New Christmas TraditionsOn December 23, 2020 by Elyse
From alternative Fourth of July plans to innovative uses for your Thanksgiving leftovers, Second Glance History has made a habit of looking backwards for holiday inspiration. As this very strange year comes to an end—not a moment too soon—my gift to you is suggestions for celebrating Christmas, too. Whether you want to try out some new traditions or just reassure yourself that your holidays could be so much weirder, you’re welcome.
(Don’t) get your mail carrier drunk.
A request has been issued by the Post Master General as follows:– The Bury Free Press, December 20, 1884
The Post Master General desires to call attention to the fact that the least desirable manner in which appreciation may be shown of the labours of postmen during the Christmas season is to offer them drink whilst in the discharge of their official duties, it is calculated to bring trouble and disgrace, the Post Master earnestly hopes therefore the public will refrain from putting such temptation in their way.
All the sudden, I’ve never wanted to have a drink with my mail carrier more. My holiday shopping list just got a little longer.
Chase a hare.
In a letter to his parents, a British soldier fighting in the First World War wrote about Christmas 1914 in the trenches:
The most extraordinary sight I think [ever] happened took place just round our lines. Our chaps and the Germans were singing and shouting to one another last night, and this morning firing ceased, and the next thing we saw was men from both sides leaving their trenches and meeting half way, all unarmed, and shaking hands and exchanging cigarettes, just as if they had been [pals] for years.
One very amusing incident happened. A hare suddenly appeared and men of both armies chased it, which caused roars of laughter from all. But the hare laughed the [heartiest], for he got away. Truly this was a marvellous sight, and one of many I shall never forget. Our officers talked with theirs, and one of ours had a few snapshots with his camera.
It is hard lines to think that after this we shall be doing our best to knock one another’s heads in. The meeting [lasted] about two hours, and then each side returned to their trenches, but no shots have been fired since. There seems to be a desire to spend today as quietly as possible. But “business as usual” will be the order as soon as anything happens that should not.– Private G. W. Arnold, the East Suffolk Gazette, January 5, 1915
At least the soldiers got their exercise. If you’re looking to treat your ears this holiday season, there’s plenty more to discover about that Christmas Truce in a recent episode of the fantastic Oh! What a Lovely Podcast.
Ponder your mortality.
Next time you read A Christmas Carol, remember that these are the holiday “festivities” in the workhouses Ebenezer Scrooge so blithely praises:
The [workhouse] inmates, numbering 135 had their usual treat on Thursday. Service was held in the beautiful little chapel connected with the house. The Chaplain in his sermon praised the congregation for their singing.
“Many of you,” said the reverend gentleman, “from your great age and infirmities can hardly expect to spend another such day on earth.”. . . The service ended and will not soon be forgotten by those who attended it.– The East Suffolk Gazette, December 30, 1879
An on-brand 2020 Christmas message.
The atmosphere was a little merrier across the Atlantic Ocean, at least in Richmond, Virginia in 1900. There was a definite theme among responses to a newspaper’s survey of Christmas plans.
Allen Potts—I will be good and go to church. Drink all the eggnog I can get.– The Richmond Dispatch, December 23, 1900
Notice he didn’t specify the order of operations.
B. B. Bowles—A little eggnog, and a good time with the girls.– The Richmond Dispatch, December 23, 1900
W. S. Ahern—I shall try to get a little eggnog, you know. It’s the proper thing for me to do, don’t you think?– The Richmond Dispatch, December 23, 1900
Go for it, Ahern.
Leon Dettelbach—Drink eggnog until I get that funny feeling.– The Richmond Dispatch, December 23, 1900
Others planned for a tamer holiday.
Ike Thalhimer—It is none of your business, but I am going to do as you ought to do—keep sober.– The Richmond Dispatch, December 23, 1900
James Crump—Stay at home and behave myself.– The Richmond Dispatch, December 23, 1900
Somebody really wanted to be on Santa’s nice list next year.
W. P. Knowles—I will spend my Christmas at home. Don’t believe in carousing around and drinking at this season of the year. Love ice-cream!– The Richmond Dispatch, December 23, 1900
A kindred spirit—I’m a firm believer in enjoying ice cream year round.
A. Brokenbrough—I am going to stay in the house, for I will be afraid to come out.– The Richmond Dispatch, December 23, 1900
They do know Halloween is over, right?
W. S. Doves—Will stay at home and roughly estimate the profits I made in the land booms in Virginia a few years ago, and enjoy the good things sent my wife by country cousins.– The Richmond Dispatch, December 23, 1900
Ebenezer Scrooge would be proud.
Shoot some birds.
Turkeys aren’t the only birds in danger this time of year.
G. W. Gary—I shall try to kill some ducks.– The Richmond Dispatch, December 23, 1900
Thomas M. Hundley—There is no telling what I shall do. I expect to kill some birds.– The Richmond Dispatch, December 23, 1900
Not everyone had violent intentions:
J. W. Wilson—I am going to spend the day feasting myself by watching my beautiful lot of fancy pigeons.– The Richmond Dispatch, December 23, 1900
I apologize for the Mary Poppins flashback.
Count your blessings.
James H. Shepherd—Go to church; at home in the afternoon, and thank God this is the last term that [U.S. President William] McKinley will serve the good people.– The Richmond Dispatch, December 23, 1900
Something tells me lots of people are thinking the same thing this year.
Keep ‘em guessing.
E. Randolph Williams—I am afraid you would tell somebody.– The Richmond Dispatch, December 23, 1900
Henry Boykin—Come out in my neighborhood, and I will show you.– The Richmond Dispatch, December 23, 1900
Horace A. Hawkins—No you don’t. You go to thunder. I know what you are up to.– The Richmond Dispatch, December 23, 1900
Whether you spend the holidays drinking copious amounts of eggnog, hunting/admiring animals of any kind, hiding under your bed or something in between, best wishes for a happy and healthy—emphasis on the latter—New Year!
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Disclaimer: The modern era is far from the first to grapple with rampant “fake news.” As I am neither a historian nor journalist, I make no claims about the accuracy or lack thereof of the above sources. I assert only that they make for a good story.
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