Scanning through old newspapers I ran across an article in the December 14, 1911 Junction City Union newspaper which describes Christmas customs around the world. It was interesting to read about Christmas customs from over a century ago.
The article starts in England with the “pretty custom of bringing in the Yule.” Children help the family bring in a “huge log”. On Christmas Eve the family gathers around the burning log to “sing carols and tell Christmas legends.” The halls are hung with mistletoe “under which the unwary are kissed soundly” and all join in the eating of a “rich and blazing plum pudding.”
Christmas is the “gala day” for children in Holland. They have a beautiful custom for ushering it in, “at midnight on Christmas eve, the men and boys dress in fancy costume, march through the streets in long procession, holding aloft a brilliantly lighted star, as they chant the Gloria in Excelsis. The little girls clad in white stand at the windows and bow to the star as it passes.”
One of the most lavish Christmas traditions can be seen in Germany. Church bells are rung on Christmas day to usher in the day and call everyone to early church. As the bells are ringing lights are quickly put in every window to light the way. After church the day is celebrated with a huge feast. The presents are “simple but in every home is a blazing tree hung with cakes, colored candles and gifts. It is a pretty sight to see the children march in to see their tree.” It is interesting to note that the German Santa, Kriss Kringle generally leaves a switch in the stockings to remind children to be good until his next visit.
Servian children look forward to Christmas Eve when their father brings home a freshly cut young oak. He enters the house calling, “Good evening and a merry Christmas!” The children will gleefully respond, “May God grant both to thee and mayst thou have riches and honor.” They then shower the tree with corn and throw it in the fire to burn until Christmas morning. The day is greeted with pistol shoots.
French children do not celebrate with a tree or stockings. They hang their slippers to be filled with treats. They also hang sheaves of grain along the eves of the house to feed the birds.
On Christmas Eve the children of Belgium “on Christmas Eve are dressed in gay colors and form a procession, which marches through the streets” they are led by musicians. Each child will hold a figurine of the Christ child or a crucifix.
Throughout Russia work is suspended for a fortnight during the Christmas season. In the country side the boys dress like animals and they are led through the streets by a band of boys making dreadful music. The procession goes door to door where they are given food, drink and small amounts of money.
After reading through the article I realized some of the traditions were familiar. I think that many of us can identify with some of the customs because at some point in the distant (or not so distant) past our families immigrated to the United States and brought with them traditions that allowed them to connect to their past. Some of these traditions have been carried on by each subsequent generation.
Many of us have started new traditions but in some way we have carried on traditions from the previous generations. As you go about this holiday season take a minute to stop and share with your family where those traditions come from.
From all of us at the Geary County Historical Society, we wish you a merry and safe holiday season!
These youngsters were captured on camera at 7th and Washington streets in 1900 being pulled on a sled behind their trusty mule. The children are identified as; Parker, Victor Parker, Schillito, E. Hall, M. Hall, N Wotling, B. Turner, Wotling, Grace Shillito, Harold Victor.