not even the Super Bowl or the first day of deer season, brings people
together like Christmas, and no place does Christmas like Fredericksburg.
The dust barely settles after Thanksgiving before Marketplatz lights
up like Times Square and the spirit of Christmas takes over.
Christmas has always been a big deal in Fredericksburg.
The reason is that here, more than any other place I know of, Christmas
is a community event. Christmas in Fredericksburg
is not about me. It's about us. That's what makes it special.
I would argue that Fredericksburg
survived its first difficult years precisely because people put their
community before themselves. They looked out for each other. They
worked together to solve problems, and on special occasions they let
their hair down, put their differences aside and celebrated together.
Fredericksburg Christmas in the 19th century was a time to celebrate
not only with family but with friends and neighbors. The highlight
of the holiday season was a community festival at Market Square. A
large cedar tree decorated with candles and hand-made ornaments stood
in the middle of the Square. On Christmas Eve the entire community
came together for music, food, beer and wine.
On Christmas day most people went to church. By 1900 many churches
celebrated Christmas with two services: one in German and one in English.
Beginning in 1920 the Fredericksburg Lions Club sponsored a county-wide
Christmas program. "It was the spirit of Christmas that permeated
the air," The Fredericksburg Standard noted. The program featured
church choirs from all denominations, other local signing groups and
the Fredericksburg Concert Band directed by Alfred Pehl.
The emotional night of music ended with everyone in the audience singing
"Silent Night" followed by "God Bless America." After the benediction,
everyone went home feeling "the bliss of being an American."
For over 50 years the Lions Club Christmas program brought people
together. There was nothing else quite like it. The local newspaper
called the occasion "an event unique in Texas and the United States."
In the 1920s, Klaerner's Hall (where the Palace
Theater is today) would sometimes show a movie matinee, often
a Tom Mix, Hoot Gibson or Buck Jones silent western, the day after
Christmas. Later Klaerner's would clear away the chairs and have a
dance that lasted most of the night.
new community tradition began on December 17, 1927 when Santa Claus
at the invitation of the local Chamber of Commerce. Santa's truck
came to town from the north, following the Mason Highway, leading
to rumors among the children that the North Pole was somewhere near
Led by a marching band Santa's truck paraded from Kraus Corner down
the full length of Main Street to the Nimitz
Hotel and then back to the courthouse
where 2,000 children stood lined up to meet St. Nick at the pavilion.
Santa, always a trouper, stayed until the bitter end. "Each and every
child received a package," the Fredericksburg Standard proudly
reported, "none being disappointed. The package included an orange,
an apple, 2 pieces of candy and a little tin horn or a rubber ball."
"Never in the history of Fredericksburg
had such a reception been accorded to any world famous figure in the
past as was the welcome extended Santa."
was mostly a Hill
Country affair. Then in December 1941 locals noticed a lot of
strangers walking along Main Street. They were news correspondents
from all over the country in town to find out more about an obscure
sailor, Chester W. Nimitz, just named Admiral of the Pacific Fleet.
In December 1964 the world watched as President Johnson, Lady Bird,
Luci and Lynda celebrated Christmas at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church.
After that the word was out. Fredericksburg was the place to be for
The celebration of Christmas is still a community event in Fredericksburg.
Our community has gotten a lot bigger, that all.