|A Good, Old-Fashioned
By Candice Lynn Buchanan
“In Waynesburg the celebration
of Christmas was scarcely observable, the shooting of fire-crackers and
all kinds of fire-arms being prohibited within the borough limits by the
authorities—except in the rich feasts and imposing exercises in the different
“Quiet” Christmas days headline the holiday in Greene County papers in the late 1870s and early 1880s. A Christmas success story meant that, “Not a gun was fired nor a noise of any kind heard upon the streets louder than a fire cracker and but very, very few of them.”
Emerging from the days of riotous holiday behavior known to be a part of 19th century Christmas history, December 25 was slowly being captured by the churches in 1874, to the apparent joy of Waynesburg residents. The Republican proudly noted that “contrary to the precedent…there was no drunkenness” seen on downtown streets in 1879.
Gives new meaning to good, old fashioned Christmas, wouldn’t you say?!
Well, it simply means you need to be more specific about just how old-fashioned you would like to be.
In the greater picture, Christmas in Greene County then, was surprisingly not so different from Christmas today. In the Waynesburg news of over 100 years ago, Santa is not absent. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas was most likely read by your great-great-grandparents to your great-grandfather, just as you read it to your child today. They probably called it A Visit from St. Nicholas, but the popular poem published in 1823, illuminated the Christmas Eve dreams and anticipation of our ancestors as children, just as it did ours.
Waynesburg’s many downtown shops filled the pages of the Republican with their holiday ads about candy, nuts, oysters (apparently very popular in 1885) and other special inventory. Toy stores and candy providers even remained open in early years on Christmas day to encourage gift giving.
Christmas trees were the highlight of decorations at homes and churches alike.
Friends and relatives came home for the holidays then just as now. The columns of “Mere Mentions” and other such topics dedicated to local news and gossip are filled with homecoming announcements in late December.
Church services and festivities do appropriately headline the Christmas activities in all the Waynesburg news of those old days. The churches held pageants, dinners, gift exchanges and all manner of lectures and services.
Charity was not lacking, with constant reminders from newspaper writers and marketing merchants to remember the less fortunate. The Childrens’ Home was given special note in 1884 after fine festivities were held there thanks to the donations of prominent families and shop owners.
In the spirit of the winter season, sleighing was a common amusement for children and young couples, though when it made the news it was usually the result of an accident or mishap. Often these weren’t serious problems, and when a couple was involved the sly reporter at the Republican did not fail to have some fun with the topic. Such as when a young man fell out of a fast moving sleigh, but caught his foot in his “love-lady’s hoops” and was dragged behind for some distance. Fortunately, uninjured, the young man was suffered only the public teasing of the local newspaper.
So, Christmas spirit in Waynesburg’s past was about a special religious day that inspired the sharing of love and joy, spending fun times with family and friends at home and at church, and….sometimes a little bit of celebratory rowdiness.
All material within this
web site has been compiled by Candice Buchanan <email@example.com>
(63 W. Franklin St.; Waynesburg, PA 15370).
Data sources documented whenever possible. Contributors credited for shared information. Questions, feedback and contributions welcome.
Copyright © 2003-2008 Candice Buchanan. All rights reserved.