Celebrations of Christmas in Beaumont change little
By W. T. Block
Reprinted from the Beaumont Enterprise, Wednesday December 23, 1998.
NEDERLAND -- Allowing for the sparseness of population, a sawmill economy, the lack of shopping malls, and the crude quality of toys, it might surprise one how similar Beaumonts Christmas of 1880 was with those of today.
The Christmas tree was already in use here in that year, although its use in churches was still frowned upon. The Christmas tree first arrived in Ohio about 1850, believed brought there by a Lutheran minister from Germany.
In fact, Christmas observances may have been slow to reach the Midwestern states. In 1650 the "Blue Laws" of Massachusetts Bay and New Haven colonies forbade any observance of Christmas, even to the baking of mincemeat pies.
In 1880 the Beaumont sawmill industry closed down one week for Christmas, but used the time to effect repairs to machinery or clean up the premises. Some quotes from the Enterprise of 1880-1881 reveal that:
"...We are glad to hear there will be no Christmas tree in church this year....A Christmas tree grew up in the opera house last night... to the happy and delighted children, who went home and dreamed of good old Santa Claus..."
"Christmas day (1880) was thoroughly enjoyed in Beaumont. The weather was fine, and everyone seemed bent on increasing the pleasures of the day....The children found Santa Claus more than usually kind this Christmas - sign of prosperity..."
...The Christmas tree on Friday night was well-attended... The affair was gotten up under the supervision of Mrs. J. C. Bullock, Miss Texana Ward, and Miss Sallie Rogers... The young people appreciated the effort of these ladies to increase their Christmas pleasures..."
In December, 1891, Galveston Daily News reported the Christmas celebration at Orange as follow:
"...Christmas Eve was celebrated in all the churches. Beautiful artistically-arranged Christmas trees with resplendent decorations made glad the hearts of many a poor little tot... Numerous and beautiful were the presents distributed among the little ones..."
"...While these happy scenes were going on in the churches, the sterner sex were busily engaged shooting off all kinds of fireworks, without which Christmas might have been dull...."
In that frontier age when some men still wore a six-shooter, a Christmas intermixed with alcohol might have resulted in shots being fired indiscriminately into the air.
Between 1880-1920, tree decorations usually consisted of red paper bells, that folded out; paper stars and angels; candy canes, cookies or apples, hanging from tree limbs; silver tinsel streamed over branches; and wax candles connected with clamps to the tree branches. Of course burning candles created fire hazards.
In 1910 the greatest joy for Beaumonts tiny tots was a visit to toyland in Jake J. Nathans Department Store.
"Yes, Virginia," as the New York editor reported. There really was a Santa Claus, that has ridden his "sleigh" in and out of Beaumont for 125 years or more. Yet, is it not remarkable how much Christmas has remained basically the same?