Monday, December 25, 2023

Christmas Past in Photos and Prose

The Christmas Season truly utilizes all five senses:
Sight - the lights and beauty of Christmas in so many ways.
Sound - Christmas Carols
Smell - the wonderful odors of the various foods and treats
Touch - ornaments and decorations
Taste - Christmas cookies,  wassail,  eggnog,  pies...
The photos in today's posting seem to fit each of our senses,  but sight most of all,  for that's what this post is all about...the wonderful sights of Christmas...Christmas of days long past.  And it is somewhat in a timeline order.
Oh,  and there's a bit of history thrown in,  of course,  as well as some sections written by Laura Ingalls Wilder to add some authentic  "color."
Merry Christmas on this Christmas Day~

~~~  ~~~

"So entrenched is the view that the modern Christmas has its origins in Victorian times that it comes as a shock to realize that many of the customs we enjoy during the festive season date back to the Middle Ages or earlier.  In the medieval period,  people gave gifts,  sang carols,  decorated their homes,  overindulged in seasonal food and drink..."  (from the book The Medieval Christmas by Sophie Jackson)
Does the above description of a Christmas celebration sound familiar?
I snatched many - but not all - of these photos from a Facebook page called  "My Olde Country Home,"  a country decorative ideas page put together by the page's host,  Dana.
The others are mine.
I thought the pictures herein apropos for this Christmas Day.
Where are you Christmas?
Travelers walked along pathways through forests of trees,  carrying lanterns
to help guide their way.

All you that are good fellows come hearken to my song 
I know you do not hate good cheer or liquor that is strong
I hope there is none here,  but soon will take my part
Seeing my master and my dame say welcome with their heart.

This is a time of joyfulness and merry time of year 
When as the rich with plenty stored do make the poor good cheer
Plum porridge,  roast beef,  minced pies stand smoking on the board
With other brave varieties our master doth afford.

The mid-18th century Giddings House - Greenfield Village
The Giddings family more than likely did not celebrate Christmas,  for they were Congregationalists,  and if it was not in the bible,  they paid it no mind.
But,  just this one time,  we'll pretend this is not  the Giddings House,  and think of the owners of this house as celebrants. 
Jordan and I greeting each other as would have been done in the 18th century
Perhaps this night she was one of the Giddings'  daughters...
Our mistress and her cleanly maids have neatly played the cooks 
Methinks these dishes eagerly at my smart stomach looks
As though they were afraid to see me draw my blade
But I revenged on them will be until my stomach’s stayed.

Come fill us of the strongest,  small drink is out of date 
Methinks I shall fare like a prince and sit in gallant state
This is no miser’s feast although that things be dear
God grant the founder of this feast each Christmas deep good cheer.

This day for Christ we celebrate who was born at this time 
For which all Christians should rejoice and I do sing in rhyme
When you have given thanks unto your dainties fall
Heaven bless my master and my dame,  Lord bless me and you all.
Still inside the mid-18th century Giddings House - Greenfield Village~
This is one of those pictures that just turned out absolutely perfect.  
It emits a time from 250 years ago so well.
Jordan has always been a wonderful presenter at Greenfield Village,  
but she really shined at the 18th century Giddings House during Holiday Nights,  
and she always made me feel welcome.
It was my privilege when she agreed on taking the above photo of the two of us. 
As you can see from the picture of the Giddings House itself directly below,  
it truly was a cold winter's night in December,  and the fire in the hearth offered warmth.
A cold December's Eve at the Giddings'  House

The Giddings family everyday parlor  (also known as the sitting room) - Giddings House - Greenfield Village

I do not know the location of this wonderful old house.  East coast I am presuming.
'Tis beautiful,  though.
And has a strong colonial feel to it - - - 
Now Christmas comes,  'tis fit that we
should feast and sing,  and merry be:
keep open house,  let fidlers play,
a fig for cold,  sing care away;
and may they who thereat repine,
on brown bread and on small beer dine.
Virginia Almanack,  1766

1750 Daggett House - Greenfield Village
I believe our ancestors would be amazed at the idea that 
normal wintertime temperatures inside a 21st century 
home is anywhere from 68 to 72 degrees.

Then there is Old Sturbridge Village - - - - 
Old Sturbridge Village is a living museum located in Sturbridge,  Massachusetts which recreates life in rural New England during the 1790s through 1830s.  It is the largest living museum in New England,  covering more than 200 acres.
Now is the time of  year when people talk most of  “Peace on Earth.”   A bit of peace of the worldly sort emerged over 200 years ago  (209 as of this year)  at the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on Christmas Eve,  December 24,  1814,  ending the War of 1812  between the United States and the British Empire and their allies,  which foreshadowed the centuries of peaceful relations between the two countries.  Negotiators,  which included future American president John Quincy Adams and future presidential contender Henry Clay,  crafted an end to the war.  The next day,  representatives sat down to a Christmas dinner of beef and plum pudding brought especially from England.  Toasts were drunk to the health of King George and President Madison,  the orchestra played  "God Save the King"  and  "Yankee Doodle."
Old Sturbridge Village
Walking was the most common method of travel.
This has an early 1800s feel.

Old Sturbridge Village
The Fenno House was built in Canton,  Massachusettts,  around 1725, 
and is the oldest building at Old Sturbridge Village.
Decorating our homes with greenery is a Christmas tradition that is ingrained in our national consciousness.  The Christmas tree is,  of course,  the most well-known,  but it is equally hard to imagine Christmas without wreaths,  holly,  swags,  and mistletoe. 
But when and why did such traditions emerge? 
It's a surprisingly difficult question to answer,  as so many of our Christmas traditions are generally deep-rooted and often undocumented,  which is why there are usually multiple  "histories"  to so many of these traditions.  They have also been adapted and changed over time and are riddled with regional differences and personal interpretations.  Too often we find many folks state with absolute certainty  "their truth"  behind the stories.  And just as often,  it is not necessarily so.
Remember that,  for most history is a gray area with little absolutes.
Old Sturbridge Village
Author Washington Irving created the legend of Santa Claus as we know him to be in the early 1800s.  Irving took several legends about the Dutch St.  Nicholas and created our American Santa Claus.  In 1809,  he published The History of New York,  in which he described fictitious celebrations of St.  Nicholas.  For instance,  in this book Irving mentions that St.  Nicholas had a wagon he could ride  “over the tops of trees”  when he brought  “his yearly presents to children.”   The book became popular from drawing rooms of New York City to log cabins on the frontier.
In 1823,  Clement Clarke Moore wrote a poem to amuse his children called  “A Visit from St.  Nicholas,”  which we all know from its famous first line  “‘Twas the night before Christmas . . . .”  It was first published in the Troy Sentinel,  on December 23,  1823.
The American custom of Santa Claus visiting all the good little boys and girls on Christmas Eve grew from this poem.  We also learned the name of Santa's eight reindeer from this poem  (Rudolph wouldn't come for over a hundred years).
By the way,  for decades the debate has ebbed and flowed about who actually wrote this most famous of Christmas poems—most scholars believe Moore is the author,  but some don't,  like Vassar professor Don Foster who wrote a book in 2000 claiming it was someone named Major Henry Livingston, Jr., who penned the Christmas classic.
I tend to believe it was authored by Clement C.  Moore,  this coming from my own research.
Here we have a short time-line of Santa Claus:
Here is our modern,  American well-known Santa Claus.
Even in modern England. 
As a child,  over 50 years ago,  this is always how he looked to me.
However,  he has changed over the centuries...

18th century?
Father Christmas,  as he is known in England, 
wearing red robes.  He used to wear green.
Close your eyes and think of Father Christmas.  What do you see?  A jolly,  fat man,  with rosy red cheeks,  a fluffy white beard and a red suit?  Well close your eyes again and try and imagine him with a green suit rather than red...
Difficult maybe,  but that is how the British Father Christmas should be dressed.  In the 1930s a certain American soft drinks company decided Santa should be dressed in red as part of a marketing campaign and that has stuck.
Which soft drink?
"Whoever You Are,  Whatever You Do,  Wherever You May Be,  When You Think of Refreshment Think of Ice Cold Coca-Cola."  (1930s slogan)
From what I understand,  this is also an 18th century  (or before)  rendition of  St.  Nicholas.
Now firmly his own mythological figure,  Santa was originally inspired by the fourth century Greek bishop, Saint Nicholas of Myra,  a man renowned for his generosity and kindness.
Saint Nicholas of Myra
One year I may do a posting on the history of this man...

Our ancestors were very inventive in creating atmosphere in their homes.
To make your house  "smell like Christmas,"  click HERE for the recipe

Perhaps making Christmas dinner - Old Sturbridge Village
Christmas menus reflect traditional foods of the celebrant's original culture.  In all times and places,  the foods served for this holiday  (and ingredients used)  reflect the very best possible items available to the family.  As you can imagine,  pioneer American Christmas menus varied greatly.  Christmas menus depended upon:
Location...cities offered more food choices than rural outposts
Situation...families living in homes/villages had more options than those living in camp-like quarters
Economics...the wealthier the family,  the better grade food afforded  (fine white flour vs coarse brown)
Heritage...people cook what they knew...Scandinavian pioneers in Minnesota set different traditional tables from the English in Massachusetts,  the Dutch in New York,  or the French in Michigan,  etc.
General popular Christmas foodstuffs of the period included roast beef,  turkey,  ham,  potatoes,  pickles,  fine white bread,  fruitcakes,  cookies,  pies.  Oysters were treasured.  Chocolate,  tea,  and coffee were imported and not always available.  Most of what we know about early 19th century-era Christmas tables is gleaned from primary sources:  letters,  journals,  personal inventories,  etc. 
(from THIS site)

I wonder if this is the old drink known as  "flip."
Flip was a blend of beer,  rum,  molasses  (or dried pumpkin),  
and eggs or cream,  and was usually mixed in a pitcher and 
then whipped into a froth by plunging a hot fire poker  
(called a flip-dog)  into its midst. 

The rural colonial kitchen hearth with the redware plates upon the table and the 
"tin kitchen / reflector oven"  sitting at the edge of the hearth.

Genesee Country Village and Museum
At last it was the day before Christmas and Alice and Royal and Eliza Jane were home again.  The girls were cleaning the whole house,  and Mother was baking.  
The kitchen was full of delicious smells.  Newly baked bread was cooling,  frosted cakes and cookies and mince pies and pumpkin pies filled the pantry shelves,  cranberries bubbled on the stove.  Mother was making dressing for the goose.
From Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Fort Nisqually,  Tacoma,  Washington
Walk into Fort Nisqually and experience daily life in the 1850s at a regional trade and agriculture center.  This British outpost was the first European settlement on Puget Sound.  Today,  Fort Nisqually is a living history museum where volunteers and staff,  in period clothing,  engage visitors in the work,  crafts,  and social practices of the mid-19th century.

Next we have the traditional British Christmas Pudding  (also known as plum pudding or figgy pudding)~
The pudding should be made with 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and His Disciples and that every member of the family should take turns to stir the pudding with a wooden spoon from east to west,  in honor of the Wise Men.
Christmas pudding is generally made from a combination of dried fruit,  candied fruit peel,  and citrus zests in a dense,  sticky sponge cake.  It can be flavored with cinnamon,  brandy,  rum,  or other spices for moisture and taste.
Brandy or another alcoholic drink is sometimes poured over the pudding and lit at the table to make a spectacular display.  This is said to represent Jesus'  love and power. 
(HERE is the recipe)
Gotta love tradition!

British Christmas Pudding
The Christmas pudding originated in the 14th-century as a sort of porridge,  originally known as  “frumenty,”  which bears little resemblance to the dessert we know today.  It was originally made with hulled wheat,  boiled in milk,  seasoned with cinnamon,  and colored with saffron.
A slightly different history tells us that Christmas pudding has its roots in medieval English sausages,  when fat,  spices,  and fruits  (the best preservatives of their day)  were mixed with meats,  grains,  and vegetables,  and packed into animal stomachs and intestines so they would keep as long as possible.  The first records of plum puddings date to the early 15th century,  when  “plum pottage,”  a savory concoction heavy on the meat and root vegetables,  was served at the start of a meal.
Then,  as now,  the  “plum”  in plum pudding was a generic term for any dried fruit—most commonly raisins and currants,  with prunes and other dried,  preserved or candied fruit added when available.  By the end of the 16th century,  dried fruit was more plentiful in England,  and plum pudding made the shift from savory to sweet.
By the mid-1600s,  plum pudding was so associated with Christmas that when Oliver Cromwell came to power in 1647 he had it banned,  along with Yule logs,  carol-singing,  and nativity scenes.  To Cromwell and his Puritan associates,  such merry-making smacked of Druidic paganism and Roman Catholic idolatry.  
In 1681,  the ban was lifted.
Because too many people continued to celebrate.
(sourced from HERE and HERE)
Or is it Figgy Pudding?

Or,  perhaps,  Plum Pudding?
Way back in 2014 I had a Boar's Head Party,  taken from the medieval carol,  and following the dinner,  my friend,  Beckie,  had a very traditional plum pudding waiting for us by way of a mid-19th century recipe  (which was most likely taken from an even earlier recipe).
It was so beautiful when she set the brandy covering a-flame and then,  
afterward,  put a  ‘hard sauce’  on top. 
(If you look close you can see the blue flame.  I wish my camera could've 
captured the scene better.  Oh well,  at least I have this)

And for Christmas Eve 2021,  my son also did the same.
It was wonderful...

Many modern folks believe that jingling bells were put on the sleighs for a Christmas delight because of the ever-popular song from the 1850s.  That is truly not the case:  jingle bells were put on sleighs for safety reasons.  The horse's clip-clopping usually heard along the roads during the other three seasons are muffled greatly by the snow-covered ground of wintertime,  and the head gear folks wore also muffled the sound of the beasts and carriages,  making the pedestrian nearly oblivious to the sounds around them.  This could be a dangerous situation except for the high-pitched sounds of the jingle bells warning the pedestrian to move out of the way.  Just as horns are required on the modern day motor vehicles,  bells were once a must for winter travel on sleighs.  "Keeping to the Right"  upon hearing the jingling of a sleigh was the rule then as it is for automobiles today.
Old Sturbridge Village - gliding past the Freeman Farm~
This could be Old Sturbridge Village.
 Lest you think of the well-known song  "Jingle Bells"  (1857)  as strictly a  Christmas carol,  the little bit of social history above about jingling bells on sleighs should give you a different perspective upon hearing this winter song,  which was actually written for Thanksgiving...but that's another story.. 
By the way,  the rhythm of the tune mimics that of a trotting horse's hooves and bells.
Dashing through the snow...
Again,  I believe this photo is Old Sturbridge Village.

Old Sturbridge Village

In the colonial times,  most home decorating for Christmas in America was pretty sparse.  A touch of greenery here and there.  And,  aside from the Germans,  Christmas trees were not a  "thing."
Sliced oranges - not sure of the historic location.
Let’s go to the myth that in colonial America,  the idea that our colonial forebears decked the doors of their homes with fruited wreaths as a popular way to decorate for Christmas.
The idea of decorating the doors with rare fresh fruit where it would hang until it rotted or was eaten by squirrels would have horrified everyone in colonial America,  no matter how wealthy they were.  Fresh fruit was rare to nonexistent during the winter and if one were fortunate enough to have some imported oranges from the Caribbean or late apples from New England,  one ate  (or drank)  them.
(From THIS site)
That's not to say that for those who celebrated did not use fruit for indoor  decorating.  It's quite possible they would have,  though we must remember that decorations,  if at all,  did not stay up for days or weeks,  but,  generally,  maybe for Christmas Eve and/or for Christmas Day.  But spending the time to attach apples and oranges in a wreath was highly unlikely,  and would have,  instead,  been placed in an easily reachable area such as a fireplace mantle or on a table or shelf.  One could then enjoy such a treat as fresh fruit while it was still fresh.
And decorative.
However,  this would have mostly been for those who could afford such exotic items during the darkest and coldest part of the year.
We know using edibles for decoration for any long length
of time did not happen long ago, 
but to use them as a decoration that could be
readily eaten is another story;  up on Christmas Eve
and eaten on Christmas Day!
Colonial Williamsburg is the restored and reconstructed historic area of Williamsburg,  Virginia,  a small city between the York and James rivers that was founded in 1632,  designated capital of the English colony in 1698,  and bestowed with a royal charter in 1722.  It was a center of political activity before and during the American Revolution  (1775–1783)—where George Washington,  Thomas Jefferson,  and Patrick Henry debated taxes,  slavery,  and the inalienable rights of men—and has since become the site of an ambitious restoration project launched in the 1930s and funded largely by the family of John D.  Rockefeller Jr.
Colonial Williamsburg
Yes,  there were those few in colonial times who would decorate their homes for Christmas.  What were used were garlands of holly,  ivy,  mountain laurel,  berries,  mistletoe,  or whatever natural materials were available.  Lavender,  rose petals,  and pungent herbs like rosemary and bay set the holiday scent for the season.
Something that was common was the  "sticking of the Church"  with green boughs on Christmas Eve.  Garlands of holly,  ivy,  mountain laurel,  and mistletoe were hung from the church roof,  the walls,  and the church pillars and galleries.  The pews and the pulpit,  and sometimes the altar,  were bedecked with garlands.  This scene is described by Peter Kalm,  a Swede who visited Philadelphia in 1749:
On Christmas Day he wrote:  
Nowhere was Christmas Day celebrated with more solemnity than in the Roman Church.  Three sermons were preached there,  and that which contributed most to the splendor of the ceremony was the beautiful music heard to-day. . . . Pews and altar were decorated with branches of mountain laurel,  whose leaves are green in winter time and resemble the  (cherry laurel).
According to historian and author,  Esther Forbes,  "Christ Church  (the Old North Church)  was Episcopal,  a denomination which smelt a little to the Congregationalists of idolatry and brimstone,  but even more sweetly  (as other small Puritans remembered)  of Christmas greens.  Christmas was carefully not observed in such churches as those the Congregationalists attended,  but the children loved to sneak off to the Episcopal churches at Christmas-time and smell the greens." 
Paul Revere was a Congregationalist who did not celebrate Christmas.   But as a child,  Revere was a bell-ringer for the Episcopal Church - could he have been one of those children who sneaked off to smell the greens? 
This looks like it could be Colonial Williamsburg, 
for that does look like the Bruton Church...but I am not 100% certain. 
But the shot here is wonderful.
In the mid-19th century Christmas trees were small and often propped up on tabletops.  They had simple,  homemade decorations and strings of popcorn.  Possibly candles for illumination.  There'd be greens on the mantle decorated in ribbons and bows.  The controversy at the time was whether Santa put presents on the tree or in the stocking.  Young men would receive knives as a gift to start their lifelong work with wood.  Young ladies would get a doll or ribbon.  A husband may give his wife some pins and needles for her sewing.  Women would make socks,  mittens,  and hats for their family,  using raw material like sheep wool.
Oranges and other types of fresh fruit were also often given as gifts - such a rare treat for families in the winter! 
There is nothing like a candle-lit Christmas Tree.
Mid-19th century.
(from Christmas at the Fort 2021)

Almanzo and Royal hung clean stockings on the back of a chair,  and Alice and Eliza Jane hung stockings on the back of another chair.
Then they all took candles and went to bed.
It was still dark when Almanzo woke up.  He felt excited,  and then he remembered that this was Christmas morning.
"Christmas!  Christmas!  Merry Christmas!"
He pulled his trousers over his night shirt.  Royal jumped out of bed and lighted the candle.  Almanzo grabbed the candle,  and Royal shouted:
Hi!  Leave that be!  Where's my pants?"
But Almanzo was already running down stairs.  Alice and Eliza Jane were flying from their room,  but Almanzo beat them.  He saw the sock hanging all lumpy;  he set down the candle and grabbed his sock.  The first thing he pulled out was a cap,  a boughten cap!
The plaid cloth was machine woven.  Even the sewing was machine-sewing.  And the ear muffs were buttoned over the top.
Old Sturbridge Village - Freeman Farm was originally from the same village that Old Sturbridge Village is located in: Sturbridge,  Massachusetts.  It was built by a local housewright sometime between 1810 and 1815.
Almanzo yelled.  He had not even hoped for such a cap.  He looked at it,  inside and out,  he felt the cloth and the sleek lining.  
Eliza Jane and Alice were digging into their stockings and squealing,  and Royal had a silk muffler.  Almanzo thrust his hand into his sock again,  and pulled out a nickel's worth of hore-hound candy.
Then he pulled out a new pair of mittens.  Mother had knit the wrists and backs in a fancy stitch.  He pulled out an orange,  and he pulled out a little package of dried figs.  And he thought that was all.  He thought no boy ever had a better Christmas.
But in the toe of his sock was still something more.  It was small and thin and hard.  Almanzo couldn't imagine what it was.  He pulled it out,  and it was a jack-knife.  It had four blades.
Almanzo yelled and yelled.  He snapped all the blades open,  sharp and shining,  and he yelled.
Father's voice came out of the dark bedroom and said:
"Look at the clock."
Royal held up the candle and they looked at the tall clock.  Its hands pointed to half past three
Even Eliza Jane did not know what to do.  They had waked up Father and Mother an hour and a half before time to get up...
From Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

My house is not historical by any means.  It was built in 1944 and is no different from the majority of the houses in my suburban Detroit community.
But I did a few things so at least a portion of my house would look somewhat historical  (click HERE to see how I did that)~
A Victorian Christmas - Charles Dickens would have been comfortable here.
At one time I had my back room set up in a Victorian manner.

The fire in the hearth has been photo-shopped,  but all else is as you see it here.
I based much of this Christmas look on an original Victorian farmhouse from Waterloo,  Michigan - the Waterloo Farm Museum:

Waterloo Farm Museum - I would say an 1870s - 1880s Christmas

Our own home in the evening,  replicating the late 19th century.

I remember way back in the 1980s - 1985,  to be exact - when my wife and I spent our first Christmas in our own place.  We went to Frankenmuth,  Michigan and purchased a load of Christmas decorations,  including tree candles with holders.  We clipped them on and they certainly looked pretty cool,  giving our tree that Victorian touch.  But that wasn't enough for me,  so that was the first year I lit them.  Having never seen such a thing before in person,  I was awestruck by the beauty.  So,  every year since I've been lighting the candles on our tree.  Now,  you don't light them and walk away or leave them lit for longer than a few minutes - that's where the true danger comes in.  Also,  the candles must be placed very carefully upon the branches where there are no other branches  (or dangling ornaments)  too close - above or on the sides.  And members of my family know just what to do in case anything happens. you are:
My candle-lit Christmas Tree.
Christmas Trees in the Victorian period were generally table-tops,  being
two or three feet at the most.  So lighting candles would have been
a simpler ordeal.  But every year we light the candles on our large 6 to 7
foot tree,  and have for nearly 40 years.
My grandchildren are in awe of our candle-lit tree.
How many kids today can say they've seen such a Christmas Tree?
How many people in general can make that statement?
Well,  a few at the Christmas at the Fort reenactment can.
Something very special happened there in December of 2021 - something we've not done there before.  
So during the event in 2021 I thought I would ask permission while representing Christmas past  (in a historic house,  nonetheless!),  with us all dressed in our 1860s clothing,  if perhaps we could...just to you think we could maybe try it here to really recreate a Victorian Christmas for our modern guests?
So I asked...
The first response was,  "No,  I don't think so."
It wasn't an outright  No!"  but an  "I don't think so"  kind of no,  meaning it was still a possibility.
So I then said,  "I've been doing this for nearly 40 years - I know what I'm doing."
The next response was,  "...I don't know..."  meaning there was no  "no"  there at all.  So I added,  "Imagine what it would be like!"  To which the reply was,  "The tree goes right out on the front lawn should anything happen."  And I said,  "Immediately.  But I promise nothing is going to happen."
So I began to prepare for this event - - - 
Historic Fort Wayne Detroit.
How simply beautiful it all was - everyone that night
was projected to the 19th century.
It was a night not to be forgotten.
Below is a video clip of this magic moment:
To read a bit about a few classic  "old world"  Christmas Carols,  please click HERE

Another fun picture,  this one mixing the old and the new with my wife
and three of our five grandkids.
I love the idea that my grandkids will remember when their Papa lit the candles on the Christmas Tree.  It is a memory that I hope they will tell their own kids and perhaps even their own grandkids.
I suppose I could call myself a chandler  (candle-maker),  for I do
make candles throughout the year,  and light them in the
fall and at Christmastime.
But wait - - - why,  what do we have here??
Yes,  we do have the colorful electric lights on our tree as well.

And over at Greenfield Village - - - 
Greenfield Village
Yes,  we see electric lights here,  though this gives a
picturesque glow to the scene.
The first use of electric Christmas lighting was by Thomas Edison in 1880,  and the first illuminated Christmas tree was shown off by one of Edison's employees to reporters who visited his Manhattan house in 1882.  It was common to illuminate Christmas trees with small candles at that time,  which could,  of course,  be dangerous.  In 1882,  Edward H.  Johnson rigged up a Christmas tree with electrical lights,  and solicited coverage in the press.  
When visiting Greenfield Village during their Christmas Holiday Nights event I will oftentimes have a few of my living history friends come along,  as you see my friend Rae with me here.  As living historians,  there are not many opportunities to wear our cold-weather garments because there are so few reenactments this time of year,  so Holiday Nights allows us that opportunity in an old-timey-type festive atmosphere.
And to you snarky know who you are...yep, I am quite aware of this electric light thing going on in the picture here.  However,  there is an old worldliness to it,  don't you agree?
While Johnson’s tree was considered a marvel,  and Edison’s company tried to market electric Christmas lights,  they did not become immediately popular.  The cost of the lights and the services of an electrician to install them was out of the reach of the general public.  However,  wealthy people would hold Christmas tree parties to show off electric lighting,  thus the use of small candles,  despite their danger,  remained the popular method of illuminating household Christmas trees until well into the 20th century.

God rest ye merry,  gentlemen,  let nothing you dismay...
1st issue of Charles Dickens'  "A Christmas Carol"  from autumn 1843.
"A Christmas Carol."  
Is there any other story that epitomizes what the modern day Christmas celebration is all about?  
In writing the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge,  author Charles Dickens wanted to comment on greed in Victorian Britain.  He also made Christmas a more prominent holiday and permanently associated himself with Christmas celebrations.  
The book crossed the Atlantic and began to sell in America in time for Christmas 1844,  and became extremely popular.  When Dickens made his second trip to America in 1867,  crowds clamored to hear him read from A Christmas Carol.  His tale of Scrooge and the true meaning of Christmas had become an American favorite.  The story has never been out of print,  and Scrooge is one of the best-known characters in literature.
Who would have thought this very English fable written over 180 years ago would be every bit as alive today here in the 21st century United States as it was in 1843 England when first published?  Gerald Charles Dickens,  great great grandson of THE Charles Dickens,  was quoted as saying,  "The  'Carol'  is 10 times more popular in America than it is in England.  In England,  the  'Carol'  is just a story.  In America the  'Carol'  IS Christmas."
It most certainly is - - - 

I have a few other traditional-looking decorations that I enjoy enlisting the lighted candle to sort of magnify them,  including this old world St.  Nicholas:
An old world Santa/St.  Nicholas surrounded by pumpkins.
Wait---what?  Pumpkins?  It's not Thanksgiving!  Or Hallowe'en!
Well,  pumpkins are more historically accurate than,  say,  a pineapple,
Ever hear of pumpkin pies for Christmas?

From our kitchen doorway...
You'll note the back of the tree is dark.  The candles there are placed
in a safe manner,  therefore I won't light those harder to see in back unless I rearrange them and have extra viewing eyes.

With my colonial-style lanterns and my wreath,  this could be late Colonial - - 
.....or early Republic.

I believe this is from Old Sturbridge Village~
Before the widespread availability of glass,  cattle horn was heated and flattened thin enough to permit light to pass through,  and these thin sheets of horn glazing were used to protect a candle or other flame against wind,  similar to a pane of glass.
The lantern used here reminds me of the kind used in the later 18th and early 19th centuries,  and given the fact that I do not know which open-air museum this photo was taken,  they could have used glass,  though I've a feeling they most likely would've had cow's / cattle horn for the translucent  which are now pretty expensive to purchase,  if you can even find any!

I front a period-dress  ("Victorian")  vocal group called Simply Dickens.
Well,  I did - - we ended our 22 year career on December 20th.
We performed mostly little-known old world carols  ("All You That Are Good Fellows,"  "Gloucestershire Wassail,"  "The Boar's Head Carol,"  "The Wexford Carol,"  "The Huron Indian Carol,"  "Masters In This Hall,"... for example),  and we held our final performance at my house.  A few people were invited - a half dozen or so - and we live streamed it to a much larger audience.  So my wife snuck outside and snapped this wonderful picture.
From the outside looking in~
It was such fun - it was like a Christmas party from days of old,  and yet it was also contemporary.
Most there had never seen a candle-lit Christmas tree so I thought it would be a way to make this night even more memorable.
Lynn captured me lighting the tree for our guests and the group that night.
It was a good party - perhaps I'll put together another gathering next year.

From the inside looking out - - the same window from the other side.

The Village of  Holly,  Michigan puts on the oldest Dickens Festival in the U.S.   This year of 2023 was its 50th anniversary!  And my vocal group,  which began here in 2001,  closed out the festival this year.
That was such an honor.
With me up front and the rest of Simply Dickens in the carriage,  we took a horse & carriage ride,  all the while singing  "One Horse Open Sleigh" - the original 1857 verses.
Click the You Tube link below:

And we also did a sort of  "Old World"  pub sing inside an actual 19th century pub!
Click the You Tube link below:

The Genesee Country Village and Museum is a 19th-century living history museum covering more than 600 acres located in the town of Wheatland,  New York,  in the small hamlet of Mumford,  about 20 miles from Rochester.  On the museum property is the 19th-century village  (the Historic Village),  the John L.  Wehle Gallery of Sporting Art,  the Genesee Country Nature Center,  the Carriage Museum,  the Silver Baseball Park,  and the Heirloom Gardens.  The facility offers special events and classes throughout the year.
A peaceful Christmas morn at Genesee Country Village and Museum

The Christmas Truce,  which took place during The Great War  (eventually to be known as World War One)  in the far north-west of Belgium known as Yser Front  (part of No Man’s Land)  happened on Christmas Eve in 1914 and continued into the following Christmas Day.  It was at this time the soldiers themselves stopped the war for Christmas Eve.  The Germans actually initiated it;  the Brits went along.  First the men gathered up the bodies of their fallen comrades and buried them;  priests put on their white stoles and administered last rites to the dead.  White crosses were erected and Scottish Highlanders played their bagpipes.  Once the survivors completed the burial rituals,  the men decided to celebrate the holiday with a soccer game.
According to records,  the Germans won the game.  Then chocolates,  wine,  beer,  and schnapps were shared by all.  British and German soldiers crawled out of their trenches,  shook hands,  and sang Christmas songs together.  Along with German and English songs,  of course,  'Silent night,  holy night' also resounded across the ghostly tranquility of the battlefield.
One account mentions the  "Scotsmen started the bagpipes".
This truce lasted 24 hours.  Hard to believe it even happened.  But the events are preserved with letters,  journals,  and diaries of those who experienced it all and also in war records.
When commanders of both armies heard about this outrageous peace transgression they made sure it would never happen again.
This emotion-filled photo was taken by Knute Wales outside the WWI vignette at Cotswold Cottage on December 1st at Greenfield Village during the Holiday Nights event.  The subject of the picture is historic presenter and WWI reenactor,  John Sproul,  who is  "representing a Scottish soldier in 1914,  telling the story of the Christmas truce." 
That is the 1633 Farris Windmill silhouetted in the background.
Such an amazing picture - truly amazing.

It may be Christmas Day as I post this,  but it will not be the final Christmas blog posting for me this season.  I have two - maybe three - more coming your way.  The Christmas season  "officially"  goes to January 6th,  but in days of old it sometimes went to February 2nd,  marking the 40th day after Christmas!
Anyhow,  I hope this little post helped to heighten your Christmas spirit.  It did for me while writing it.
Merry Christmas from my home to yours.