Holidays make us sentimental and nostalgic. Every family enjoys teaching the younger generation to carry on family traditions. Some families open presents at night, others (like mine) are forced to sing Christmas Carols and wait in the dining room until a fire is made before entering the living room and opening gifts Christmas morning. Recently I heard of a tradition where some families open one gift Christmas Eve, always containing a new pair of pajamas to wear.
Some families make gingerbread houses, have cookie baking marathons or brew up some wicked wassail punch. Every family has those who enjoy stringing tinsel one piece at a time, while glaring at those who throw it on in bunches.
We all have our holiday traditions, taught to us by our parents and grandparents. But where do these traditions come from? Like many parts of our culture, our Christmas traditions are a combination 17th, 18th and 19th century European customs (and some are even older!) The Germans brought us nutcrackers, gingerbread, candy canes and table top trees. Queen Victoria made decorating a large family Christmas tree a symbol of the modern family Christmas. Early Anglican colonists used elaborate fruit displays on their tables and hung evergreens and holly in their halls- a decorative style that many modern home owners still admire during the holidays.
Lincoln employed Thomas Nast to depict Santa Claus in his Civil War cartoons, having the jolly old elf celebrating and bringing joy to the Union soldiers. Later, Coca Cola helped give Santa his modern make over.
It wasn’t just Victorians that gave us our wonderful traditions. Let’s not forget that the 20th century brought us Mitch Miller, bubble lights, Rankin Bass holiday cartoons, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and Christmas villages lit up on trees.
This year the Historical Society decorating committee has explored where our traditions come from. Our new exhibit “Christmas Past” focuses on holiday traditions from the time of the Connecticut Puritans, to decorative Victorian parlors, to tinsel-heavy, brightly lit 50’s Christmas trees all the way to a 2012 Christmas.
This Sunday, December 16th, the Historical Society will be open for its annual Holiday Open House from 2-4pm. There will be crafts, refreshments (including hot cider!), and live music by Trumbull students. There will also be a raffle for a 3 story gingerbread house made by local resident, Helen Ingrassia. Our gift shop will also be open, where you can find craft kits, handmade ornaments, books, and stocking stuffers.
There is a $5 suggested donation to help support our organization. Guests can then journey over to the NIA for its annual bonfire at 5pm!