When preparing for Christmas, many traditions and customs come to mind. What are the traditions of your family today? What was it like for your ancestors? Will traditions and customs be the same in the years to come? Will our great-great-grandchildren be curious about how we celebrated Christmas?
During the Christmas and New Year holidays, write down your family’s customs and rituals. Then, after the New Year begins, take some time to use these notes to add the Christmas celebration to your family history.
Continue to research customs and traditions and go back through the years to see how your ancestors celebrated Christmas. The settlers arriving in the New World brought the Christmas debate with them. Anglicans and Catholics celebrated Christmas when they came to America in the 1600s; but some, including the Puritans who sailed from England in 1620 and founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony, banned the celebration of Christmas because they viewed traditions of giving gifts and decorating trees as related to paganism.
What were the customs and traditions of years spent in the United States? Christmas trees date back to the symbolic use of conifers in ancient Egypt and Rome, and carry on the German tradition of candlelit Christmas trees first imported to America in the 1800s.
Did the family have a Christmas tree? If so, what materials did they use to decorate – nuts, berries and fruits as edible ornaments, lighted bulbs or candles, popcorn garlands or garlands, handmade or store bought ornaments? Don’t forget to mention other decorations that have been placed inside or outside, if any.
Add other customs, such as the food served for Christmas dinner. Baking was and still is a family tradition. Items were baked or baked for the special occasion. Over the years the menus have changed and the type of food was generally based on what was available.
Share some of the ways they had fun during the day. In the 19th century, we played card games or simple games; because it was necessary to take into account the space available in the houses for these activities. The exchange of gifts as well as examples of the type of gifts offered is a good idea to include. Hanging stockings were a tradition that started over the years. When and why did your ancestors start hanging stockings and what was put on them?
The songs were usually performed by family units or various groups, such as church members, who walked around the neighborhood and sang Christmas carols. Years later, they could ride in wagons full of hay. This activity was usually followed by hot chocolate by the fire or perhaps roasted chestnuts.
Another custom was to send Christmas cards. They began to be printed in the late 1800s and early 1900s, which made it possible for most people to afford them. Maybe you can describe what the maps look like from this era.
It’s possible that some of your ancestors had Yule logs, plum pudding, or a kiss under the mistletoe.
Christmas traditions are also a reflection of culturally diverse European groups in specific regions of America. New Englanders, representing a largely Puritan background, did not celebrate Christmas. The culture of the southerners was influenced by England, Germany and other European countries. The Old West had a hard time due to the weather in December. Soldiers could be heard singing Christmas carols at their distant outposts with the scent of venison roasting on an open hearth. These pioneers were determined to celebrate Christmas, however humbly.
Adding Christmas to your family history will also add interest to your family tree.
Take the time to examine the social activities in the lives of your ancestors. Learn what their life was like and how it may have influenced their important life decisions. You might discover that elusive clue you need to further your research.
Email your ancestry questions with Ancestor Search @ in the subject line to AugustaGenSociety@comcast.net. For more information on the library opening and upcoming events, visit www.augustagensociety.org.
This article originally appeared on Augusta Chronicle: Augusta Genealogical Society: Add Holiday Traditions to Family History