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jda3rd
01-09-2007, 10:35 PM
I know this seems a bit late (or perhaps a bit early), but I would appreciate some insight into what sorts of things were commonly given as Christmas gifts in the immediate pre-War years, and during the War. I'd like to know what little girls, and boys, would find either under the tree, or in their stockings. Which brings to mind another question: Were gifts placed under a trees as they are today, or were they more commonly put in a stocking? Were they wrapped? In what? What about youngsters in the blockaded South? What about different social/economic classes? What about slave children?

I may try to do a presentation on this subject next Christmas, especially if I can find examples to show.

Thanks for your kind assistance.

Frank Brower
Bangor, Alabama

EFA
01-10-2007, 01:31 AM
I know that the ladies magazines and other publications used to run articles on things like this. I'm pretty positive that children were given handmade toys, small games, or if the family could afford them store bought toys and dolls were given. A white faced china doll would have been appropriate for a weathier little girl. A rocking horse made of sawdust stuffed hide with glass eyes and real hair would have been an extravagant gift. A toy wagon, cast horses and carriages, toy soldiers, a child sized teaset or dinnerware set was another popular gift as well. Stockings were filled with small gifts, candy, nuts, oranges, apples etc.
Tabletop Christmas trees were in fashion as well.

Christmas in the Country...
Christmas wrapping paper and Christmas cards did not exist; however, there were stockings hung on the mantle or the bedposts. If the children had been good and if the harvest had been successful, the stockings contained presents. There might have been a gingerbread figure but it was not cut out with cookie cutters because there weren't any. Someone had used little balls of dough and shaped the figures. There would have been an apple or other fruit. There might be a treasure such as a jack knife or a "house wife." Perhaps there would have been a homemade toy such as a puzzle, a puppet, a doll or a wooden horse. If the children were very lucky, they would have found such treasures as a sled or a Noah's ark or snowshoes waiting for them. Special gifts were almost always clothes of some sort. Even an orange was a big treat.

Children made gifts for their parents, brothers and sisters and other friends and relatives, if they could. The list of gifts children could and did make was limited only by ability and available materials. Preparing for next Christmas usually began on December 26th. Potpourri or sachet and pomander balls were a great gift for both men and women. There were times when men liked to sniff a pomander ball. Hankies could be hemmed or scarves, mitts and socks knitted. Any little girl of five or six could hem and knit. A "housewife" for women might be a gift from several children and even from the husband whose pennies would buy needles, pins and thimble. Boys might make boxes as presents. Boxes could hold many kinds of treasures. There were many different toys to be made for other children. Grandma or Grandpa would enjoy a footstool or pillow for an aching back.

There would be candy as well as cookies. The candy was usually in the shape of sticks or balls. It was a hard candy to suck for hours. These sweets were flavoured with fruit juice, such as cherry or peppermint. This was the forerunner of our peppermint candy canes, lollipops, jawbreakers and even lifesavers.

On Christmas Day after stockings were emptied, games were played, such as hide-the-thimble and blind-man's-bluff. Dinner would be of the best quality possible. There would probably be mincemeat pie and plum pudding made with fruits that grew naturally in the forest.

After Christmas was over, it was visiting time because farm work was almost at a standstill. Sometimes visiting began at Christmas and the house was filled with friends and relatives. Friendship, food and firewood made the Christmas gathering a wonderful time for everyone.
(Taken from http://www.westfieldheritage.ca/Christmas.htm)

http://www.connerprairie.org/HistoryOnline/xmas.html
http://www.victoriana.com

mmescher
01-12-2007, 07:48 PM
We had several questions about the contents of the excerpt from another website.

It stated that pomanders were popular for both men and women. We have not found any documentation for their use during the 1860's. Do you know who wrote this piece and could find out their source for that statement?

There were several other questionable items but we would like to take care of the above question first before addressing the others.

Also, this excerpt is about Christmas in Canada. Can you tell us how Canadian customs was different from Christmas in the United States, which itself did not have a uniform way to celebrate Christmas throughout the various regions of the country.

We did notice that there was no bibliography as there was for the article from Conner Prairie contained in the links at the bottom.

Michael Mescher

tenfed1861
01-12-2007, 09:59 PM
Great,now I feel kinda depressed about these kids enjoying small gifts and we enjoy things like tvs and such.
Cullen

Bloated_Corpse
01-14-2007, 04:04 PM
Great,now I feel kinda depressed about these kids enjoying small gifts and we enjoy things like tvs and such.
CullenNo matter what age they live in, kids have huge imaginations and can do wonders with the simplest things. I love this quote form William Faulkner's book "The Unvanquised" where two small boys are playing at the Siege of Vicksburg:

Behind the smokehouse that summer, Ringo and I had a living map. Although Vicksburg was just a handful of chips from the woodpile and the River a trench scraped into the packed earth with the point of a hoe, it (river, city, and terrain) lived, possessing even in that ponderable though passive recalcitrance of topography which outweighs artillery, against which the most brilliant to victories and the most tragic of defeats are but the loud noises of a moment.

EFA
01-15-2007, 12:35 PM
It stated that pomanders were popular for both men and women. We have not found any documentation for their use during the 1860's. Do you know who wrote this piece and could find out their source for that statement?

Since pomanders had been around LONG before the 1860's I would assume that they would have still been in use at that time. Maybe not as popular as the article states would have been a nice gift/decoration. They would have been an easy thing to make.
In plain English, a pomander is a mixture of fragrant and/or antiseptic herbs and spices, often in the form resembling a ball. To that I would like to add what I believe to have been the most important use, and that is as a deterrent for insects in clothes closets, and it is still used for that purpose to this day.(http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/natural_health/97352) No bibliography but you get the idea.

There were several other questionable items but we would like to take care of the above question first before addressing the others.

Also, this excerpt is about Christmas in Canada. Can you tell us how Canadian customs was different from Christmas in the United States, which itself did not have a uniform way to celebrate Christmas throughout the various regions of the country.

Canadian Christmas customs probably stemmed from French and English Christmas customs. US Christmas customs would have been pretty much the same with some families celebrating in a more German or more French or more English way depending upon the traditions their family heritage.
We did notice that there was no bibliography as there was for the article from Conner Prairie contained in the links at the bottom.

I didn't notice that when I posted the excerpt. I honestly didn't think that a bibliography would be that important on a forum. I'll make an effort next time I attempt to help someone out that the page actually has source notes.


Michael Mescher

I put my answers in red...