The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992

Southwestern Hzstorical Quarterly

Protestant Anglos who brought Christmas to Texas after marching through
the wilderness for several generations had almost lost the purpose for the cele-
bration. Certainly a Mass for Christ would have been foreign in their continued
reaction against all things popish. The result was few traditions except social
ones. Early Texians drank heavily, fired their guns, had dances, turkey shoots,
and eggnog parties, and used the occasion to raise hell generally. A typical
Texas tradition in the 188os is chronicled in Larry Chittenden's still popular
"The Cowboy's Christmas Ball," a poetic treatment of Anson's annual Christ-
mas dance.
Fortunately, the Christmas heritage brought by the Germans in the 1840s
and later included customs rich in years and hallowed by long-cherished Euro-
pean traditions. Germans on their trek to settling in the Hill Country cele-
brated Christmas in Port Lavaca in 1844 by decorating an oak tree with candles
and having gifts for children. In 1845 in New Braunfels the Verein prepared a
richly decorated cedar tree with presents beneath. The German settlers were
responsible in part for the happy compromise between the Catholic high mass
and Protestant partying that we celebrate today. In addition to the Christmas
tree and gift giving, we may also thank them for "Silent Night, Holy Night,"
Kris Kringle, and Christmas cards, which is quite a heritage, when you think of it.
The marked difference, and it is significant, between Protestant and Catholic
celebrations becomes the central symbols: the Tree for Protestants and the
Naczmzento, the Creche, and the Presepio for Catholics.
Texans still become English of the Old Sod when they celebrate Dickens on
the Strand in Galveston in December. Eggnog also is in the English tradition, as
is mistletoe and mince-meat pie. Texas Danes still sing and dance around the
Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, and the Poles of Panna Maria still observe
their vigil, the Wzgelia, with the giving and taking of Oplateki, their personal
communion.
Modern Texans festoon oil derricks with glittering strings of Christmas light.
Marshall lights up its courthouse square like a Victorian Christmas card. The
Star of Bethlehem shines from the top of Franklin Mountain near El Paso. And
because Christmas sales and advertising begin in September, one needs to read
Chrzstmas in Texas annually to keep in mind what the season is all about. Silver-
thorne handles the histories of these Christmas traditions in a scholarly and
interesting way.
Stephen F. Austin State University FRANCIS EDWARD ABERNETHY
Texas Toys and Games. Edited by Francis Edward Abernethy. (Dallas: Southern
Methodist University Press, 1989. Pp. viii+ 253. Preface, photos, bibliogra-
phy, indexes. $24.95, cloth; $14.95, paper.)
The genesis for this delightful work was a paper delivered in Fredericksburg
in 1982 by Lee Haile, entitled, "Seven Toys We Made for Free." From that be-
ginning, the editor, Francis Abernethy, has compiled this work on Texas toys
and games, drawing upon the contributions of Haile and enough others to re-
quire a separate index of contributors. The book is divided into three sections:

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117153/. Accessed May 30, 2015.