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This post was written on July 13, 2008 and has been updated for the 61st Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy!

Webster’s Online Dictionary defines Tradition as: 1 a: an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom) b: a belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable2: the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction3: cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions4: characteristic manner, method, or style <in the best liberal tradition>”  It is Synonomous with: convention, custom.  Related words include: ethic, form, mode, mores, norm, values; birthright, inheritance, legacy; folklore, lore, superstition; culture, heritage, lifestyle.

Many families have passed down traditions such as:

  • A family story that has been told to each generation.
  • A custom associated with an event (wedding, holiday, birth, etc.)
  • An heirloom that has a certain function at a certain time.

There are many others.  As you’ve accumulated information about your ancestors and distant relatives, what traditions – or customs – have you found AND recorded?  In small towns or villages in Germany there is a wedding custom of “kidnapping the bride”.  German Wedding Traditions list this tradition as: “kidnap the bride and the groom has to find her. Normally, he has to search in a lot of pubs and invite all people in there (or pay the whole bill). Sometimes this ritual ends badly.”  Irish Wedding Traditions mentions that “An old Irish tradition calls for the wedding couple to walk to the church together before exchanging their wedding vows. As they walk down the main street to the chapel, onlookers would not only throw rice to bless the marriage, but larger items as well, such as pots and pans.”  Holiday Traditions – England mentions that “The day after Christmas is known in Britain as Boxing Day, which takes its name from a former custom of giving a Christmas Box – a gift of money or food inside a box – to the deliverymen and tradespeople who called regularly during the year. This tradition survives in the custom of tipping the milkman, postman, dustmen and other callers of good service at Christmas time.”  And in America, we know that the tradition on July 4th is to view fireworks as a celebration of our Independence.

Yet, sometimes it’s the unusual traditions that tell us more about our ancestors.  We may learn important things about their character, their financial situation, their environment or even why a tradition changed.

My family has the usual traditions:

  • Christmas Eve meant going to services at church and coming home to await Santa Claus’ visit.  How it evolved – when my own children were small, we’d go look at Christmas lights after church and then come home to a “finger food/appetizer” type of meal.  Afterwards I read “The Night Before Christmas” and the Biblical Nativity story.  Then to bed for the kids!
  • Memorial Day was the first day my grandfather bought a watermelon and we’d have a picnic.  How it evolved – with both of us working, most of the time Memorial Day is just a Monday we are off work and take a moment of reflection to honor and remember those who gave their lives or a part of their time to serve our country.
  • July 4th – we’d go to parades and then watch fireworks.  How it evolved – if we are at my in-laws’ in Missouri (where it is legal to shoot fireworks) – they are being popped all day long!  If we are at home, it means our big church ice cream social and watching the fireworks from the parking lot (which has a great view!).pb270363
  • Thanksgiving – a large family dinner, watching a football game, and the men sleeping.  How it evolved – not much!  Except sometimes even Mom gets to nap!
  • New Years Day – we would have roast beef or roast pork and watch the parades as soon as they began in the morning and then the Rose Bowl Game (especially when Ohio State was playing!)  How it evolved – since I live in Texas and am now required (since I’m in the south) to cook black eyed peas, I fix a big pot of them with cornbread and ham.  Sometimes I’ll have pork and sauerkraut too (just to cover my northern roots!).  Only the grandson really watches the parades and when was the last time Ohio State was in the Rose Bowl?  There’s no more Cotton Bowl parade (which is pretty local!).  Generally the Christmas Tree is being taken down as well.christmas-looking-at-tree
  • Putting up the Christmas Tree – I really don’t remember much traditions associated with this except I loved to hang these ornaments of my mom’s that looked like huge, red teardrop earrings and I was allowed to hang the ornaments I’d made.  I enjoyed watching my mom decorate our house more than anything.  How it evolved – I don’t have a lot of stuff to decorate the house (because that would mean having a place to store it afterwards!) – but when the kids were little, I’d take a picture as each child put their first ornament on the tree and then take a picture of all four of them gazing with wonder at the lit, decorated tree.  It’s evolved even more – now my husband puts the tree up, he and the youngest daughter put the lights on & everyone haves at it putting the ornaments on while I just watch.  I get to put on the garland – sometimes strands of beads, other times I “throw” the tinsel, and the last couple years it has been ribbons.  But I undecorate it so I can put all the ornaments back into their rightful places.
  • Birthdays – it was “your” day.  Mom would make me a devil’s food cake with homemade chocolate icing and I got to lick the bowl afterwards.  Sometimes there were friends and other times it was just family (having a birthday right by Thanksgiving can sometimes cause problems).  I usually picked my favorite meal and we had the birthday song, blowing out the candles, and opening gifts.  How it evolved – sometimes I make the cake and sometimes I buy it.  It’s still the child’s “day” and is special.  They request what they want for dinner and the type of cake. 
  • Weddings – something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.  Not evolved – still the same!
  • Easter – getting dressed up in a little more than Sunday best with new clothes, new patent leather shoes with a new hat and gloves and an Easter Basket on the end of the bed when I woke up.  How it evolved – the Easter Bunny leaves the baskets on the kitchen table.  New clothes and still attending Easter services (no hat or gloves though!).  A big dinner at mid-day (which is one of the few Sundays I even cook – see below!)
  • Sunday Dinner – my mother never fixed a regular evening meal on Sundays.  As a kid, she always fixed a big lunch but dinner – you were on your own.  That was sort of nice – ice cream, a big bowl of popcorn, peanut butter on a spoon right of the jar (see “food” traditions below), a bowl of cereal, etc.  How it evolved – Mom still doesn’t fix an evening meal on Sundays and neither do I!
  • Food Traditions – my dad is the one we “blame” for most of these.  Pepper on cottage cheese; chocolate cake (no other flavor) in a bowl of milk; peanut butter on a spoon; fried baloney; tobasco sauce on everything (my sister does that but I don’t!); sardines; slim jims, beef sticks or hot sausages (the kind you find at bars!); steak once a week (yeah, I don’t get that as often anymore!); pepper on everything; bleu cheese or roquefort salad dressing.andy
  • Taking pictures of other people taking pictures!  (See Unusual Photos – that I posted back on June 23, 2008)
  • Singing a very long and convoluted version of “I Found a Peanut” when we go on vacation as well as “100 Bottles of Beer”.
  • Going through all the photo albums at my mom’s when we are visiting – each time we are there, all the albums come out.  I was even able to show my sister some photo albums she hadn’t seen before!
  • When all four of the kids are home we watch two or three of their musical videos taken when they were all in church musicals years ago.

So what have you learned from your ancestors?  Please share your family’s traditions – either in the comments section or on your own blog.  Please provide me the link so I can send others to read your post!

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This time of year families migrate back together from either distant areas of the country or through forgiveness and hope for the coming year.  There are many who spend Thanksgiving alone either by choice or circumstance.  With our technology even those who are alone or too far away from loved ones, can now spend a portion of their holiday feeling not so out of touch.  You can call long distance without worrying about the extra charges – thanks to “all-in-one” phone service or cell phones with unlimited long distance built into the cost of your monthly bill.  You can talk via the computer and web-cam so Grandma and Grandpa can actually see the grandchildren telling them Happy Thanksgiving.  Or spend time instant messaging one another before the Turkey or during the game.

Abraham Lincoln was one smart man to enact legislation making Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863 while the Civil War was raging.  He proclaimed the last Thursday of November “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”  And for 145 years we have done just that.  Thanks, Mr. President.

From my earliest memories, there has always been family around at Thanksgiving.  As a young girl, we’d spend the holiday at our home with grandparents and in-laws swooping in, eating, enjoying company and staying all day.  As an adult I continued the Thanksgiving Turkey and Dressing tradition with my own children.  At times we would travel to Missouri to spend the holiday at my in-laws or they would travel to our home in Texas.

As the children grew older and became close with other people, their friends would eat at least one of the Thanksgiving meals at our home.  We’ve invited families who needed a change of scenery to our house to celebrate and give thanks with us.  Ours is always a bountiful day full of family, food, noise, and (of course) the Cowboy game!

thanskgiving05

This year we have all four of our adult children home (two who live here, one who lives close by and one who traveled in from out of state), our three grandsons will be here, our son-in-law, and a possible new addition to the family.  We’ll have turkey and all the trimmings along with four different pies and plenty of wine and spirits.  And of course we’ll be watching the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Dog Show and that at 3:30 p.m. Central Time, we’ll have the Cowboy/Seahawk game playing.

This year has brought me in touch with distant cousins including:

  • My great-aunt Rachel (Blazer) Given’s great-granddaughter
  • The granddaughter of Chase Noonan
  • House family cousins
  • Risley cousins (Julie & Becky!)
  • Stern family cousins

Through the newly found family members, I’ve also learned a bit more and was able to share what I’ve learned with them.  My experience has taught me that even though I enjoy the research and new information genealogy brings, I also need to focus on the family that is still providing history and stories for future generations.  Blink and it might be too late.

May you and yours have a blessed Thanksgiving and time with loved ones!

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glen_vesta_jan67

At our first “Cousins” reunion in the summer of 2002, we all spread out in the garage, the kitchen area and the dining area to eat.  At the dining table there was a chair placed at the head/corner of the table with an empty place setting.  I assumed it was set there in case someone else chose to eat at that table.  I asked, “Who’s sitting there?”  My cousins told me that was an empty chair in honor of our grandmother, Vesta (Wilt) Johnson.  So the empty chair became “Nana’s chair”.

On the rare or yearly ocassions that we are together for a pot luck picnic meal, there is an empty chair left at one of the tables.  Sometimes there are two – the other in honor of our grandfather, Glen R. Johnson.

I am very thankful that I was able to spend over 20 years of my life living close to my maternal grandparents and getting to know them as more than our matriarch and patriarch.  There isn’t a gathering where we do not tell stories about them or talk about some of the food that was cooked, who has Granddad’s ears or mannerisms, and how Nana made each one of us feel like we were her only grandchild.  They truly were two very special people who shared a great love far and beyond anything those of us who are their descendents could ever imagine or hope for in our own lives.

Photo: Glen and Vesta Johnson, 1967.  Original in possession of Wendy Littrell (address for private use).

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Churches and Halloween – now that brings up an interesting vision doesn’t it?  First let’s explore the history of this festive holiday. Wikipedia and Britannica Online mentions that Halloween has roots in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain which is celebrated at the end of the harvest season. The Gaels believed that on that date, the window between the living and the dead was very thin and could be crossed easily. In order to pacify evil spirits, costumes and masks were worn. “All Hallow’s Eve” became Halloween – the eve of All Saints Day, a Christian observance.

The date for All Saints’ Day was set at November 1st in the 800s by Pope Boniface IV. The church day began at sunset, so All Hallow’s Eve and All Saints’ Day coincided for a few short hours. In 1000 A.D. the Church made November 2nd – All Souls’ Day. The early Colonial settlers in America disapproved and forbade the Halloween celebration.

In North America churches of different denominations look upon Halloween differently. The Anglicans choose to emphasize the Christian traditions of All Saints’ Day while some Protestant churches refer to it as Reformation Day. Though beginning as a pagan celebration, both pagan and Christian beliefs are intwined in various celebrations from Oct. 31st – November 5th. Some Catholic parochial school children enjoy the holiday by dressing up in costumes. The Boston Diocese has began a “Saint Fest” on Halloween. Others of very conservative or fundamentalist Protestant churches, may see Halloween as trivializing the occult. Others consider that there is no place in Christian belief for Halloween because of the secular origins of the celebration.

One tradition from England that has been varied in America, is the giving of food on Halloween. “All Souls’ Cakes” were given to beggars for the promise that prayers for their deceased relatives would be said. This distribution of these cakes was encouraged by the Church to replace the long held practice of leaving out food and wine for spirits.

As a child, I would always dress in a costume – usually one that was harmless – and with my parents, participate in “Beggar’s Night”.  As a teen, our church youth group would have a Halloween Party, and we would visit the various “Haunted Houses” in the area.  These places were set up by non-profit organizations to raise money for various charities – the March of Dimes and Muscular Dystrophy.  A local television personality, “Dr. Creep” would often be at the Muscular Dystrophy house to welcome guests. Admission was no more than a dollar or two (this was back in the mid to late 70s) so it was pretty easy to hit every Haunted House in a ten mile radius on one evening and not break the bank. I remember how cold it used to be standing outside in the long line waiting to get in. Most of the actors were members of the non-profit or volunteers who worked every evening for a few weeks, sacrificing their own agendas, in order to help raise money. They also knew when enough was enough and who they could really scare and who they needed to be a little extra careful with.

As an adult, I’ve enjoyed having my children dress up for Halloween and either taking them around the neighborhood or (while my husband does that) staying home and passing out candy. When I was a child, people were still allowed to give out candied or caramel apples, homemade popcorn balls or cookies. Unfortunately, due to some pretty foolish people who chose to hurt children by lacing homemade goodies or apples with harmful substances, we rely on pacifying kids with sugar-laced candy.

I’ve also dressed up on more than one ocassion for either an adult Halloween party or our church’s Halloween Festival. Yes for a number of years our church was still celebrating Halloween. We didn’t call it a “Fall” festival like so many other churches or schools or organizations in order not to “offend” anyone. It was a fun time to dress up and have fun.  The Youth would run games and a cake walk and everyone would have a good time snacking and enjoying fellowship.  The kids even got to wear their (not scary) costumes to church on a Sunday before Halloween and have a costume parade through the Sunday School classes. 

Halloween – or any celebration and holiday – with roots in the secular and pagan world – can be as innocent or evil as we make it.

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With the approaching Independence Day holiday, I found myself wondering how many folks in my family tree were married on July 4th or some other holiday.

CHRISTMAS DAY – 13

  • Georg Adams & Christine Werts – 1814
  • Eleazer House & Abigail Mosely – 1782
  • Ephraim Swingle & Dolly Nicholson – 1868
  • Percy Tuttle & Julia House – 1906
  • Evans Wortman & Laura House – 1888
  • Henry House & Lucy Woodford – 1860
  • Charles Duncan & Catherine Rice – 1876
  • Lindsey House & Mary Young – 1841
  • John Rivers & Rosa Hagerman – 1874
  • Leroy Snodgrass & Blanche Bookless – 1904
  • E. Lee Harnish & Blanche Hendricks – 1917
  • Conrad Miller & Maria Grim (1780)
  • Charles Reubush & Vada Henkle (1915)

NEW YEARS EVE/NEW YEARS DAY – 18

  • John W. & Mary F. [surnames with held for privacy] – 1983
  • Thomas Hollister & Abigail Talcott – about 1734/35
  • Ross Bookless & Estella Wiley – 1901
  • Alton Rose & Katherine Roberts – 1931
  • David Williams & Martha Ann Kinsey – 1839
  • Cyrellus Mackenzie & Cassandra Bushong – 1860
  • Beryl Goul & Freida Novak – 1927
  • Arza Young & Mary Guilkey – 1909
  • John ‘Jacob’ Bushong & Eva Catherina Bossert – 1784
  • Samuel Whiteman & Martha Goul – 1888
  • Charles Anderson & Rosa Johnson – 1888
  • Ralph Bushong & Ada Calhoun – 1927
  • Larry & Wilma [surnames with held for privacy] – 1983
  • John Alexander Bushong & Mattie Maxon – 1884
  • Eli Hendren & Elizabeth Gilreath – 1834
  • Evan Bell & Eliza Johnson – 1846
  • William F. Clawson & Martha Jane Stern – 1909
  • Clinton Dodd & Frances Huffman – 1938

Valentine’s Day – 15

  • John Canfield & Dorcas House – 1774
  • James Couts & Lorna Angle – 1948
  • Patrick & Marta [surnames with held for privacy] – 2003
  • Larry & Marilyn [surnames with held for privacy] – 1957
  • Samuel Hale & Sarah Smith – 1728/29
  • Donnie & Judith [surnames with held for privacy] 2002
  • William House & Judith Chapman – 1806
  • Richard Hendren & Harriet Agee – 1876
  • John Brown & Elizabeth “Betsy” Bushong – 1814
  • Philip Bushong & Elizabeth Brugh/Betsy Drew – 1815
  • Hughie Clark & Lieureta Stanley – 1853
  • Walter & Dorothy [surnames with held for privacy] – 1950
  • David & Sandra [surnames with held for privacy] – 1981
  • Francis & Lori [surnames with held for privacy] – 1986
  • Edward & Penny [surnames with held for privacy] – 1991

           (Siblings were married on the same day 12 years apart.)

 

4th of JULY – 9

  • Johnathon Loveland Nicholson & Elizabeth Swingle – 1804
  • Henry Goul & Mathilda Bates – 1894
  • Thomas Roudebush & Orpha Griffin – 1903
  • Henry Bushong & Isabelle Summers – 1791
  • Ezeckial A. Hendren & Miranda Wade – 1838
  • John Noonan & Martha Blazer – 1887
  • John Johnson & Katie Blazer – 1883
  • Harold & Doris [surnames with held for privacy] – 1953
  • David & Susan [surnames with held for privacy] – 1998

      (Sisters were married on the same date – 4 years apart.)

I’ve also found quite a few marriages close to Thanksgiving, Easter, Labor Day, and between Christmas and New Years.

Have you gone through your family file to see on what holidays were the most popular to be married?  What can be determined through this information?  Were there siblings who usually married on the same date as an older one?

 

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