The Herald Democrat
100 years ago
ALL MADE MERRY AT CHRISTMAS TREE
Little Ones Had Jolly Time Yesterday Afternoon — Ice Cream Cones, Pretty Gifts and a Bag of Candy.
December 23, 1921
The Red Cross children’s community tree held in the building at 401 Harrison avenue yesterday afternoon from 2 to 5 p. m. was a great success. As early as 1:30 p. m., excited and eager children gathered around the front doors of the building, small faces pressed hard against the large cold windows and a score of wistful and solicitous eyes opened wild as they saw the large Christmas tree loaded to the top with presents and good things to eat. On the inside, numerous ladies were busy getting things ready for their little guests.
Promptly at 2 p. m., the doors opened and the agitated youngsters were led to seats to await the arrival of the numerous cars which were pressed into service to bring other children to the festival from all parts of the city. As the latter arrived on the scene and the children began to mingle with one another, their half-suppressed sighs and exclamations of wonder gave way to their uncontrollable emotions, and the building rang with their joyous shouts of happiness.
Over 250 children were taken care of by the ladies in charge of the festivities during the afternoon. Mrs. Catherine O’Mahoney, in charge of the committee, stated that only about 200 of the kiddies were expected, but that there were ample provisions and gifts for all thanks to the generous spirit of Leadville’s merchants and citizens.
Miss Marion Kingsbury furnished a Victrola for the entertainment and the children enjoyed themselves to the tune of numerous Christmas selections. Miss Steckelberg led the throng of happy and excited youngsters in Christmas songs, carols and games. Every child who attended was presented with a gift, an ice cream cone, a large ball of popcorn and a stocking full of candy, nuts and fruits.
THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS
Today the world is flooded with good will. The spirit of Christmas, that most universal of holidays, fostered from the cradle to the grave and given the particular benediction of the Christian church, seems to stir the sentiments of humanity, kindness and bounteous good will as no other occasion can. To some the sentiment comes spontaneously; to others — the Scrooges that infest the earth — it forces itself on their consciousness so that they must either stay in their dens all day, or at least put on a semblance of good cheer and kindliness.
Without going too deeply into the causes of things — because this is Christmas Day and the class in metaphysics has been dismissed — it is at least safe to assume that Christmas has been established thru long generations of tradition. Whatever else may have come to America, a score of diverse nationalities from the tip of the Spanish peninsula to the frozen shores of the Siberian sea brot with them a common understanding of Christmas. Its religious and theological significance was the same. From the humblest peasant cottage in the Black Forest to the lord’s castle on the hill, there was wassail and feasting. If the churlish swineherd or the savage baron were never genial on any other day of the year, the “brown October ale” of Merry England or the foaming mead that the novel-writers tell us they drank in the castles on the Rhine warmed the surliest of them into some semblance of kindliness.
The tradition of Christmas was fixed and ancient when Columbus crossed to the New World, and if a man had a mellow thot in his life, a kindly emotion, a generous instinct, it was fanned to life at least on this one day of the year. The rich feasted their friends and their servitors. The poor tasted of the generosity of those who had well-stocked larders. The monarch exercised his kingly prerogative of unbinding the chains of some of the miserable wretches confined in the dungeons. At Christmastide, royalty distributes its orders and decorations, and the queen sallies forth to distribute alms among the needy.
So we today are touching another of these extraordinary days, bursting with centuries of rich tradition, fragrant with the memories of fir and mistletoe and brimming with the kindliest and most generous thots of men.
If kings and potentates have exalted themselves by the bestowal of their “grace” to pardon offenders in prison, and if the rich and powerful have scattered their gold pieces, their wine and their bread among the poor, and thus emphasized the distinction between classes, and to make charity a substitute for justice, it at least has some of the flavor of a saving kindliness. The former at least recognizes the existence of misery, even tho it does not take the trouble to investigate the cause. There has been stress laid on the statement that the poor we have always with us. This, unfortunately, has hardened into a philosophy teaching that poverty is part of the necessary order of things, and that our duty is done when from the stores of plenty a few bones are tossed to the poor and the needy.
Perhaps there is less “necessary evil” in the world than we care to realize. It is possible that poverty, which seems to be part of the natural order of things, is the greatest crime of all, not to be relieved by Christmas largesse.
We speak of the “Christmas spirit.” Its interpretation is not difficult, and even its most common expression speaks of kindness and generosity. The Christmas spirit leads men of means to give lavishly. It means that there is a special effort made to seek the poor and needy so that some city, proud of its charity, can say that not a family went hungry on this day, and not a child but had a toy.
This same spirit leads employers to provide some special kind of food for their employes, some bounty in the form of money. It is something handed from above to those below, much as the king gave his pardons and the queen scattered her bounty. Tradition has sanctioned it. It is, in other words, “the Christmas spirit.”
Very well, and very good!
But might there not be an extension of this to all the other days in the year? There might be less bounty and bonus; less of giving from stores of superfluity into laps of dire poverty; less of pardons by grace and more from the impelling necessity of justice.
We crowd too much of a certain kind of sentiment within too narrow calendar limits. If there were more justice for fifty-one weeks in the year, there would be less necessity for lighting such a roaring furnace of generosity in the last week in December.
However, civilization has won the Christmas spirit from out of the depths of abysmal savagery, and it will grow and burgeon and blossom with the passing of the years.