of a white Christmas? In Fredericksburg,
Texas you're probably out of luck. There's a better chance that
Congress will vote itself a pay cut. If, on the other hand, you want
to spend the holidays in a charming town with a rich history of old-world
Christmas traditions and more Christmas spirits than a Dickens novel,
you've come to the right place.
Until recent times the kickoff to the Christmas
season in Fredericksburg
was St. Nick Day. St. Nick is a mythical character named for
a real person who seems to have gotten lost in the hoopla of the modern
Christmas celebration. In many regions of Germany, St. Nick, real
name St. Nicholas - the patron saint of children, was a primary character
of the Christmas celebration. He was not Santa Claus, and he arrived,
in spirit, on December 6, the anniversary of his death in 343. The
Germans brought the tradition of celebrating St. Nick Day to the
Texas Hill Country.
Children in Fredericksburg
would hang up their stockings the evening before St. Nick Day. A good
child got a toy or fruit in his stocking. A not-so-good child got
in 1930, and continuing for the next half-century, The Fredericksburg
Lions Club held a community-wide Christmas celebration on a weekend
between St. Nick Day and Christmas.
To start the evening the Lions Club lit the Christmas tree on the
courthouse lawn. Then most of the town showed up at the high school
auditorium for a concert. Church choirs from all denominations performed
Christmas music. The program ended with everyone singing "Silent Night"
and "God Bless America" accompanied by the Fredericksburg Concert
the evening of December 24 was "Santa's Night." That afternoon parents
put up the Christmas tree and decorated it in a room closed off to
children. Decorations included handmade paper ornaments, popcorn on
a string, candles laboriously made by hand and maybe a few precious
ornaments brought from Germany by the pioneers.
| Christmas ornament
| Then that evening,
when everything was ready, the door opened and the children went in.
The whole family sang Christmas carols around the tree. After the
gift exchange there was a meal of dry sausage, cheese and cookies.
The tree stayed up until New Year's Day when parents took down the
ornaments and carefully stored them until Christmas season came around
There was a time in Fredericksburg
when every church in town rang its bells at sunset on Christmas Eve,
following a German tradition that began in the Middle Ages.
On Christmas day, called the second day of Christmas, families went
to church. Each church had a Christmas tree, decorated with candles.
There were buckets of water nearby in case the tree caught fire.-
By the early 20th century many of the churches in Fredericksburg
did 2 Christmas services; one in English and one in German. Bethany
Lutheran would do the Christmas service in German and New Year's service
On December 26, the third day of Christmas, the local Casino
Club held dances and theatricals. There were dances that lasted
most of the night at Turner Hall and
at Peter's Hall.
The holiday celebrations ended with a Sylvester Dance on New Year's
Eve at the Nimitz Hotel
Ballroom or Peter's Hall. St. Sylvester
was a 4th century Pope who died on December 31, 335. Many European
countries held New Year's Eve dances, feasts and celebrations in his
honor. The Germans pioneers brought the custom to the Hill
Marketplatz all lit up
| Looking back
I often think the old Germans did Christmas better than we do. Then
I see a "Light the Night Christmas Parade," hear Handel's "Messiah"
or walk through Marketplatz all lit up like Time's Square, and I'm
pretty sure the old timers would approve.
The only complaint I hear about Christmas
is the weather. A Fredericksburg Christmas might be as cold and damp
as a reindeer's nose or warmer than chestnuts roasting on an open
fire. When it comes to Christmas weather, we might get just about
anything, except snow.