Sunday, December 25, 2011

An Early View of Christmas in Brookline

Mary W. Poor, who was born in Brookline in 1820, was the daughter of the Rev. John Pierce, minister of the First Parish Church.  Her "Recollections of Brookline," read before the Historical Society in 1903, included this passage about Christmas at the time of her childhood.

As Brookline has changed outwardly, so have its manners and customs. In those old days there was no attention paid to Christmas beyond saying, "I wish you a merry Christmas!" to the members of the family when we first met them in the morning. We never dreamed of its being made merrier than any other day. The schools went on as usual and no one expected a Christmas gift. We had New Year's presents instead. I never heard of Santa Claus till I was sixteen and then he was mentioned by a lady from New York. We knew that Catholic and Episcopal churches were dressed with evergreens at Christmas, and sometimes went to Boston to see them on that day.

 For more on the celebration of Christmas in early Massachusetts—it was outlawed from 1659 to 1681 and was not recognized as an official holiday until 1856—see this "Mass Moment" from the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities.