Christmas traditions change over years
Circling the Square
By Ceci Clover, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
December 12, 2012
The Birthday Club met Dec. 7 at the Senior Center of Jackson Hole and Jim Huspek and Archie Jurich hosted the festive party. There were 11 regular members present and two guests, Marge Ryan and Bonnie Budge. Both guests became members. Betty Cook was the high scorer and Jim Huspek was low.
As we deck our halls and trim all our trees, a tour through our forbears’ homes and traditions might remind us to be grateful that our ancestors secured for us the right to free expression of our religions, which also translates into how we have celebrated our holidays over the years.
The National Society of Colonial Dames of America was organized with the purpose and objective to promote national patriotism; to collect, preserve and publish colonial manuscripts with records, facts and evidence, including the lineage and biography of our colonial ancestors, and to encourage interest in American history.
Holiday customs in America have evolved considerably from the colonial era, and a look at the NSCDA museums around the country reflects just how much times and customs have changed over the generations.
During the colonial period, Christmas was mostly a day of religious observance and quiet reflection. The jolliest celebrations with multi-course meals were typically held on Twelfth Night, which signaled the end of the holiday season. The Van Cortlandt House Museum (1748), the oldest building in the Bronx, New York City, offers candlelight tours led by historians who teach visitors about such colonial holiday customs as the quieter Christmas and the exuberant Twelfth Night celebrations. The Van Cortlandt House Museum is maintained by the NSCDA in the state of New York.
To see what things were like a little later in time, you can go south, to the NSCDA national headquarters in the District of Columbia. A visit to Dumbarton House (c. 1800) offers guests a distinctive look at Federal period architecture, furniture and decorative arts, as well as life in Georgetown during our nation’s earliest days. Guests can view all museum rooms of the house, as well as a temporary exhibit gallery.
In the Federal period, the use of greenery as a symbol of religious belief in everlasting life became increasingly popular. This time of year, Dumbarton House is decked out with elegant and simple greenery typical of the period.
Christmas trees were not widely adopted in America until the mid-1800s. Moving westward, the Orlando Brown House (1835), in Frankfort, Ky., presents a decorated Christmas tree to visitors. The house also includes tours by candlelight and special events for children in its holiday offerings. This National Historic Landmark was home to Kentucky’s first U.S. senator, John Brown, and hosts historic gardens that are open all year.
Among John and Margaretta Brown’s descendants are Missouri governor and senator Benjamin Gratz Brown and children’s author Margaret Wise Brown. The Orlando Brown House would be home to the Brown family for four generations, ending in 1955 with the death of Anne Hord Brown, a great-granddaughter of John and Margaretta Brown. Hord Brown left the house to the NSCDA in the commonwealth of Kentucky.
The Hotel de Paris (1881) in Georgetown, Colo., participates in a Christmas market and serves hot cider and cookies reminiscent of when the hotel was a busy and popular gathering spot. The Hotel De Paris Museum, a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is owned and operated by the Colorado NSCDA and is home to two ghosts.
And these are only a few of the NSCDA’s many museums that host special holiday events, which draw large crowds who enjoy learning more about America’s history in the midst of the seasonal festivities and decorations. Check them out at NSCDA.org.
Teton County Republican Party chairman T.R. Pierce wrote in that the Republican Party served lunch at the senior center on Dec. 7. The lunch was the last serving of the year sponsored by the party. He sent thanks to Barbara Allen, John Held, Bob Zelnio, Jan Larimer, Joe Graig-Tiso, Cornelius Kinsey, Ed Cheramy and Marti Halverson for their help with lunch service. The Republican Party’s next lunch service at the Senior Center will be on Jan. 4.
A note to all you armchair columnists out there, here’s a chance to see your byline in this august publication. Submit 750 words of “Circling the Square” suitable material via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail same to CtS, P.O. Box 1615, Jackson, Wyo. 83001. Selected works will run complete with author’s picture. Deadline for submissions is Saturday.
Ceci Clover writes weekly on the doings and doers in and around Jackson Hole. Submissions may be sent to email@example.com or call 307-733-8348.