Christmas season filled with traditions

By: 

Lorna Marquardt, Leader Columnist

I often bring my laptop into the kitchen to write my weekly article. As I was about to begin writing, I looked out the kitchen window and, to my delight, saw the swans were back! Twelve of them, floating gracefully downstream, sometimes their behinds in the air as they searched for their breakfast.

The view of the swans, geese and ducks renewed my appreciation for Mother Nature and our beautiful Wolf River.

We plan to put up our Christmas tree on Sunday. Earlier this week, I visited Old Glory candy store. I was so happy to find adorable little gingerbread houses to hang on my tree. In addition, I purchased the double cherries on a wire similar to those we put on our tree when I was a child. Actually, it is no longer wire, as it has been determined the wires could be a danger. Doesn’t matter, they are just what I wanted for my old-fashioned tree.

I will have to make a return trip because I forgot to buy candy canes. They are a must every year, regardless if it’s a Raggedy Ann, a Grinch or an old-fashioned tree. The candy canes are symbolic. I love the “ Legend of the Candy Cane”:

Look at the candy cane,

What do you see?

Stripes that are red like

The blood shed for me.

White is for my Savior

Who’s sinless and pure.

“J” is for Jesus, my Lord,

That’ for sure!

Turn it around and

A staff you will see.

Jesus, my Shepherd

Was born for me!

Author unknown

Another tradition important to me is attending a candlelit service on Christmas Eve; something I have done since childhood. During my youth, I attended St. John’s Lutheran Church in Marion. The Rev. Fred Ohlrogge always delivered a powerful and meaningful message. Following the service all the children received a brown paper bag filled with an orange, apple, peanuts and a handful of hard candy. In the ’50s, it was quite a treat!

I love Christmas carols even though my singing is pretty bad; awful, actually. No doubt the good Lord smiles as He hears me enthusiastically singing “Joy to the World” off key.

Did you know carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago? They weren’t actually Christmas carols though. They were pagan songs, sung at the winter solstice celebrations as people danced around stone circles. The word carol means dance or a song of praise and joy. Carols used to be sung during all four seasons, but singing them at Christmas is the only tradition popular today.

Christians eventually took over the pagan celebrations, and Christian songs were written to sing instead of pagan ones. It is unclear when the first Christmas carol was written, but it is believed that circa 1350 to 1550 is the golden age of English carols.

My favorite Christmas carol is “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” In 1865, an Episcopal clergyman visited Bethlehem. His visit to the town of Bethlehem inspired him to write a poem. The church organist created the music and the poem became the beautiful carol sung in many churches today.

Christmas seems to be a time when many families and individuals follow traditions. One tradition that doesn’t seem to be as popular as it once was is the sending of Christmas cards. Did you know the custom of sending Christmas cards was started in the UK in 1843? Sir Henry Cole was a civil servant who helped set up the new Public Record Office (now called the post office).

Sir Henry had a friend, John Horsley, an artist. They designed the first Christmas card and sold them for one shilling each. The first card had three panels. The outer two panels showed people caring for the poor, and the center panel was a family having a large Christmas dinner. Some people didn’t like the card because it showed a child being given a glass of wine. About 1,000 were printed and sold. Only a few are known to still exist.

Christmas cards appeared in the United States in the late 1840s. They were very expensive and most people couldn’t afford them. In the 1910s and 1920s, homemade cards became popular.

Cards used to flood the post offices, but the cost of the cards and postage became a hindrance. In addition, modern day technology has made it easier for people to send their greetings electronically.

Call me an old-fashioned traditionalist. I still enjoy sending and receiving Christmas cards. I also say “Merry Christmas.”

Answer to last week’s trivia question: The recreation center was built in 1955.

Today’s question: In what year was Franklin Junior High School razed?

Lorna Marquardt is a former mayor of Shawano.
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