Colonial America was a melting pot of people from varied nations and traditions. The Puritans of New England did not celebrate Christmas at all. The early German and English immigrants to the Mohawk Valley were more accustomed to celebrating the holiday. In combining elements from various cultures, America developed its own unique traditions.
The custom of burning the Yule Log goes back to before medieval times. Yule is the name of the old Winter Solstice festivals in Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe, such as Germany. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was outlawed in Boston, and law-breakers were fined five shillings.
After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26th, 1870.
The Rome Historical Society – Friends of the Fort and Fort Stanwix National Monument will host a program looking back at holiday music and winter traditions of the Mohawk Valley, on Saturday, December 3rd.
Through research from the 1700’s William Sawyer, Park Ranger for over 30 years, will present songs and stories looking at the various American holiday traditions in the Mohawk Valley and how the different cultures contributed to a shared version of the holiday.
This program will begin at 2 pm and is free and open to the public. The Rome Historical Society is located at 200 Church Street, in Rome. For more information, call (315) 336-5870 or visit their website.
Photo of Trinkaus lights provided by Rome Historical Society.