as a protector of children. In 1860, American illustrator Thomas Nast borrowed from the European stories about Saint Nicholas, to create Father Christmas aka Santa Claus.

Nast, who created images for the United States Democratic and Republican parties, drew his version of Santa Claus for Harper's Weekly magazine in 1860. Until the 1880s, Nast added more details to his version legend including a home-workshop at the North Pole and the Naughty and Nice list.

Candy Canes

Another traditon with origins in Germany and date back to 1670 in Cologne, One popular account is that a choirmaster wished to quiet the children in church and commissioned a candy maker to design the candy in the shape of a crook to remind them of the shepherds who came to visit baby Jesus at his birth. The candy was handed out to children as they watched plays concerning the nativity.

The first reference in America to the candy cane was in 1847. A German immigrant from Wooster, Ohio decorated his Christmas tree with candy canes. 
The earliest patent for a candy cane was filed by the Bunte Brothers of Chicago, Illinois in 1920.

Superstitions and Folklore 

While researching traditions in the 19th century for my new release, Emma's Dream, I discovered some superstitions steeped in tradition about Christmas and marriage. 

Listen for the crow

From the land who introduced the Christmas tree, an old German superstition stated should a maiden wish to know if she'll be married in the year, she should go out to the chicken coop on Christmas Eve and knock on the door. If she hears a rooster crow, she will. But if she hears a hen instead she won't.

A piece of cake

In the 19th century Christmas cakes were often part of the celebration, although it was considered unlucky to cut into one before that day. A portion also had to be preserved until Christmas Day 

Speaking of cake, as I researched pioneer life in the late 19th century for my new release, Emma's Dream, I found that superstitions were widely practiced as immigrants migrated and cultures blended One folktale was to have suggested that if you place a piece of wedding cake under your pillow you will dream of your future spouse. 

One of my goals writing s a historical inspirational romance, was to give an accurate account of the time period. I specifically chose to expand on old wives tales and superstitions to expose the inaccuracy in the quotes and beliefs in a humorous way.  

 Combining history, humor, and romance with an emphasis on faith, friends, and good clean fun, Emma’s Dream is a delightful tale that reminds us how God uses adversity to strengthen us and draw us closer to Him.

Emma's Dream

Eighteen-year-old, Emma Brady, loves nothing better than working in the garden, but her cooking skills leave a lot to be desired. While other young women in the late nineteenth century are reading about proper housekeeping, she studies herd improvement. 

This is a story of love that's being tested by distance and has the perfect combo of love, faith and humor. A delightful read.

Connect with Kimberly:

Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/authorkimberlygrist

Website: https://kimberlygrist.com/

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