In the last decade of the 19th century Californians celebrated the coming of a new year much like we do today, with parties, games, and resolutions to better themselves. Churches drew the faithful for services with choirs and special sermons on New Year’s Eve; masquerade balls promised to usher out the old and usher in the New Year in style. Gatherings were advertised as “Watch Parties,” that is, watching for the midnight hour to chime out from clocks while fashionably clad and bejeweled guests dined, danced, and socialized. In December 1897 the San Francisco Call announced that their new offices would sponsor a brilliant electrical display until “the Merry Bells Ring in the Glad New Year,” and also noted a football game to be held New Year’s Day 1898 in Alameda between the San Francisco Vampires and the Oakland Saturday Night Combination.
When the Dutch settled in New York in 1624, they brought their holiday custom of a gift-giving Sinterklaas, a fictitious figure based on Saint Nicholas, a first century AD Greek bishop known for his love of children and his generous gifts to those in need. In 1804 the New York Historical Society chose Saint Nicolas as their Continue reading Here Comes Santa Claus
Before the Gold Rush, Christmas was just another working day tending livestock or repairing equipment for those Americans who had settled in California, although many took time out for a few hours of quiet celebration. On December 24, 1845, Captain John Sutter’s logbook records that a worker completed a pump Continue reading Gold Rush Christmas
When Christmas came during the early Gold Rush years, thousands of predominantly male, mostly young gold-seekers were far away from ordinary comforts and the familiar faces back home. A number of preachers in the gold camps or town saloons offered short holiday services, and some miners dodged the pain of Continue reading Gold Miner’s Christmas
Swiss adventurer John Sutter built a large, walled trading post in the California wilderness, which included a blacksmith forge, a crude gristmill, a carpenter’s shop, a blanket weaving room, and a tannery. Inside the walls was a kitchen large enough to feed the dozens of tradesmen, craftsmen, fur trappers, gardeners, and Continue reading Christmas at Sutter’s Fort