7 Year Tea Party Winners: Susan Craft's winner of her trilogy novels - The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia is: Lucy Reynolds, The winner of a copy of The Backcountry Brides is: Tammy Cordery, the winner of a silver quill charm is: Kathy Maher, Choice of one of three books by Carrie Fancett Pagels in paperback: Joy Ellis, A Bouquet of Brides Collection by Pegg Thomas winner is: Becky Smith, Janet Grunst's Selah-Award winning novel, A Heart Set Free, is: Sherry Moe.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Colonial Christmas and Hogmanay

Finding things to share about colonial Christmas celebrations can be an interesting experience. Others have written about the importance of Advent to colonial folk, and how Christmas was seen more as a season with a spiritual focus rather than a particular holiday or event. The Colonial Williamsburg history website has an excellent article discussing colonial Christmas traditions, which I found very useful when researching for my Pioneer Christmas novella, Defending Truth. Along with the spiritual focus, and various traditions that included decorating the churches with green boughs, Christmas included plenty of gaeity and frivolity, especially in the eastern, more populated parts of the colonies. Presbyterian missionary Philip Fithian shared in a 1774 diary entry:
When it grew to dark to dance. . . . we conversed til half after six; Nothing is now to be heard of in conversation, but the Balls, the Fox-hunts, the fine entertainments, and the good fellowship, which are to be exhibited at the approaching Christmas.
But Christmas was considered so strongly a Catholic or even Anglican tradition (Christmas does, after all, come from the term "Christ Mass") that many denominations either didn't think it worthy of notice (Peter Kalm notes that the Quakers ignored the holiday at first) or because of doctrinal differences, felt it ungodly to indulge in the frivolity of the holiday. David DeSimone mentions how after sharing eastern Virginia's lavish Christmas celebrations, Philip Fithian must have been disappointed while serving in the backcountry of Virginia the following year:
Christmas Morning--Not A Gun is heard--Not a Shout--No company or Cabal assembled--To Day is like other Days every Way calm & temperate-- People go about their daily Business with the same Readiness, & apply themselves to it with the same Industry.
Robbie Shade - Fireworks over Edinburgh (Wikipedia)
The Scots-Irish Presbyterians in particular frowned upon Christmas, but there's evidence that the New Year was well observed. The Scottish New Year, or Hogmanay, a word which means the last day of the year, roots from Norse, Gaelic, and French terms and traditions, some of which involve children going door-to-door to request small gifts and sweets (sound familiar?), and some which involve giving special gifts to the poor. There's also much made of the "first foot," or the first person to set foot inside your house on the new year, beginning at midnight, and the traditional giving of gifts to the household for good luck, and then the hospitality shared with guests

We really don't have any way of knowing how extensively Scottish settlers held to the old traditions, but in recent years Colonial Williamsburg has included Hogmanay in its New Year's celebrations. With such a rich history of Advent, Christmas, and New Year's combined, is it any wonder that the month of December often feels like one long party?


  1. Shannon, this is very interesting. I never really thought about the colonies not celebrating Christmas before.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! Merry Christmas to you and yours, as well. :)

  2. I love the celebration of Hogmanay. We still serve Hoppin John on New Year's Day every year.

    1. Hoppin John is a big deal in the Charleston area, too. I should make some this year...IF I can find field peas in stores in North Dakota!


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