"Our Loose Ends" Genealogy Column
by Lynna Kay Shuffield
Houston, Texas

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Printed Taylor Daily Press - 23 Dec 1999

Historic Christmas

On the eve of the millennium, we should consider the Christmas customs and traditions from the early days of American through the early 20th Century, which were much different than our celebrations today. Your ancestors attended church, enjoyed a simple meal, visited or enjoyed the company of friends and family, and exchanged homemade gifts from the heart. Today, we are accustomed to bright glittery Christmas trees, lots of shiny packages, and an abundance of holiday foods.

To learn about "Colonial America Christmas Customs" visit http://www.history.org/life/xmas/customs.htm and read an interesting article written by Emma Lou Powers, a historian in the department of Historical Research at Colonial Williamsburg. A website related to "Christmas in 18th Century Virginia" is located at http://www.history.org/life/xmas/xmasqa.htm.

If you are interested in how Christmas was celebrated during the Civil War, visit http://www.lib.utc.edu/preview/index.html This website offers 13 Confederate and 13 Union narratives on the thoughts and experiences of these men who were far from home under battle conditions. You might also find "Christmas in the Confederate White House" will provide you with additional historical information for this time-period, located at http://members.tripod.com/~corpbob/csawhitehouse.html.

In the Hill Country, German immigrants observed their custom known as a Tannenbaum, e.g., the Christmas tree. In Europe, Germans would bring trees into their home during the Christmas celebrations and decorate the branches with paper chains, nuts, homemade candy, and candles. Germans continued this tradition while living on the rough and dangerous Texas frontier. The Spanish also left us with unique holiday traditions in San Antonio known as "Las Posadas," which includes a candlelight procession that reenacts the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. The spectacular celebration takes place on the second Sunday every year along the Riverwalk and ends at the La Villita Plaza. This wonderful tradition includes candlelit luminarias along the riverbanks and is sponsored by the San Antonio Conservation Society. For information on this festival visit http://www.saconservation.org/posada.html or write: 107 King William St., San Antonio, Texas 78204.

One of the most economical traditions you can observe with your family and friends is a drive through your community to look at the Christmas lights and displays. Remember to bring along a thermos of hot chocolate and Styrofoam cups!

Don't forget to include a short story or narrative in your genealogy about how you and your family enjoy Christmas and other holidays. In keeping those traditions, I would like to share with you my grandmother's favorite Rum Cake recipe. It was always a favorite with the adults and us kids would always sneak an extra piece. We didn't think our grandmother noticed and when we grew-up we found out she would always make two cakes to insure her "little thieves" had enough. Oh, the making of another family tradition

. Rum Cake
3 Cups Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder (use a fresh can)
teaspoon baking soda (use a fresh box)
. Pinch of salt
1 cups UNSALTED butter, soften at room temperature (do not microwave)
1 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 eggs + 1 extra yoke
1 Tablespoon graded lemon zest
1 cup heavy whipping cream
cup dark rum
. Confectioner's (powdered sugar) for dusting the cake after it's baked
. Additional rum to sprinkle on cake after it's baked
. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, set it aside. Cream butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs; stir until just blended, then add the lemon zest and lastly, add the rum. Gradually add the dry ingredients, alternating with the cream and ending with the dry ingredients. Blend mixture until just combined. Pour batter into a well greased and floured a 10-cup tube pan (do NOT use spray-on baking spray). Bake for about one-hour. Test doneness with a skewer inserted halfway between the sides of the pan and the tube. Cool, turn out onto your cake place, sprinkle with additional run and dust with powdered sugar.

Today, I close my column by wishing you and your family the very best of continued health and happiness during the Holiday Season!

In this column, I will be glad to highlight and review any family history, genealogy, county history, or similar book, free of charge, if you donate a copy of the book or item. After it has been highlighted and reviewed, on a space available basis, it will be donated to the genealogy section of a library. You will receive an acknowledgment of the donation from the library. Mail item or book to me at the below address.

Lynna Kay Shuffield has written several books related to Texas genealogy and military history. She has spoken before numerous genealogy and veterans groups. Also, is a County Coordinator for the Texas GenWeb Project. Regretfully, she cannot help with individual genealogical research. Please visit the website for this column at: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Academy/2670/ COLUMN-001.htm or if you have any questions, comments, suggestions for column topics, genealogy or historical society announcements, please contact her at: P. O. Box 16604, Houston, Texas 77222-6604 or e-mail: lksfriday@sbcglobal.net

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This webpage was last created on 17 Dec and was last revised on 10 Jan 2000

Copyright 1999, 2000 Lynna Kay Shuffield - All rights reserved.
P. O. Box 16604
Houston, Texas 77222-6604