Woman’s Club hears presentation on American Christmas traditions

Photo submitted to Times Observer Dr. Ruth Barnes Shaw presents origins of American Christmas traditions at Woman’s Club.

Dr. Ruth Barnes Shaw gave a presentation to the Woman’s Club of Warren on Dec. 17 on American Christmas traditions.

Much of the symbolism and traditions of our Christmas celebrations spring from pre-Christian pagan civilizations and the Roman Empire and, later, from Germany. The Winter Solstice is the root of many of our customs, she explained. “Solstice” means “sun stands still”; pagans believed the sun died between December 21 and 25. On Dec. 25, the sun begins moving again and days get longer. Hence, the sun (and, for Christians, the Son) is reborn.

Dr. Barnes Shaw touched on many traditions, including the origin of:

Fruitcake — In the Middle Ages, was made for weddings and holidays. By the 1800s, cheap sugar had made the preservation of fruit possible, and plentiful nuts from Texas and Georgia enriched the cake; hence the expression “nutty as a fruitcake.”

Eggnog — Originally a British concoction called “posset”, this came to us in the 1700s, because there were plenty of chickens (eggs), cows (cream) and cheap rum in the colonies.

Trees — Pre-Christian pagans worshipped trees and believed evergreens had magical powers against the evil spirits of winter. In the U.S. in 1850, Godey’s Ladies’ Magazine published a photo of Queen Victoria with a small tabletop tree, which Prince Albert had introduced as part of his Germanic holiday tradition. The following year, the first American concession selling Christmas trees appeared in New York City.

Mistletoe — Believed to ward off evil, is a sign of love and friendship in Norse mythology.

President Carolyn Worley thanked Dr. Barnes Shaw for her presentation.

The Woman’s Club entry and dining tables were decorated with nutcrackers. Hostesses were Karen Llewellyn, Kathy Nelson and Joyce Kelley. What’s New for the Holidays raffle winners were announced.

The annual Bridge Marathon (four Fridays in January) is to begin January 4, 2019, for members and non-members alike. Call Anne Higgins, club manager, at 723-5910 for information.

The next gathering will be the Winter Tea on Monday, Jan.21.

The Woman’s Club website at www.warrenwomansclub.org provides more information on the club.