History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Mohawk Valley USA, Volume 7 Number 1 Spring 1986
The Women of The Long House
by Patricia O'Brien
When the first Europeans came to New York, they were struck by one fact about the Iroquois - the tribal women, especially the matrons, who seemed to have a great deal of power within Iroquois society: Woman in Europe may have been treated respectfully, deferentially, traditionally they did not own land, hold wealth or wield political power.
Settlers and missionaries who came to New York have recorded that among the Iroquois, women commanded a great deal of respect and, furthermore, - power. Research now indicates that the Iroquois society came very close to a matriarchy, that is, a political structure where women rule.
Although the Iroquois were not a true matriarchy, the women of the tribe did attain a great deal of power over tribal matters - even to the point of being able to depose a chief.. Anthropologists believe by looking at the organization of the Iroquois tribes, one can discover how the women gained their power.
One of the most valuable assets of my tribe was its agricultural land on which were raised the Three Sister: corn, beans and squash. These fields were generally held communally (the concept of private property was virtually unknown to Native Americans). However, it appears the fields were owned by the tribal women During the historic period land was often registered in female names. At the Council of 1791, Red Jacket, speaker for the Council stated, "You ought to hear and listen to what we women shall speak--for we are the owners of the land and it is ours."
Traditionally, men cleared the fields, oftentimes with the assistance of women; women planted the fields and tended them until the harvest. At harvest time the entire tribe would help with the corn husking, then, the women took over again, for they were responsible for the food preparation and storage.
Food was stored in pits, either within or outside the Long House. Each extended family, having its own storage area, was overseen by the elder women of the family, who were responsible for apportioning and dispensing the food.
Research indicates that male activities included hunting, fishing and making war. Historical accounts of the Iroquois suggest that tribal men contributed meat and fish to the diet. Although Iroquois women fished, they did not hunt. Records further indicate that the men brought the meat and fish to the women of the Long House where it joined the communal pot, and was, henceforth, controlled by the family's women.
Iroquois society was organized matrilineally, that is, unlike a culture when children (or especially male children) inherit through their father, Iroquois woman inherited through their mothers. Hence, if a woman (or women) held certain fields, her (or their) daughter or daughters would inherit those fields upon the elder women's death. Therefore the tribal men held no land, nor did they own the house in which they lived.
Accounts indicate that an Iroquois male, upon marriage, would move into the Long House owned by his wife's family and where food was controlled by his wife's female relatives. There, he would be expected to be a good provider in meat and game, and, according to account, it was not a good idea for the male to be lackadaisical:
"Usually, the female portion ruled the house... the stores were held in common but woe to the luckless husband or lover who was too shiftless to do his share of the providing. No matter how many children or whatever goods he may have in the house he might at anytime be ordered to pick up his blanket and budge; and after such an order, it would not be healthful for him to disobey; the house would be too hot for him...",
In essence if the man did not produce, his presence would no longer be necessary. He could "return to his own clan or as was often done, go and start a new matrimonial alliance" where it was hoped he would have learned to be a more proficient provider to the family larder.
It is not unusual to find woman of a particular culture holding power in the domestic sphere (that is, within the household). But, what was unusual about the Iroquois is that the women's power extended over the political area of tribal life as well, Iroquois women, did not hold political power directly, but they were a very real force "behind the scenes."
Whenever a war party or boating party was to go out, the men required food and supplies. For the Council meetings held by the League, "provisions must always be plenty....for eating and deliberating take their turns." These activities were very much a part of the male activities; however, if the women decided to withhold food and supplies, the hunting or war parties were severely hampered. It the women withheld food for the Colonial meetings, the even would not be "properly done" and probably, not "done" at all.
Even more so, the women held political power in the form of choosing tribal chieftains. Although women could not serve on the Council of Elders, (the highest ruling body of the League of the Iroquois), the hereditary eligibility passed through the female line, and the elective eligibility for office was largely controlled by the women. When a chief died, the women of his tribe and clan held a meeting at which they selected a new candidate for the office, and a woman delegate took their selection to the chiefs. If the various chiefs vetoed the women's selection, the women held another meeting, selected another candidate and presented this candidate to the chiefs. This was done until an acceptable chief was chosen
Upon selection, the women closely watched the new chief. If his behavior deviated from the accepted norms, he was warned by a woman delegate and if these warnings were not headed, she would initiate impeachment proceedings. As one missionary who lived for forty years among the Iroquois has recounted:
"The women were the great power among the clans, as everywhere else. They did not hesitate to 'knock off the horn,' as it was technically called, from the head of a chief and send him back to the ranks of the warriors...."
In addition to political power, Iroquois women also served in the religious life of the tribe. The matrons helped select the religious practitioners; half of the "keepers of the faith" were women. Women also had an equal voice in the management of religious festivals and could become clairvoyants and join medicine societies. Indeed, in several medicine societies women were the managing officers. Further, women arranged marriages and retained the children in case of a divorce. As one report indicates, "there was a greater delight at the birth of a daughter than that of a son."
Theories abound as to why the Iroquois women attained the degree of power they had in their society. Same anthropologists would argue that it was the women's economic control, that is, holding land, growing and controlling major food resources, which gave the women power beyond the domestic sphere. Other experts would argue that the traditional female virtues of food providing, cooperativeness and nature fertility were respected and revered, as the name the "Three Sisters "certainly suggests. That is why women gained a voice in tribal life.
the answer lies in both segments of Iroquois society. Suffice it to say all
accounts indicate that the Iroquois women did indeed control a large facet of
tribal life-enough so that the patriarchal Europeans noticed and recorded the
events they witnessed among the tribes of the Five Nations. One can only imagine
the surprise if not awe, with which these early settlers and missionaries viewed,
not only the Iroquois, but most assuredly also, the Women of the Long House
Witchcraft in the Schoharie Hills
Mohawk Valley USA Volume 3 Number 9 Summer 1982
Jean Webb Williams
Jean Webb Williams is the Director of Public Relations at State University of New York Agricultural and Technical at Cobleskill. "Witchcraft in the Schoharie Hills"is an excerpt from her book, "Shunpiking in Old Schoharie". Jean is married, has two daughters, and is listed in "Who's Who in American Women". She was bom and raised on a farm in Onondaga, served as Schoharie County's Home Demonstration Agent for 13 years, and has been a resident of Cobleskill since 1950.
Witchcraft is the heritage of all humanity. Since barbarian days, fear of the supernatural has been instilled into the souls of men. So it was in the isolated hills of Schoharie. Immigrants from Europe brought with them centuries of their own folklore, superstitions, ghost stories, and books of witchcraft. These tales were all handed down within families and communities, and very often, changed to suit the area. A hundred years ago storytellers flourished among the Schoharie hill people and, as late as 1920, witchcraft was still a thing to be reckoned with in the isolated hill hamlets.
About 50 years ago a schoolteacher named Emelyn Gardner became fascinated by the tales she heard, so spent many summers doing research, listening to the old people, and visiting them in their homes. For one memorable week she lived in the almshouse near Middleburgh, and encouraged the old folks to repeat their tales for her notebook. This took place long before the days of the tape-recorder.
Miss Gardner found good witches and evil witches, and witch doctors, too. She discovered spells and cures, and happenings. Listen to some of them as they came to me, by way of Miss Gardner's book, or from "old-timer" friends:
First, Schoharie County had two varieties: some who did only evil; and the others who had healing powers, second sight, and told fortunes - always happy ones of course.
First about the evil witches -
Among them was Granny Garlock whose favorite trick was bewitching milk churnings so the butter wouldn't come. There was Witch Lehman who had more butter to sell than her poor old scrub cows could possibly be responsible for; there was the Witch Philter, whose penetrating glance caused children to turn black and blue. Another was the witch-granny who could rise out of her old wrinkled skin when her soul was off witching. A rival witch doctor cured her of that trick by filling her skin with salt; the treatment was so powerful that the poor old girl died the next morning.
Evil witches made people do strange things; one bewitched a young woman into running around on all fours for a whole week -and when the spell was finally broken, she didn't remember a thing. Today that would be called hypnotism. Another young girl walked up the panes of a tall, old fashioned window clear to the top. When she came down, she stuck needles through the window-lights.
These Schoharie witches of long ago cast their evil spells over animals - cows wouldn't let down their milk, and calves cavorted as if inhabited by the devil, while nice old white horses sometimes sat back on their haunches and positively refused to work. One farmer went to the barn one morning and found his mare up in the haymow, which could be reached only by a rickety ladder.
Witches sometime climbed inside the bodies of animals. Great Grandpa Clapper proved this without a doubt, when his big black horse balked one day while doing the spring plowing. Grandpa was so furious that he whipped out his knife and slashed a chunk from the horse's right ear. The next day old Clapper happened to see the witch-woman - and there was a chunk out of her right ear. What greater proof do we need than that? Perhaps there was a bit of the devil in Mr. Clapper, too!
Unlike European witches, Schoharie's variety didn't ride broomsticks; instead they stole horses or yearling calves, which they mounted then muttered these simple magic words: "Over thick and over thin; and away we go." Can't you just see the witch of the Schoharie Valley sailing over Vroman's Nose aboard a Holstein calf? The story goes that the animals were always brought back absolutely exhausted, and with a disease called "witches' stirrup", for which there was no cure.
Back in those days one had to know how to protect one's self from witchcraft. A Blenheim witch recommended that you just place a twig of ash or witch-hazel over the door; a broomstick laid across the threshold also kept the witches out of any decent Gilboa-Conesville home. Witches had no power over the first child born into a family, according to legend.
One poor old witch was accused of murdering five members of her family. First she was given the trial by water; she didn't sink because her soul was so evil the pure spirit of water would not receive her. Public opinion would not allow her to be burned, so she was finally given her freedom. Probably she cackled with glee all the way home.
About the good witches - they had many sterling qualities, and were very desirable in a community. They could divine water with a forked witch-hazel stick; and they could give the farmer helpful hints, for example: A good witch up in Patria recommended -
When plum trees are in bloom, sew garden seeds.
When beech leaves are as big as mice's ears, it's time to plant corn.
Cucumbers will grow when you can sleep without quilts.
The white witches also told people to wear a red woolen string tied around the neck to prevent or stop nosebleeds. They maintained that a raw potato in the pocket would prevent rheumatism, and if you carried hen's teeth in your pocket, you would never have a toothache.
One of Schoharie's most renowned good witches always plowed her husbands field in the dark of night. The story goes that he had the best plowed fields in Schoharie County! Incidentally, the seventh daughter of any family was most likely to be a good witch.
But enough of trivia; let's get on to some real witch stories.
One day a mill on the Cobleskill. Creek refused to run; the miller tried everything he could to make it work, but to no avail. He decided it was bewitched and went to the witch doctor on Oak Hill for help. The witch doctor said, "Bring me a man who will speak not a word, no matter what happens to him." Such a man was brought to the witch doctor who gave him a note and told him to fasten it to the mill wheel in utter silence, then give a great shout.
To reach the mill, this man had to take a boat. On his way to the boat he felt something rub against his legs. Thinking it was a dog, he put his hand down rather absentmindedly to stroke it. What he touched was a cold, throbbing weblike mass, which was completely invisible. He ran, and "the thing" ran; he got in the boat and "the thine' pressed against him. Knowing he had to go to the mill alone, he started to play a frantic game of chase with the soft flowing thing -out of the boat, along the shore, back to the boat, and shove off, or try to. The third time he went through this routine, it worked. The furious "thing" was still on shore. Without his eerie companion, the mill-fixer got to the mill, posted the magic words on the mill-wheel, shouted mightily, and the mill-wheel turned. The "thing" went off to haunt other mills.
From Eminence came this -
Work bees of all sorts were held in Schoharie County: husking bees, house-raising bees, and the like. In the early days logging bees were planned for the men to gather, fell and trim trees, and haul them by oxen to a central place. Here the logs were sawed for firewood or prepared for building purposes.
Since this was truly hard work, the womenfolk also gathered and provided great hearty meals and many mugs of strong liquor, probably mathigalum. At one such event, the mathigalum was all alone, and the men were still pretty thirsty. Uncle Bill Miller's grandpa said heroically, "I'll get you some of that sauce if you just keep quiet."
They quieted right down; Grandpa Miller took a knife out of his pocket, went over to a tall stump, and bored into it. Then he held a jug as though he was drawing something from the stump. All the time he kept striking the air with the other hand shouting, "Get away, get away." Soon the jug was running over the mathigalum. When he returned to the crowd, someone said, "What were you striking at?"
His simple reply was, "The old feller didn't want me to have it." You see, this was the devil's private blended stock, and Mr. Miller had to fight to get it. The men who drank it said it was "the best stuff they'd ever tasted."
There was great revelry after the logging work was done. There were games, chases, dancing and frivolity. You can be sure that after drinking the devil's brew, the simple hill people really went wild!
All this happened decades ago, and Schoharie's witches are no more. Nevertheless, next time you go shunpiking in old Schoharie, cast a wary glance at those innocent hills - we may still have ghosts!!!
THE TRYON COUNTY MILITIA
by James Morrison
Mohawk Valley USA, Volume 5, Number 1 Spring 1984
The original Tryon County Militia was formed in 1775. Between 1776 and 1777, the militia was involved in watching and arresting suspicious loyalists, as well as fighting in the battles of Oriskany and Saratoga. Between 1778 and 1779, the Third Battalion was busy garrisoning many of the local forts and pursuing the enemy, who were making almost daily incursions into Tryon County.
Various battles with the troops led by Sir John Johnson, Lieut. John Dockstader and Major John Ross tested the Tryon County Militia's prowess between 1780 and 1781. During October of that year, Col. Willett, with about 400 men from the levies and the Tryon County Militia, attacked the enemy in the fields near Johnson's Hall. The battle raged until dark when the enemy made their escape into the forest. The Third Battalion suffered the following causalities in the last battle fought in New York state: 1 man killed, 3 wounded and 1 captured.
In 1782 and 1783, the Third Battalion saw active garrison duties in the Mohawk Valley and pursued the enemy at various times, but in April of 1783, peace finally came to the valley. In 1784, the Tryon County Militia now became the Montgomery County Militia as Tryon County was renamed Montgomery County in honor of General Richard Montgomery, who was killed at Quebec in December of 1775.
The historically recreated Third Battalion of the Tryon County Militia 1775-1783, was formed from the Yorker Explorer Post 1776. The Yorkers were a group of high school students who were interested in local history. From this post, the nucleus of the Tyron County Militia was formed in 1971.
Many of the former high school students are now married, and their families have become members of the battalion along with many other members who represent children and young adults from kindergarten to college, as well as local history buffs who work in area industry, farming, and state and city departments.
regiment has participated in many historical anniversary events from the raising
of the liberty pole in Fonda in 1974 to the celebration in January, 1984 at
Annapolis, MD, which honored the anniversary of the ratification by the Continental
Congress of the Treaty of Paris which ended the American Revolution.
Heroines of the Valley
by Anita Smith
Over the years we have all heard the many exciting stories about early pioneer heroes. It's time now to hear about the legendary heroines. For the past few years I have collected stories about the brave Mohawk Valley women who stood beside their husbands during the trying times of America's birth. This collection of stories comes from many sources. If the readers known about other pioneer heroines that have been missed, please drop me a line. The information will be recorded in a future article.
There are many periods of women's involvement in making history. The following retold stories are from the Revolutionary War period and come from many sources. Pioneer women came to this new land determined to make a better home in America for their families, and in this primitive land they had to be a cook, teacher, doctor, gardener, weaver and hired hand. While doing all of this, they also accomplished many deeds of heroism.
This true story of heroism was told by Mrs. L.J. Shaver many years ago.
"Grandmother and her family lived near the Mohawk River, about two miles away from Fort Plain. There were several other families who lived near them in a little settlement.
"This settlement had always been on friendly terms with the Indians; many times they had stopped at her door for food. The women and children of the settlement were often left alone as the men were busy either with the duties of the farm or were away under arms fighting for the independence of the Colonies.
"One day an Indian whom they had befriended stopped at grandmother's home and set down in the doorway. He was so very sad and silent that grandmother could see that his mind was troubled. At last he spoke, saying that she most first swear never to reveal that which he was about to tell her. This she readily agreed to, and then he told her that the Indians were already on the warpath and were about to raid the settlement and for her to flee while there was still time. Again he implored secrecy, as his life would be forfeited if his tribe found out he had revealed their plans.
"Grandmother, with a neighboring woman, quickly gathered their families of little ones together. Two were missing but were soon found playing nearby. Then they all ran for safety. As they left their homes, the women could see the smoke and flames issuing from the buildings at the further end of the settlement. The entire settlement was burned and the stock driven off. The two women with their children and a dog which had followed them hid in the water under the roots of an upturned tree on the river bank while the Indians passed over on a log bridge nearby. They were unseen by the Indians, and grandmother often commented on the silence of the dog during the time of their hiding.
"After the Indians had passed over the river, the two women and their children ran to the fort where there were other women who had escaped or who were stationed there during their husband's absence. There was also one old man and a boy about twelve years of age at this fort. The women put on men's coats to make the Indians think there were men at the garrison; they loaded what guns there were and placed themselves under command of the old man. The women awaited the approach of the Indians until they got very close to the fort; then the command to fire was given. The women fired, killing and wounding several Indians. The remainder of the Indians fled, leaving their dead and wounded.
"The burning of the settlement did not destroy grandmother's wonderful oven which was very substantially built. As she was an expert horsewoman as well as a good baker, she used to ride over on horseback to the oven which was about two miles away to bake the bread for those stopping at the fort. On one occasion she was surprised by seeing a band of Indians in the distance. So she quickly placed the loaves in the bags in which she carried them and throwing the bags across the horse's back, rode to the fort. Upon their arrival, the horse's shoulders were blistered from the heat of the bread."
Another heroic story tells of Peggy Wemple, the "most beautiful, red haired woman in the whole valley." These were the sentiments of many patriots in reference to Margaret Fonda Wemple, widow of Barent Wemple of Caughnawaga (now Fonda). Margaret was the daughter of Douw Fonda, and sister of Jelles Fonda. She married Barent Wemple, and they had six children. Barnet Wemple was accomplished in the Seneca Indian tongue and conducted numerous Indian missions as an interpreter. When Peggy became a widow, she was left with unusual cares and responsibilities which she met with remarkable energy and heroism.
After the death of her husband, Peggy Wemple kept a tavern in Fonda, near Cayadutta Street on the corner of Wemple Avenue. This house was later moved to its present location on Putman Avenue. Peggy also operated a grist mill with the help of her son Myndert. The story is told of how, one winter night, she had to go to the mill on an errand and found an Indian blocking her path. She was relieved, although a little startled, to find it was a dead, stiff corpse placed there to intimidate her. The widow pushed the body out of the way and went about her work.
During the frightful raid by Sir John Johnson, on the Caughnawaga settlements in May, 1780, Peggy Wemple suffered with the other patriots. The enemy took her son a prisoner, imprisoned the frightened mother in her tavern and set fire to it. From the upper window Peggy made the valley echo with her cries of "Help, Help, Murder, Murder." John Fonda heard her cries and sent a slave around the knoll which stood west of the Fonda Hotel to learn the cause of the alarm. But hardly had the slave returned before the enemy advanced, making Fonda a prisoner and burning his dwelling. Peggy Wemple was finally released and saved from her burning house.
Douw Fonda, Peggy's father, was murdered at this time by an Indian named One Armed Peter to whom he had often shown much kindness. Douw was led out on the river bank and slain. Peggy's son Myndert Wernple was released by the Indians in Johnstown and allowed to find his way home to his mother in Caughnawaga.
Undismayed by the damage done to her house and mill, Peggy built again and in the winter of 1780, she ground and "bolted" 2700 "skipples" (2025 bushels) of wheat at the order of the Tryon County Committees for use of the Colonial soldiers at Forts Ticonderoga, Hunter, Plank and Stanwix. She fought back against the Tory atrocities to her family by grinding the wheat to feed Washington's armies and thus contributed toward the winning of the Revolution.
Peggy Wemple lived to be 85, a courageous and fearless Mohawk Valley patriot. Her home, built soon after the 1780 valley raids, still stands in Fonda.
Another story tells of Sunday night, 21st of May 1780 when Colonel John Johnson with 500 troops of British Tories and Indiana entered Johnstown from the Sacandaga Trail to massacre the patriots of Johnstown and the Mohawk Valley. During this raid, Mrs. Lodowick Putman, while the Indians were plundering her home and pulling clothes from hooks along the wall, snatched several pieces of female apparel from the hands of a large Indian. She told him she had to have these items for her daughter. She and the Indian jerked the clothes from one another. In the end, the Indian, seeing her determination, yielded the clothing. After the raiders killed Lockovick Putman and his son Aaron, they left the house. Mrs. Putman and her daughter Hannah, escaped in the darkness to Johnstown Fort, now the Johnstown jail.
After leaving Johnstown, the raiders went to the Mohawk Valley to the home of Captain Henry Hansen. Margaret Hansen was hurried out of her father's house by an Indian who told her that the house was on fire. She bravely asked the Indian to save her bed and place it in an old Indian hut nearby, which he did. Margaret, learning that her mother was still in the burning house, broke her bedroom window, called her mother and helped her to safety. Captain Henry was killed and Margaret's two brothers, Victor and John, went captured in the raid.
These us but a few stories of women who have left a great legacy of strength and determination to those of us in the Mohawk Valley, and their deeds make our accomplishments of today seem pale by comparison. I've a friend who says that a monument should be built to America's brave, pioneer women who were both mothers to our families and our nation.
Mohawk Valley USA, Volume 3, Number 11, Winter 1982
CHRISTMAS COMES TO NEW NETHERLAND
by Allison P. Bennett
Christmas is our most joyous holiday - a warming interlude of love, goodwill and peace, holly and evergreens, songs and carols, candles, Santa Claus and gift-giving. Above all of this, it is the birthday of Christ and a deeply religious festival.
Christmas came to the Dutch colony of New Netherland with the earliest settlers of the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys, and these people brought with them their own Dutch Christmas traditions.
The Dutch held the good "Sint Nikolaas" in great esteem, and his feast day was December 6. Legend has it that he was a church bishop, born in the fourth century in Asia Minor, well known for his many generous deeds and acts of kindness. In Holland, Sint Nikolaus or "Sinterklass" arrived from Spain aboard a boat laden with presents, and was accompanied by his helper, Black Pete, a little Moorish page. On the night of December 5, the eve of his feast day, "Sinterklaas" would come clattering down the streets of each town, astride a white horse, to pay a visit to all the children. They always left their wooden shoes on the hearth that night, filled with hay and apples for his horse.
While "Simerklass" came clad in a rich red bishop's robe and ware a gold miter on his head, his helper, Black Pete, came along with a sack laded with sweetmeats in one hand and in the other hand a bunch of willow switches. "Sintecklaas" arrival at each house was accompanied by tossing the candies and sweetmeats onto a white sheet spread on the floor and at each house he would question the children about their behavior the past year. Later, when all were asleep in their beds he would return, remove the hay from the wooden shoes and fill them with gifts. The children of New Netherland were visited by this same "Sinterklasa."
In old Holland and in New Netherland, the gathering of families to enjoy a festive meal came on St. Nicholas Eve. All sorts of dishes dear to Dutch hearts were placed on the groaning boards, but one that was always present was the "Olykeoken," small round cakes shaped like tennis balls and fried in oil. These cakes were wry rich and it is said that only a Dutch cook could put the raisins, which had been soaked overnight in brandy, in the center. "Krulliges," or our present day crullers, were also on the list, as well as special cookies, cut with special cutters and baked with a deft hand.
It was the custom in old Albany and Schenectady to go out after sundown on St. Nicholas Eve and cut white lilac slips. Everyone knew if you put them in water and place them in a warm spot, they would be in flower by December 25. The Dutch also placed evergreen branches, tied with orange ribbons, about the best parlor. After New Netherland became the English province of New York, outside influences crept in and English Christmas customs became accepted. In England, Christmas was first called Jule, or Yule, but was later changed to "Christes Masse," a mass to honor the Feast of the Nativity. Although the day of December 25 was still solemnly kept as a religious observance, holiday festivities began on December 24, Christmas Eve, and the season lasted through Twelfth Night, January 6, making the "Twelve Days of Christmas."
From very early times the hanging of evergreens was the symbol of eternal life; therefore, the early Saxons of Briton hung ivy, holly and laurel in their churches. The Teutonic people believed the green leaves kept evil spirits away. One legend claims Christ's crown of thorns was of holly. The ancient Romans made up their quarrels with enemies whenever they met under the mistletoe, and from this came "the kiss of pardon" which evolved into the English custom of kissing a maid under the mistletoe.
Dragging the Yule Log was always a happy ceremony and it was believed that as the fire burned, old hurts and wrongs were burned up and away. Some of the ashes were preserved until the next year, and a piece of the log was always saved to start the fire the following year. English children hung up their stockings to be filled by "Father Christmas."
The Germans, who settled in our area later, brought with them the idea of the Christmas tree, festooned with stars, lights and garland. It stems from the ancient tradition that on the night of Christ's birth, all the tress of the forest suddenly bloomed and bore fruit. Still later, the Irish brought with them to America the custom of placing lighted candles in the windows to signify the coming of the Light of the World. It was not until the German and Irish immigrants arrived that Christmas celebrations on December 25 as we know them today became part of our heritage, The integration of religious, folk and family celebrations in the last century has seen Christmas surge forward as a great celebration unimagined by the colonial people of early America.
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