Author Topic: Wondering about Christmas in our period  (Read 1812 times)

Offline Oregon Bill

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Wondering about Christmas in our period
« on: December 22, 2018, 09:30:15 am »
Guessing it might have been observed with Bible readings -- perhaps the First and Second Chapter of Luke -- and a special meal, and that's about all -- and as a matter of fact, that is probably enough.

 ;)

Online Coal Creek Griff

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Re: Wondering about Christmas in our period
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2018, 10:26:23 am »
Average people sang together much more often than we do now.  I have little doubt that Christmas carols and other hymns would be sung.  If a church was available, most people would attend a service as well. Gifts, even simple ones, would be exchanged among family members.

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Offline Buffalo Creek Law Dog

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Re: Wondering about Christmas in our period
« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2018, 01:48:20 pm »
Usual presents would be a pair of knitted socks or scarf, possibly a trinket of some kind.

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Offline Oregon Bill

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Re: Wondering about Christmas in our period
« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2018, 03:08:53 pm »
Actually, Santee's latest video speaks to this, although later than the plainsman period:

https://youtu.be/HO5FCMV1qYA

CC Griff
« Last Edit: December 22, 2018, 03:11:22 pm by Coal Creek Griff »
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Online Baltimore Ed

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Re: Wondering about Christmas in our period
« Reply #5 on: December 22, 2018, 07:18:36 pm »
Even though life was harder then I’m sure that it was a whole lot simpler than Christmas is nowadays.
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Re: Wondering about Christmas in our period
« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2018, 01:56:04 am »
Since America is and was a melting pot, it all depends on who you are , where you are from,
and what sort of ethnic community you were in.  All through the mid 1800's the Germanic and
Norse (Swede, Norwegian, Finn, and Danes) who settled in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnestoa, Texas
and elsewhere kept up their old traditions which mixed Christmas Traditions with Yule traditions,
including the Yule goat (Julbocken), which somehow transmorphed from being Thor's Chariot Goat
into a goat ridden by Father Christmas when distributing gifts.

Many of American Traditions, tho were influenced by Jolly old England.

When Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans came to power in England in 1647, the celebration
of Christmas and singing carols was stopped. However, the carols survived as people still
sang them in secret. Carols remained mainly unsung until Victorian times, when two men
called William Sandys and Davis Gilbert collected lots of old Christmas music from villages
in England.

Thus, We should all be aware that almost all the modernisch Christmas traditions
are based on the Victorian Christmas Revival - the direct result of Queen Victoria adopting
the traditions of her Spouse and the Love of her Life Prince Albert ( of Germany). When
Victoria was born in 1819, carols were only  sung in a few isolated communities in rural England.

 In pre-industrial England, the Squire and the traditions of the Twelve Days of Christmas
(December 26 through January 6)8 were a reality for many. But as they came to the
industrial cities in search of a better life, the old traditions died, and there
was nothing to replace them.

Eric Routley wrote:

    It was not so much the puritan way of life or the puritan religion as that
urbanization, that elevation of commercial values which began to take place in
those ages, and of which puritanism was only one (and a partly unintended) cause,
that nearly killed the carol.9

In many wyas, Christmas was "reinvented" by Washington Irving and Charles Dickens.

Howver, Many attribute the change to Queen Victoria, and it was her marriage to the
German-born Prince Albert that introduced some of the most prominent aspects of
Christmas. In 1848 the Illustrated London News published a drawing of the royal
family celebrating around a decorated Christmas tree, a tradition that was
reminiscent of Prince Albert's childhood in Germany. Soon every home (that could afford it)
in Britain had a tree bedecked with candles, sweets, fruit, homemade decorations
and small gifts.

The Christmas feast has its roots from before the Middle Ages, but it's during the
Victorian period that the dinner we now associate with Christmas began to take shape.
Examination of early Victorian recipes shows that mince pies were initially made from
meat, a tradition dating back to Tudor times. However, during the 19th century there
was a revolution in the composition of this festive dish.

While carols were not new to the Victorians, it was a tradition that they actively
revived and popularised. The Victorians considered carols to be a delightful form
of musical entertainment, and a pleasure well worth cultivating. Old words were
put to new tunes and the first significant collection of carols was published in
1833 for all to enjoy.

When Prince Albert married Queen Victoria, he brought with him German customs.
One such custom was the celebration of Yule, or Yuletide, a winter festival
that emerged from an ancient German pagan religious festival. The customs and
pageantry of Yuletide were mixed with the English celebration of Christmas.
Christmas was now re-invented and included elements such as the evergreen tree,
greenery, exchanging gifts, caroling, and Christmas cards.


Though the tradition of caroling is old, many of the Christmas carols
we sing today did not exist until the late 1800s. Those that were sung
in this time period (with their year of origin) included

Angels from the Realms of Glory (1816),

Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabelle
    aka  Un Flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle (1553),

Deck the Halls (1500s),

The First Noel (1600, possibly earlier),

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (1833),

Good Christian Men Rejoice (1837),

The Holly and the Ivy (1600, possibly earlier),

Joy to the World (1839),

O Christmas Tree (1824)  aka O Tannenbaum,

O Come All Ye Faithful or Adeste Fideles (1200s),

O Come, O Come Emmanuel (1100s),

Sing We Now of Christmas or Noël Nouvelet (1400s),

Twelve Days of Christmas (1780),

We Wish You a Merry Christmas (1500s),

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks (1700).

"Silent Night" (1818-63)

"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" (1840)
   
"It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" (1846-50)
   
"O Holy Night" (1847-55)
   
"Good Kind Wenceslas" (1853)
    BTW, There really was a Wenceslas – Vaclav in Czech – although he was Duke of Bohemia,
    rather than a king. Wenceslas (907–935) was a pious Christian who was murdered by
    his pagan brother Boleslav; after his death a huge number of myths and stories gathered
    around him.

"Angels We Have Heard in High" (1855)
   
"We Three Kings of Orient Are" (1857)
   
"Jingle Bells" (1850-59)
   
"What Child is This?" (1865-71)

"O Little Town of Bethlehem" (1868)

"Away in a Manger: (1885-87)

"Jolly Old St. Nicholas" (late 1800s)

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (1855),

Jingle Bells (1857),

Silent Night aka Stille Nacht (1859),

What Child Is This? (1865).

Here We Come A-wassailing  c. 1850.

Oh, Then there are the Wassailing songs. Even tho they are now often sung as Christmas Carols
they are acually based on the "New Years" custom of Wassailing in which the wassailers go
door to door, singing and drinking to the health of those whom they visit. It goes back to
pre-Christian fertility rites where the villagers went through apple orchards at mid-winter
singing and shouting loudly to drive out evil spirits, and pouring cider on the roots of
trees to encourage fertility, and often beating the trees with clubs (which actually causes
them to bear more fruit!)

A. H. Bullen writes:

    This custom was kept up till the end of the last century. Brand relates that in 1790
a Cornish man informed him it was the custom for the Devonshire people on the eve of
Twelfth Day to go after supper into the orchard with a large milk-pan full of cyder with
roasted apples in it. Each person took what was called a clayen cup, i.e. an earthenware
cup full of cyder, and standing under each of the more fruitful trees, sung —

    “Health to thee, good apple-tree,
    Well to bear, pocket-fulls, hat-fulls,
    Peck-fulls, bushel-bag-fulls.”

    After drinking part of the contents of the cup, he threw the rest, with the fragments
of the roasted apples, at the trees, amid the shouting of the company. Another song sung
on such occasions was

    “Here’s to thee, old apple-tree,
    Whence thou may’st bud, and whence thou may’st blow,
    And whence thou may’st bear apples enow
    Hats full! caps full!
    Bushel-bushel-sacks full,
    And my pockets full, too, huzza!”

    It is supposed that the custom was a relic of the sacrifice to Pomona [the Roman Goddess of Fruits].
---------

The word wassail comes from the Anglo-Saxon greeting Wæs þu hæl, meaning "be thou hale"
—i.e., “be in good health”. The correct response to the greeting is Drinc hæl meaning
"drink and be healthy".

According to the Oxford English Dictionary waes hael is the Middle English (and hence post-Norman)
spelling parallel to OE hál wes þú, and was a greeting not a toast.

The American Heritage Dictionary, fifth edition, gives Old Norse ves heill as the source
of Middle English waeshaeil.

---------
In Best-Loved Christmas Carols, Clancy and Studwell notes that the custom of wassailing may go back
to the fifth century, although the first mention in print was in 1140; Vortigern, mentioned below,
dates to the early fifth century. Sandys believes that the custom could date to the third century.


So, going back further we find:
Dr. Rickert's mention of "used in pledging" is especially interesting. William Sandys, in his
1853 work Christmas-tide includes the following passages which bear on this theme:

    The wassail bowl, of which the skull of an enemy would thus appear to have formed their
beau idéal, is said to have been introduced by them. Rowena, the fair daughter of Hengist,
presenting the British king, Vortigern, with a bowl of wine, and saluting him with
   “Lord King Wass-heil;”
to which he answered, as he was directed,
   “Drine heile,”
and saluted her then after his fashion, being much smitten with her charms.
The purpose of father and daughter was obtained; the king married the fair cup-bearer,
and the Saxons obtained what they required of him.

    This is said to have been the first wassail in this land; but, as it is evident that
the form of salutation was previously known, the custom must have been much older among
the Saxons; and, indeed, in one of the histories, a knight, who acts as a sort of
interpreter between Rowena and the king, explains it to be an old custom among them.

    By some accounts, however, the Britons are said themselves to have had their wassail bowl,
or lamb’s wool — La Mas Ubhal, or day of apple fruit — as far back as the third century,
made of ale, sugar (whatever their sugar was), toast and roasted crabbs, hissing in the bowl;
to which, in later times, nutmeg was added.

    The followers of Odin and Thor drank largely in honor of their pagan deities; and, when
converted, still continued their potations, but in honor of the Virgin Mary, the Apostles,
and Saints; and the early missionaries were obliged to submit to this substitution, being
unable to abolish the practice, which afterwards degenerated into drinking healths of other
people, to the great detriment of our own. Strange! that even from the earliest ages, the
cup-bearer should be one of the principal officers in the royal presence, and that some of
the high families take their name from a similar office.
---------
(much of this was shamelessly borrowed from several interweb tomes. no original documents were harmed)

yhs
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Offline Oregon Bill

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Re: Wondering about Christmas in our period
« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2018, 08:56:29 am »
Professor, thank you for the encyclopedic post.
We've never been wassailers in our family, but used to sing the carols lustily.
I believe my favorite of all is "O, Little Town of Bethlehem."
The significance of the line, "The hopes, the fears of all the years are met in thee tonight" always goes straight to my heart.

Offline Tsalagidave

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Re: Wondering about Christmas in our period
« Reply #8 on: December 23, 2018, 04:25:42 pm »
Merry Christmas everyone. Thank you for contributing the great insight on the traditions of Christmas past.
There are a lot of period accounts for Christmas celebrations. The Prof. nailed it that the Christmas tree was an introduced custom from Germany that really did not become a mainstream until the time of the American Civil War.  Decorating with evergreen branches came from many European cultures as was the hanging of stockings on the mantle or bedpost.
In the early 19th century, America bore witness to a vast series of Christian revivals that meant church services and hymns accompanied Christmas carols and feasting as part of the holidays.  Gifts were typically various tasty foods and perhaps some small items of use such as toy dolls, or a plethora of the toy-maker or a talented craftsman's bench. For adults, useful items such as knit or sewn goods, personal tools, watches, and various other sundries would make likely gifts. Another common gift were books and reading material. By the early half of the 19th century, printing in the western world was highly industrialized and readily available.  It was the DVD, computer software of its time and while world literacy was around 20%, literacy in the US at that time was around 95.5% (source US 1850 census).

This is a great topic and I just want to wish you all the very best this holiday season.  I wish you and yourn a very Merry Christmas.

-Dave
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Offline Professor Marvel

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Re: Wondering about Christmas in our period
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2018, 04:55:03 pm »
Thanks Dave ,

Merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year to all.

yhs
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Offline LongWalker

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Re: Wondering about Christmas in our period
« Reply #10 on: December 24, 2018, 07:20:26 am »
On one end of the era, we have descriptions and accounts of Christmas celebrations at the various trading posts.  Towards the other end, we have the accounts of Portugee Phillips interrupting the annual Yuletide Ball when he rode into Fort Laramie in 1866.  The descriptions of Christmas traditions and celebrations are almost exclusively Protestant, forgetting the fact that an awful lot of folks--especially in Texas, along the Santa Fe Trail, and further west in California--were Catholic.  Offhand, the only descriptions of Catholic Christmas celebrations and traditions I can recall are from Taos.
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Offline Oregon Bill

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Re: Wondering about Christmas in our period
« Reply #11 on: December 24, 2018, 08:44:45 am »
LongWalker, I wonder if Christmas was less important in 19th-century Catholic traditions because there are just so many feast days and other events on the Catholic liturgical calendar compared to the Protestant, which mostly has only Christmas and Easter week to celebrate.

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Re: Wondering about Christmas in our period
« Reply #12 on: December 24, 2018, 06:44:11 pm »
LongWalker, I wonder if Christmas was less important in 19th-century Catholic traditions because there are just so many feast days and other events on the Catholic liturgical calendar compared to the Protestant, which mostly has only Christmas and Easter week to celebrate.

Bill , I would opine the opposite. Catholic feast and feast days abound, and are widely celebrated. Christmas is of course most important, followed by Easter in the the Catholic Liturgy. Saitns and other Feast days are of lesser importance.

Many Feast Days were literally put in place during the Dark Ages by the Popes because there was so much warring going on. A Holy Day literally stopped all fighting during the observed days. Anybody who violated that was both excommunicated and outlawed, and thus fair game to be cut down and their posessions confiscated.

Remember - in those days Holy Ground was universally honored, anyone who made it to a church
could claim Sanctuary. And being outlawed was death sentence.

But I digress- Catholic Feast and Holy Days were followed by the masses, with lots of celebration.

Some  protestants did not celebrate much, due to the fact that Cromwell and the Puritans were super grumpy over the excesses of the Anglican Church ( started by Henry 8, who proclaimed himself boss), and Puritans banned all celebration, and that seemed to follow many Protestants over here.


On one end of the era, we have descriptions and accounts of Christmas celebrations at the various trading posts.  Towards the other end, we have the accounts of Portugee Phillips interrupting the annual Yuletide Ball when he rode into Fort Laramie in 1866.  The descriptions of Christmas traditions and celebrations are almost exclusively Protestant, forgetting the fact that an awful lot of folks--especially in Texas, along the Santa Fe Trail, and further west in California--were Catholic.  Offhand, the only descriptions of Catholic Christmas celebrations and traditions I can recall are from Taos.

AH Longwalker, thanks for the remiinder!

I previously discussed the Germanic, Scandinavian, and other Euro Immigrants who brought their traditions,  The Yule, trees,
holy, ivy, mistletoe, greenery, etc.

But we seem to be neglecting the widespread and long lived ( over 400 year) Christmas traditions of the  Great Southwest!

Anywhere affected by the Spanish Catholic influence, from California through Texas, we find somewhat modified and transformed Catholic Christmas traditions were followed by many communities, including the Pueblos, and by many Protestants.

these include Christmas and New Years Fiestas, La Posada, luminaria, farolitos, other Nativity Plays, and Pueblo Midwinter
Dances that co-exist beside Catholic traditions.

Any town large enough to have a church also hosted Christmas socials where people would
gather, sing carols and hymns, and celebrate. 

The early 16th century missionary historian Toribio de Benavente Motolinia described luminarias in use by Native Americans in Colonial Mexico, to illuminate midnight church services in outdoor chapels, and on their rooftops on Christmas Eve.

The luminaria is placed at the entrance to the home or in the middle of a courtyard. In New Mexico many traditional Spanish Colonial homes have a central open courtyard with a large entrance gate; the luminaria is placed at the gate. In traditional Pueblo villages, where the entrances to homes are rooftops, the luminaria may be placed on a rooftop.

For some people the tradition includes lighting a new luminaria each night of Las Posadas (nine nights in all), and rebuilding and lighting those from the previous nights. Thus, on the first night there is a single luminaria, and on the ninth night there are nine, all in a line leading to the gate.

In some other traditional communities in New Mexico a single large luminaria is ignited on Christmas Eve after the evening meal, on a mountain lookout where the light may be visible to the entire community.

Rarely, use of the luminaria begins even earlier, on December 12 after the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This is said to be related to Native American (Pueblo) beliefs.

http://www.nmhistorymuseum.org/blog/2014/12/legend-of-the-luminarias-uh-farolitos/

In a Dec. 3, 1590, journal entry, Spanish explorer Gaspar Costaño de Sosa mentioned the small bonfires his cohorts had lit to guide a scout back to camp. Luminarias, he called them, thereby casting the first stone in a 400-year-old, northern-versus-southern New Mexico debate over the little paper bags that light up our holiday nights.

“They’re farolitos,” folks north of La Bajada Hill insist.

“Luminarias,” everyone from Albuquerque on down says.

Over the years, even linguists have disagreed. Their arguments for and against fill a fat file at the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library at the New Mexico History Museum. Among the certainties is this: Before the 1872 invention of flat-bottom paper bags, before the ready availability of votive candles, and before electricity and strings of “icicle lights,” New Mexicans marked the paths to their doors and the local church with small, Sosa-style bonfires on Christmas eve—symbolically lighting the way for the Holy Family.

Chinese paper lanterns found their way to Santa Fe via the 18th-century Manila galleons and El Camino Real, but the paper was so fragile that outdoor use was rare. Once cheaper paper bags arrived on the Santa Fe Trail, locals discovered they could fold down the tops, anchor them with a few handfuls of sand, and set a small candle inside for a more subtle display that didn’t deplete the winter woodpile.


=======
Then there are the 9 Days of Las Posadas celebrated by Catholics, Protestants and Pueblos in The Great Southwest. 

 https://taos.org/events/las-posadas/

Las Posadas is a novenario (nine days of religious observance) beginning 16 December and ending 24 December.

Las Posadas is Spanish for lodging, or accommodation, which in this case refers to the inn in the story of the nativity of Jesus. It uses the plural form as the celebration lasts for a nine-day interval (called the novena) during the Christmas season. The novena represents the nine-month pregnancy of Mary, the mother of Jesus celebrated by Christians.

The celebration has been a tradition in Mexico for 400 years. Many Mexican holidays include dramatizations of original events, a tradition which has its roots in the ritual of Bible plays used to teach religious doctrine to a largely illiterate population in Europe as early as the 10th and 11th centuries. These plays lost favor with the Church as they became popularized with the addition of folk music and other non-religious elements, and were eventually banned; only to be re-introduced in the sixteenth century by two Spanish saints as the Christmas Pageant, a new kind of religious ceremony to accompany the Christmas holiday.

The old winter solstice festival was one of the most important celebrations of the year and it was on December 12 according to the Julian calendar. But Spanish missionaries replaced it with the custom of the re-invented religious pageant to Mexico, where they used it to teach the story of Jesus' birth to Mexico's people. In 1586, Friar Diego de Soria obtained a papal bull from Pope Sixtus V, stating that a Christmas Mass (misa de Aguinaldo), be observed as novenas on the nine days preceding Christmas Day throughout Mexico.

While its roots are in Catholicism, even Protestant Latinos and Anglos follow the tradition. It may have been started by early friars who combined Spanish Catholicism with the December Aztec celebration of the birth of Huitzilopochtli.The Las Posadas text and ritual are also strongly identified throughout the Rio Grande with converso settlers.

yhs
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Offline Tsalagidave

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Re: Wondering about Christmas in our period
« Reply #13 on: December 25, 2018, 12:15:54 am »
Thanks for covering the Southwest tradition Professor.  I was about to chime in about growing up in Mexican neighborhoods and how the Latin Catholic traditions are alive and well across the Southwestern States but you pretty much said it all.

-Dave
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Offline Professor Marvel

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Re: Wondering about Christmas in our period
« Reply #14 on: December 25, 2018, 01:42:29 am »
Ah My Dear DAve, I only hope I don't put folks off by the walls o' text.

later I hope to post a bit about the Pueblo & Apache celebrations and how they managed to mix
native tradition with catholic tradition...

Merry Christmas
Prof Marvle
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Offline Tsalagidave

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Re: Wondering about Christmas in our period
« Reply #15 on: December 25, 2018, 07:56:44 pm »
I'm glad you did Professor. Learning from and sharing with friends is my core joy in this hobby.

-Dave
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Offline Oregon Bill

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Re: Wondering about Christmas in our period
« Reply #16 on: December 25, 2018, 08:18:52 pm »
I need only step out of my house and walk a half block to see paper-bag farolitos illuminating the night. Just 15 miles from here, the Church of St. Francis de Paula in Tularosa leams with them. And the St. Joseph Apache Mission Church in Mescalero must be seen to be believed this time of year.