HOW CHRISTMAS WAS CELEBRATED IN 1890
Every one of us has delightful memories of Christmas time that we cherish. Each year at this season in the same way as we unwrap and hang upon the tree our treasured ornaments, these Christmas days past are recalled and become a part of our Christmas Present. Here are some remembrances of Christmas as it was in Waterville years ago. In those days not every family had a Christmas tree. The exceptions were the German families. They all had a tree and from their example the custom spread. The families who decorated trees would go out into the country and cut their own. Isham’s Woods, located in the area bounded by Neowash Road, River Road and the Bucher farm was one of the favorite sites. The horse would be hitched to the sleigh, everyone would be bundled up and away they would go to find just the right tree. They cut small trees and also extra boughs to trim the homes with. The only large trees were those in the churches.
The trees were trimmed with ropes of cranberries and popcorn and tiny strings of miniature sleigh bells. Candles 5” to 6” in size were fitted into holder. The candles were only lit for a few minutes at a time, usually when the family gathered around the tree in the evening and sang Christmas hymns. The high point of the year would be the Christmas Eve service held in the churches: the Presbyterian Church at the northeast corner of River Road and North Street; the Methodist Church at the northwest corner of River Road and Mechanic Street; and the Lutheran Church then as now, on Second Street. Everyone attended church that evening. The sanctuaries would be lit by many candles and in the front would be a huge tree trimmed much the same as the ones at home. One of the members would be delegated to stand by with buckets of sand and water in case of fire. Christmas hymns were sung and then came the children’s part in the program. Various recitations were given, tableaux were arranged or simple re-enactments of the first Christmas would be presented. There would be a story for the children from the pastor. At the close of the service hard candy, nuts and oranges were given to all the children.
At that time almost every home had a fireplace from which to hang stocking and such stockings! Long cotton stockings were worn by both boys and girls and the older the child the more stocking there was to be filled. In the toe a large Brazil nut was usually to be found. There would be a fat peppermint stick; walnuts, butternuts, hickory and hazelnuts; an orange, which was always a special treat; mittens, made by mother or grandmother and perhaps a top or a small doll. Gifts were few and simple and were given mostly to the children; such as blocks, or jack-in-the-box, or slates with slate pencils, or jack straws for instance. Many gifts were handmade including items of clothing made by the women in the families as; sweaters, mufflers and stocking cap; or sleds or doll cradles made by the father.
Note: Christmas 1890, written by Mary Helen Huebner was found in an old scrapbook donated to the Archives recently.