Christmas at Sutter’s Fort

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

Christmas in Mexican California

Secularization of the California missions (taking control away from the Catholic Church in favor of private ownership) began in 1834, after the Mexican government decided that they could no longer afford to support the mission system. At Christmastime, however, the centuries-long, deeply ingrained and much beloved Continue reading Christmas in Mexican California

California’s 1st Christmas

Father Juan Crespi, who accompanied Gaspar de Portola’s expedition to California in 1769, celebrated the first Christmas in Alta California. The padre was overjoyed when 200 curious Indians brought gifts of pinole (a coarse flour) and some fish to the explorer’s camp on Christmas Eve. “It was God’s will that we Continue reading California’s 1st Christmas

Creating Thanksgiving

President Abraham Lincoln decreed Thanksgiving as a national holiday in September 1863, following Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Prior to that, the observance was sporadically celebrated, mainly in the American North, as a day of feasting and merriment after the autumnal harvests. Sectionalism Continue reading Creating Thanksgiving

New Year Customs of Old

New year ballIn 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 Continue reading New Year Customs of Old