Home |  Search | Contact Us | Submit A Story | Links

Christmas Past

A.W. Cissel

Thumbing through the page of our Thurmont scrapbook, many images of past Christmases emerge. From the days when bells really did jingle on horse drawn sleighs to today's electric-lit, hustle and bustle, minor details of the celebration of Christmas have changed, but the basic elements of religious observance, gifts, music, decoration, and good cheer remain a constant.

In 1867, there were only a handful of houses located east of Rouzer's Branch (Memorial Park), but on Christmas Eve, a parade of sleighs headed over the snow-packed streets toward Graceham. The Moravians candle-lit vigil called "Watch Night" had been celebrated there since 1758. By the turn-of-the century, Thurmont had seven churches, each offering Christmas music, pageants and special inspiration to their members. Surprisingly, Christmas Day was once a favorite wedding date.

Not everyone had the holiday, however, in the 1880s the Post Office opened for distribution of mail from 6:30 - 7:30 a.m., 9:00 - 10:00 a.m., and again from 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. Modern employers were more generous - both Claire Frock and Moore gave their workers a four-day holiday when Christmas fell on a Thursday.

The anticipation and excitement of a child at Christmas has not changed. Then as now, tots "oohed and aahed" over the decorated windows of local merchants and wished for the sled, doll buggy, ortrain set on display. The shop fronts might change from gaslight to neon, but the wonder remains. In later years, the Lions Club sponsored an annual party at Town Hall with Santa and gifts, open to all town children. The State Theater booked special children's double features, with free matinees for kids.

In 1925, the Thurmont housewife might be wishing for the labor saving magic of the new Maytag washing machine (wringer, of course). It could be had with a gasoline motor for those many homes still without electricity. In 1941, a nice mahogany piecrust table for $14.50 would make a wonderful gift. Meanwhile, she had the Christmas baking to do and the traditional feast for family and friends to prepare. For our own Christmas dinner this year of 1996 it would be nice to turn back the clock to prices like oranges at 39 cents a bag, oysters at 69 cents, mincemeat for 27 cents, and spices for 9 cents a can, but those days are gone forever.

Spanning the generations are the familiar stories in song and words - from "Silent Night" and Father Christmas to jolly, old St. Nicholas and Tiny Tim. But the oldest story is still the most beloved - the story of Bethlehem and the reason behind all of our Christmases, past and present.

If you have any Information or historical news clippings on events in the Thurmont Area, Please send them to us so we can included them in our archives. E-mail us at: history@mythurmont.net

Read more articles by Anne Cissel