My maternal grandmother told me stories when I was young about what life was like when she was a little girl. One tale that really shocked me was about the year she missed Christmas. Actually, there were two years when Christmas was not celebrated in her family. It was hard for me to conceive but my grandmother always told me the truth so I had to accept it.

She told me about her baby sister, Elizabeth’s death at the age of three years from diphtheria on Christmas day. Her mother (my great-grandmother) was so devastated by the loss of her youngest child that she was not up to celebrating Christmas a year later. She warned her children that if they put up stockings they would not receive anything but lumps of coal and indeed that is what they got.

I always thought that was such a cruel thing for a mother to do to her children but I wasn’t there so don’t really know what it was like for my great grandmother. I just remember the melancholy look in my grandmother’s eyes when she told me that tale.

My grandmother was from New England stock and she told me that her family didn’t ever celebrate Christmas in a big way. They did put up a tree but most of the gifts given were hand-made. Her stories about life in the past were part of what made me so interested in history (along with my paternal grandmother’s stories) so when my children were young my husband and I always took them to historical sites.

We took them to Conner Prairie in Indiana for a Christmas Candlelight Tour and then back again in the summer.

We went to Jamestown, VA, Williamsburg, VA, Yorktown, VA and to Mount Vernon but we never made it to Old Sturbridge Village (someday I will go) According to this article some living history museums are struggling to get visitors. I doubt that high gas prices are to blame. Children are not being taught American history in elementary school anymore. Not well anyway.

Historical fact:

In the 1830s, many rural New Englanders followed a religion so strait-laced that they did not celebrate Christmas.

Accordingly, at Old Sturbridge Village – an outdoor museum where an 1830s town has been re-created down to the cider mill and the Gloucester Old Spots pigs — they used to ignore the holiday as well.