From Halloween through New Years is my favorite time of year. I love the Holidays. I love the decorations, the music, the cheer. I love that we talk and act in the name of love and community, because we talk about it this time of year more than any other. And I love Santa Claus. I love that a story of a man who took care of the children and families in his area grew to magical proportions, and encourages us all to take care of each other as a "living" example.
In researching the history of Christmas, like I do, and from Martin Crosbie's post for the indieBrag Blog Hop, I learned that Christmas as we know it is really only 160 or so years old. There is a reason all our "traditional" Christmas stories are either Biblical or Victorian.
So much of our modern politics and struggles resembles Edwardian time, the Progressive Era. So I wondered how similar Christmas in 1912 (the time of Woman of Ruinous Face) was to our modern Christmases.
In 1903, the first sets of pre-wired lights intended for Christmas trees were offered to the public by General Electric. The outfits included miniature base GE/Edison carbon filament lamps, with prominent exhaust tips at the top of the glass envelopes and a festoon of 24 sockets. (From OldChristmasTreeLights.com)
I still have a string of old (1950s?) lights with actual light bulbs that you have a screw in. My husband won't let me use them cause of the fire danger, but I sometimes think being able to change one dead bulb beats the hell out of trying to make a string of modern lights work!
In the early 19th Century, German speaking Moravians in North Carolina and Pennsylvania made tiny figures to decorate outdoor Christmas trees, and Pennsylvania Germans constructed outdoor nativity scenes. The early 1900s, people around the country took it to the next level by using electric lights to light community Christmas trees. In 1910, Sears and Roebuck began selling glass ornaments by mail. (From The Guide to United States Popular Culture By Ray Broadus Browne, Pat Browne)
This year my toddler is obsessed with decorating for christmas. He wants to decorate the Christmas tree, but can't stand to leave the ornaments on the tree and not play with them. Most of our ornaments are sentimental in nature, tokens from past christmases, people and pets, and vacations.
While the 1910s weren't a great year for Christmas music, my favorite Christmas song, Carol of the Bells, was composed in 1916 by Ukrainian Mykola Leontovich and is actually about a swallow flying into a household to proclaim the plentiful year that the family will have. (From Rice University) My characters in Woman of Ruinous Face would have been rocking out to many of the same songs we still love like Joy to the World (1839), It Came Upon the Midnight Clear (1850), We Three Kings of Orient Are (1857) and of course Jingle Bells (1857)! (From The Guide to United States Popular Culture By Ray Broadus Browne, Pat Browne) My other favotrie Christmas song, Little Dummer boy didn't come around until 1941. (From About MusicEd)
I love sending and receiving Christmas cards from all our friends and family, especially now that they have family pictures. But really it is the sentiment I love; that someone thought enough of us to take the time to write a note (or at least address an envelope).
The custom of sending Christmas cards began in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole. He was a civil servant who was very interested in the new 'Public Post Office,' and wondered how it could be used more by ordinary people. But it wasn't until 1900 that the tradition of sending cards really grew popular. Snow-scenes were fashionable because they reminded people of the very bad winter that happened in the UK in 1836. In 1915, John C. Hall and two of his brothers created Hallmark Cards, who are still one of the biggest card makers today. (From WhyChristmas?com)
There is so much I love about this time of year, and of course, being a reader and a writer, the stories are top on my list of favorite things. The morals of loving and giving warm my heart and give me hope. This year I researched Christmas stories hoping to find gems from the Edwardian era, and found stories from long ago i'd never read. I discovered The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson (1845),
which made me cry and broke my heart. Only Victorians can find hope and love in the story of a child freezing to death. I also discovered A Kidnapped Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum (of Wizard of OZ fame) (1904)
, which added so much to the mythology of my favorite elf, and was written in my favorite era! Gift of the Maji by O. Henry aka William Sydney Porter
is also one of my favorite stories. To love someone so much you'd sacrifice things you hold most dear is so sweet.
Having a small child, I have been exposed to so many new great Christmas stories like Santa Duck by David Milgrim and Bad Kitty Christmas by Nick Bruel, which are fantastic. And, every year, The Best Husband Ever (see Breastfeeding Is a Bitch, But We Lovingly Do it Anyway) reads 'Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore - the pop-up version - to My Little Milkaholic. The original poem was titled A Visit from St. Nicholas and was written in 1822.
"Like many other such 'inventions of tradition', the creation of an American Christmas was a response to social and personal needs that arose at a particular point in history, in this case a time of sectional conflict and civil war, as well as the unsettling processes of urbanization and industrialization. The holiday's new customs and meanings helped the nation to make sense of the confusions of the era and to secure, if only for a short while each year, a soothing feeling of unity." (From HistoryToday)
Perhaps this season we will come up with some new traditions that re-secure those feeling of unity, like blog hops and christmas stories!
The next stop on the indieBrag Christmas Blog Hop is one of our favorite Medallion winners, Pauline Barclay Author of In the Cold Light of Day, Strom Clouds Gathering, Sometimes it Happens, Satchfield Hall and Magnolia House. Don't forget to go back and catch up, if you missed any along the way.