Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas 2012, My Old Historic House.

A fresh cut pine tree sets  in an antique crock. Decorated with popcorn and cranberry strings, paper chains, hand cut snow flakes and some old hand blown glass ornaments.

A kennel of Staffordshire dogs from England are dressed for the holidays

Hand cut paper snow flakes decorate the Library chandelier.
A antique German feather tree is in the bed room, hung heavily with hand blown glass ornaments from Germany and Poland.
    Well another year has pasted and here we are ready to celebrate another Christmas. It is hard for me, an Old Timer, who is set in his ways and wants to remember the way Christmas was when I was a youngster.Things have changed so much and I am not sure they are for the good. The commercialization of Christmas is big business, but very sad to me. When I grew up there was no Black Friday. I hate the term and every thing it stands for. Gift giving has gotten out of control No longer does it have the meaning it once had, where bright eyed children got a sack of candy, an orange, a few coins and maybe a couple of toys. They knew it was a special time when every one was cheerful, spreading joy and love. The house was  simply decorated with  fresh cut greens, a tree and some bright ribbons. Sweets were abundant for the children and made many a smiley faces. The big meaning was Christ our Lord and Savory. Church programs, Carols and Nativity Sets were the center of  attention. I would be willing to bet that most kids growing up today have no ideal what Christmas really is all about. Don't get me wrong, there are still families that go to church, mid nigh mass and still teach there kids about the real meaning of Christmas. Today the decorations are over the top, almost extreme. I think most people don't even see them. I look at them as Christmas decoration factories that exploded. If one set of lights is good, one million is better. There was a program on the other night called extreme Christmas. Neighbors out doing neighbors, where did we go wrong???
   As a child growing up in the country I only got to go to town once in awhile. It was real treat to go at Christmas time. Bright lights, trees in all the shops and Christmas music on loud  speakers. I remember decorating the big tree at church and school and thinking it was the most wonderful time and so exciting.We went out in the fields and cut cedars, they were kinda brown and very sticky, but that's all we knew. I remember when I was 12 I asked for a store bought Christmas Tree. My mother, didn't tell my father, but on a trip to Louisiana we got one at the grocery store. I don't think a million dollars would have made me any happier.

A large antique German feather tree is decorated in the Library with hand cut snow flakes and hand blown glass ornaments from Poland and Germany

Paper chains decorate the real fir tree in the kitchen

Popcorn is strung for the kitchen tree.

The kitchen, the center of family life ,is decorated for Christmas and includes a real tree and a early Santa doll.

   The first Christmas tree in the White House was when Benjamin Harrison was president. in 1889. It was placed in the oval room, known today as the Blue Room and decorated by Caroline Harrison, the First Lady, who was an artist. She set the stage for what would become a much beloved Holiday tradition. The present day White House tree is also placed in the Blue Room.
   The marriage of Queen Victoria of England to Prince Albert of Germany in 1840 was a very important  event in the history of the Christmas Tree. Victoria was not born to be Queen. Her uncle the king, had now children, making her next in line to the throne.  In Germany they have had Christmas tree since the 16th century. Prince Albert brought this tradition with him when married Queen Victoria. The Germany's had for many years brought ever green trees into there homes in the dark, long cold winters for decorations., They were small  cut fresh trees and were placed on table tops. News of the Queen having Christmas trees in the palace soon spread and they    then became fashionable around the world. Some Germans arriving by way of Ellis Island also brought this tradition to American with them.
    Christmas became an state holiday in 1870 when President Grant signed it into law after it had passed in both houses of congress. It was signed in June of that year and December 25th was to be the day from then on.
   Most children, except city children, at that time of history were home schooled. As part of the school activities they did art projects. Hand cut snow flakes, paper chains and popcorn  strings were the favorite Christmas tree decorations at that time. Very few people had store bought decorations available. Tinsel ,as we know it, was invented in Germany in 1810. Germany, which makes sense as they have had the Christmas tree tradition the longest, also starting making fancy glass beads and figures to decorate trees. Poland soon started as well. These were made in a room at peoples house and  was known as,"Cottage Industry." They were delicate and expensive to ship. Soon the postal system developed better means of shipping and they were more readily available around the world by 1880.

Hand decorated sugar cookies in the dining room.

Old fashion ribbon candy like I got for Christmas as a child.
More hand decorated sugar cookies.

Fruit cake, most people hate and I love.

Peppermint sticks like I got as a child

Gum drops 

   In Germany the real fir trees were beginning to suffer from mass cuttings for Christmas trees. The Black Forest was also makers of fine furniture and clocks.So the solution was the invention of the first fake tree. Known today as German Feather Trees, these trees were also hand made in Cottage Industries. Goose feathers were cut down the center, the quill removed, died green and tightly wrapped around a heavy wire. Various lengths of wire were attached to a base to resemble a tree, Many of these trees have made it to modern day times. They are prized by there owners. Lovers of old fashioned things have made them popular once again and many companies are now mass producing them.  Since that time the fake tree has become almost the norm. Some children have never seen or experienced a real live tree. Today they are made in all colors and sizes and even come with the lights already attached.
   The poem, Twas the Night before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore was first published in New York newspaper in 1822. Moore was a Bishop and he officated in the inauguration of George Washington.  In the original poem, Santa was referred to as St. Nicholas.Before this poem was published there was no image of Christmas or Santa as we know them today. St. Nicholas was the Saint of Children. When he went into the priest hood he vowed to give up his worldly goods. So he often made a habit of dropping gold coins down the chimneys of the poor. Sometimes the coins would land in the stockings that were hung on the chimney to dry  and this is where the tradition of  hanging stockings came from. Most people relate the art of Christmas gift giving to the three Kings who came to find the Christ Child bearing gifts.Americans are responsible for the way Santa looks today. In many Europe Countries he appears as the old version of St. Nichols.
    Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly is a very old song. The melody is Welsh and dated back to the 16th century It become most popular in 1870 with the addition of the words we know today. This is the reason we decorate with holly and greenery today.
   Before 1890 Christmas trees were lite candles. A bucket of water was always present in case of a fire. In 1890 Edward Johnson hand wired 80 light bulbs of red and blue and wrapped them around a Christmas tree. Electric Christmas tree lights did not catch on fast. It was a decade before they did so. In 1899 President Cleveland commissioned the first electric lighted Christmas tree for the White House. At a cost of $200, about $3000 in today's money. General Electric made the first   electric light sets in 1903.  The middle of the 1900's brought the mini lights sets, called twinkle, and Christmas trees have never been the same since.

Fresh greenery cut from the garden. White pine, cedar and magnolia.

The dining room table laden with sweets and candy awaits Christmas morning

    Commercialization of Christmas as we know it today has become a religion all of it's own. Shopping substitutes as the primary source of Spiritual Meaning. The religion deity is Santa Claus, it's house of worship is the shopping mall. and it's Heaven is the thriving  economy. Santa is the Savior, not Jesus, because he is now the symbol, that most people know.
    I have tried at the 1845 Historic Elgin/Cottrell House Museum in Clarksville,Mo. to take my visitors back in time. No electric flashing lights, no trees hung upside down and only the simple things that meant Christmas so many years ago. Please consider taking a  tour. Just call anytime for a reservation.573 242 9688. Tours given anytime with a least 2 people. Thanks and have a wonder full Merry Christmas and the happiest of New Years Ever. Richard

Antique feather tree in library with toys awaits Christmas morning

Antique feather tree in my room laden with glass ornaments from Germany and Poland


Divine Theatre said...

I was about to COME DOWN THERE and get you, Richard! I feel like I have won something! I have missed you SO MUCH!!!!!!

I haven't read your post yet. I just wanted to give you and Sissy and hug!
I will read the post now!



Divine Theatre said...

I agree with all of your sentiments, my friend. I yearn for a simpler time. However, if not for the advent of the internet I never would have met you.
Your dining room looks like something out of a Dickens novel. I wish I was there!
I also wish I could find magnolia leaves around here! That arrangement is stunning!
More kisses for Sissy!


Lottie said...

Richard, what a wonderful and INTERESTING post about the meaning and changes that have followed Christmas! What beautiful pictures of your tree and dining room table! Yum, the candy and sugar cookies look great!
Best wishes,

Sweet Old Vintage said...

Our younger generation do not have a clue as to what we mean when we refer to times past...when they were meaningful......I miss them terribly but try to stay true to my feelings and do not allow myself to get all caught up... I have decorated more this year as I have been given the gift of another Christmas father my fight with cancer this summer... And just starting to feel well again... I love your handout snowflakes... So very pretty... enjoy... You must be pretty busy with your new direction of the shop... At least you haven't posted in blog land much... I didn't post much myself during mt battle but am picking up posting some now...

Sweet Old Vintage said...

Our younger generation do not have a clue as to what we mean when we refer to times past...when they were meaningful......I miss them terribly but try to stay true to my feelings and do not allow myself to get all caught up... I have decorated more this year as I have been given the gift of another Christmas father my fight with cancer this summer... And just starting to feel well again... I love your handout snowflakes... So very pretty... enjoy... You must be pretty busy with your new direction of the shop... At least you haven't posted in blog land much... I didn't post much myself during mt battle but am picking up posting some now...

Marcia said...

Wow, your blog sure brings back the memories! I attended a one-room country school from 1st-5th grades. Every Christmas we put on a program for our parents. There were about a dozen of us from grades 1-8 and each of us had some sort of part to recite, sing, etc., plus lots of songs and maybe a play, too.

There was a 'county home' just down the road, and we also had to put on our school program for them. The county home was like a retirement home for the poor or infirm, those who had no family to care for them, and no money for a better situation. It was scary for us little kids; some of the people were odd looking, and we had to get right up in front of them and do our program. But we did it and that was just a part of what you did at Christmas in my rural farm neighborhood.

I love your Santa on the chicken! And I wonder if Sissy helped you string the popcorn?

Wonderful, colorful, inspiring blog; thank you, Richard!

Pamela Gordon said...

Hello Richard, it's so nice to see a post from you. It's been a long time and I was wondering if you are okay. Your house looks so beautiful all decorated for Christmas. I enjoyed looking at each photo and the one of the ribbon candy brought back memories for me. Barley toys were another favourite. Have you ever had them? I wish you a wonderful Christmas. Blessings, Pamela

Susan said...

Hello Richard! So nice to see your post. Your home looks lovely and yes, you are so right, there is wayyyyy too much commercialization of Christmas.

Your trees look lovely and the hand decorated cookies are fabulous! Did you make those?

Had to chuckle at the ribbon candy. One of my late uncles used to give us boxes of that at Christmas time but oh,my oh my, my sisters and I didn't like it at ALL.

We'd smile and say thank you but then, when we'd get out to the car, we'd all go "YUK. Ribbon candy."
ha ha ha Had to chuckle at the memory.

Thanks for posting and don't stay away for so long next time! We like to see what's going on in the Old Historic Mansion! Susan

Happy To Be/ Gl♥ria said...

BRAVO!! Richard I love this post..your so spot on..
I was helping my granddaughter she's (30) decorate her tree fake pre-lite with all these black and silver bulbs..and I told her as a child we only had real trees and bubble lites which I adored and my brother and I made red paper chains and strung popcorn as we listened to the radio..
Our gifts were not put out until after we went to bed on Christmas eve..because mama wanted us to think Santa had brought them..
We got a sock with an apple, orange walnuts and a shiny new quarter..Nothing fancy but I so remember all the smells that mama had in the house from the baking, candy making,wood burning stove it was just like heaven to me..I could never sleep Christmas eve was waiting to try and catch Santa ha ha!!
I'm older than you Richard but I think we both shared alike childhoods..
Thanks for the trip down memory lane my dear friend..I really needed that!!
Give Sissy some fur love from me..
Hugs and smiles Gloria
ps..It's been 3 years since I have even put up a tree..sighs

mississippi artist said...

So glad to see your post.I love the hats on the dogs, maybe I will steal that idea.I love those snowflakes, so beautiful.

Robin's Egg Bleu said...

Your Christmas decor is BEAUTIFUL! I have an odd question for you:
Five days ago, I decorated the house museum I am employed with for Christmas and utilized some red/white candy cane peppermint sticks on the tree and for the stockings with oranges and nuts on the children's beds.

Today in checking on the water level for the trees, I made a horrifying discovery: the candy cane sticks (which I'd taken out of the plastic wrap as it had horrible blue printing on it) had MELTED all over the treeskirt, the brussels wool needlepoint carpet and the quilts and bedding. I'd taken care to position the candy sticks with the oranges underneath them so they wouldn't come into contact with the textiles.

Do you unwrap your candycanes for display? Your peppermint sticks seem unpackaged. Have you ever had anything such as a melting type of disintegration of your candy canes? Our museum is not heated, it in fact was pretty cold, nor damp... and I cannot fathom what on earth happened. Just the strangest thing!

Pearl said...

Everything is looking mighty festive your way! Just beautiful Richard. Have a happy Christmas and New Year! Hugs, Pearl

Stacy Leigh said...

Wow! You have been busy. The house looks amazing! If anyone has not taken Richard's house tour this would be an excellent time to do so. :)

Historical Ken said...

And your home is beautifully decorated!
One question: how long does it take for you to decorate your home?
Okay...two questions: when do you begin decorating?
Have a Merry Christmas!

Anne said...

Thank you for sharing the beauty of Christmas in your words!! I agree whole-heartedly and wish so much that people would see the true meaning of it all! Your pictures make me smile and especially the remembrance of the ribbon candy and peppermint sticks that I used to get as well!! Merry Christmas!! :)

Sea Witch said...

without a doubt, my favorite photo is of the Staffordshire dogs all dressed up with Santa hats. This made my day. As always, your home is magnficient. Have a marvelous Christmas.

Curtains in My Tree said...

Oh Richard so glad you came back to us with this over the top post of your beautiful memories and fabulous decorations.
Yes the stafforshire dogs are my all time favorite, they are just to fabulous for words

Love all the trees and your home made decorations
I sure would love to have one of those beautiful Christmas cookies LOL with my cup of coffee this morning

I enjoyed your stories of history very much as always.

I wish for you & Sissy a wonderful Christmas and Holiday season


Southern Lady said...

Oh, Richard ... you have outdone yourself! Your house looks as if it belongs in the pages of "'Twas was the Night Before Christmas," complete with "visions of sugar plums." Everything is truly beautiful and is the epitome of what decorating for Christmas should be -- a collection of simple, but beautiful and meaningful things that remind you of sweet memories of Christmases Past.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts about how celebrating Christmas has changed through the years. It's sad to see, but is uplifting to know that others feel the way I do about it.

With my sincerest wishes to you for the best Christmas ever at your beautiful "Old Historic House."

Olive said...

The dogs with scarves are just darling Richard. I also have great disdain for Black Friday. We really do not give gifts, we try to enjoy each other and cook.

lvroftiques said...

It is always breathtaking at your house Richard! And never more so than at Christmas I think *winks* Beautiful just beautiful! I so agree with you about Christmas being totally out of whack. Remember when Christmas decorations didn't go up until the day after Thanksgiving? And then the world was transformed into winter wonderland! I miss celebrating each holiday as its own separate entity. Now days it's "MerryChrisThanksHallowsValentEasterday!....Anyhoo my friend it was such a pleasure to hear from you! I hope life is treating you kindly in that darling little town of yours. Vanna

Sissysmom said...

Hi Richard, so happy to see a new post, we miss you and Sissy Dog!! I agree with you on losing the meaning of Christmas.

Your decorations are wonderful, I love seeing all the different ways you decorate. By the way I saw your big tree from last year in my Victorian Homes magazine! Congratulations for being in their magazine again. This makes three time....or is it more!!

Hope you and Sissy Dog have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!


Jaybird said...

Your home is lovely Richard, and I am agreeing with your comments as well!!
Blessings to you, and remember that there is a home in Texas, that still has popcorn and cranberry strings, tin foil ornaments and lots of greenery from the yard and countryside!

Babs said...

Merry Christmas, Richard!! Love your wonderful "historic" Christmas decorations. I remember making snow flakes and paper chains as a child and later, with my son. Love the fresh greenery and your Staffordshire dogs gave me such a giggle. Now 'fess up...did you make the snow flakes? Oh, your fruitcake photo reminds me to pick up some at the store. My mom always made them, but I didn't like hers because they were black as a cannon ball and twice as heavy. :p I like the light fruit cake better.
Glad to see you posting again.

Richard Cottrell said...

Sissysmon, Thanks for stopping by and mentioning my Christmas Tree that is in the latest issue of Victorian Homes Magazine. My niece took that picture. Merry Christmas, Richard

Richard Cottrell said...

Yes, I made the snow flakes. I have made hundreds this year. I have a budget problem, so I have been making them for gifts and cards, I
package them with a little poem. I am dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones we used to know. So I am sending everybody some snow, so we all can have one. Merry Christmas.

Shelia said...

There you are, Richard! I've missed you and had hoped you were okay and had not stopped blogging. Glad you've posted again and what a wonderful one it is! You're so right about Christmas and it is sad it has changed so much. Now look at your home. I love your Staffies all decked out in their Christmas finery! Your trees are so pretty and I really like the decorations you've used. I wish you a Merry Christmas and hug little Sissy for me.
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)

Bohemian said...

Merry Christmas Richard! I have been eagerly awaiting your Christmas Post and you never fail to Deliver! Wow, your Old Fashioned Christmas is Divine... and like you I have the fondest of Memories of Simpler Times and Christmas done "Old School Style" in particular. We opted for a Simplified and Old Fashioned Christmas this Year & the G-Kid Force are reveling in it. With the Simplicity has come more Meaning and Focus of the Reason for the Season. I always receive such an Education from your informative Posts... you have been Missed while you were MIA from the Land of Blog! Hugs from the Arizona Desert... Dawn... The Bohemian

Ivy and Elephants said...

Such a wonderful reminder of a simpler time. I love how you've done everything to create a lovely "Christmas Carol".
Nobody does vintage like you!
Just gorgeous!
Hugs and happy holidays,


Oh Richard, I've missed you so much! Your home is as always just stunning and C'mas really fits her!
I'm having a little Stafforshire Dog enviness..they look gorgeous all dressed up for the holidays! The story of my life is rearning for a simpler time and now that I've passed thru some family and computer issues..well. All resolved for now. Your dining room looks stunning, right out of Dickens, like someone said..and I wish I was with you having a cup of tea with those great sweets you're displaying, my friend. Love to Sissy dog and I'm so happy you came to my house. Big hugs and kisses.

Butterbean Row said...

You are one amazing Man! Your decorations are so gorgeous and remind me of my youth. I also remember the real Christmas time when the focus was on the birth of Our Lord, Jesus. Your post is full of the truth....things have become so commercial and without meaning.
God bless you , my friend! And a very Merry christmas to you!

DVentures3 said...

I have long thought that
you must be the REAL Santa Claus!

Sherry @ No Minimalist Here said...

Richard, I knew your home would be beautifully decorated for Christmas and everything is gorgeous. I had to giggle at the staffordshire dogs in their cute hats. Happy Holidays!

Rhissanna said...

Well, I was looking around your wonderful Christmas house, impressed as always with your thorough research and insight and when looking at the pictures... when I saw the rocking horse! Wherever did you get that horse? Does it have a maker's name? Does it have it's own name? I know the design of safety rocker(I used to make and restore) rocking horses and I'm just so impressed to see one.

Merry Christmas, Richard and thank you for everything you put on your wonderful blog.

Pamela Gordon said...

Absolutely gorgeous! I love your trees and decorations. Have a wonderful Christmas, Richard!

Alison @ The Polohouse said...

Hi Richard and Sissy!

Have missed you both.
Don't get to blog as much as I used to these days but hope to catch up with many blogs once my holiday break starts!

Your house looks awesome and the Staffordshire clan of pups all decked out for Christmas are still one of my favorite images of yours.
So clever!!!

Hope this finds you well, sweet friend.

Debbie@Debbie-Dabble and A Debbie-Dabble Christmas said...

I am playing catch up....
What a lovely post filled with so much Christmas spirit and joy!!

Loved seeing your beautiful home all decked out for the Holidays!!
Hope you had a wonderful Christmas!!