The Cavendish Historical Society's accepts tax-deductible contributions to help preserve our history. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org 802-226-7807 or PO Box 472 Cavendish, VT 05142 The CHS Museum is located at 1958 Main Street (Route 131) in Cavendish.
Thursday, December 17, 2015
How Did Cavendish’s Settlers Celebrate Christmas?
The first settlers
in Cavendish, including the “pioneer” families (squatters), along with the
Coffeens, Duttons and Proctors, most likely didn’t celebrate Christmas.
Since the Bible provides no reference as to when
Christ was born, early Christians used the winter solstice customs as a way to
convert “pagans.“ Many Christmas customs date back to Saturnalia-the Roman
festival of light leading to the winter solstice and Sol Invictus, the
“Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun.”
Throughout history, humans have observed solstice and created spiritual and
cultural traditions to celebrate the rebirth of sunlight after the darkest
period of the year.
While the Catholic Church embraced Christmas, along
with the Anglicans, Lutherans and Dutch Reformed, Puritans banned it. The
Puritan argued that the selection of the date was an early Christian hijacking
of a Roman festival, and to celebrate a December Christmas was to “defile
oneself by paying homage to a pagan custom.”
For a while in 17th century New England,
Christmas was illegal. Eighteenth century New Englanders viewed
Christmas as the representation of “royal officialdom, external interference in
local affairs, dissolute behavior, and an impediment to their holy mission.”
Once legal, Christmas celebrations were discouraged. It
is unlikely that the early settlers in Cavendish would have openly celebrated
Christmas since they were not of the faiths that did-Coffeen and Dutton were
Universalists-nor was it “politically correct.”
It wasn’t until about 1840-1850 that celebrating
Christmas became more widespread. Though, as late as 1870, classes were
scheduled in Boston public schools on Christmas Day and children were punished if they chose to “stay home beneath the Christmas tree.” That same
year, December 25, was declared a federal holiday in the US.
1823 Clement C. Moore wrote “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (known today as “The
Night Before Christmas”) for his children. He was an American Professor of
Oriental and Greek Literature at the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant
Episcopal Church. The poem becomes widely circulated and sets many of the ideas
about Santa Claus.
1836 Alabama was the first state to legally recognize Christmas
1839 Prince Albert, native of Germany married Victoria ushering in the Victorian
age of Christmas customs, including the Christmas tree.
1840s Irish workers on the railroads brought their families to settle in
Cavendish and held services in their homes whenever a priest was available.
They would have brought their Christmas traditions with them. It wouldn’t be
until 1860 before they had a church-Holy Name of Mary.
1843 John Calcott Horsley illustrated the first Christmas card, which read
“A Merry Christmas and a
First printed Christmas card.
Happy New Year.” Charles Dickens published “A
Christmas Carol” in London.
1847 August Imgard, a German immigrant, used candy canes to decorate a
Christmas tree in Wooster, Ohio
1870 Christmas becomes a Federal holiday.
1890 All states and US Territories acknowledge Christmas as a legal