A look Back At Christmas In Watertown, NY, In 1879
The following piece regarding Christmas in Watertown, 1879, was published in the Watertown Daily Times on December 26 of that same year. Unsurprisingly, the article highlights the role churches played 143 years ago, not only in religious activities but social and entertainment as well. Not all of the churches at the time were represented in the article, but it gives an idea of what each provided for the community.
Christmas in Watertown was a cold day and the sleighing was very poor. Almost everybody remained at home and enjoyed the society of the family. Several of the church societies were very busy with their sociables and Christmas trees, etc., etc.
The Stone Street Tree
The Christmas tree of the Stone-street church was the finest ever seen in that church. It was a beautiful as it could be made.
At an early hour the church was filled with old and young people who had especial interests in the nice things on the tree. There was no entertainment before the distribution of presents took place, except singing by the children. The distribution of presents elicited a great amount of sport for all.
The Arsenal-Street Christmas
Never before in the history of the Arsenal-street M. E. Society was their church trimmed for Christmas as nice as it was for yesterday. Under the management of Mrs. M. Banister and Ed. Harmon, assisted by fifteen ladies and six gentlemen, the trimming was performed after several days of hard work. The many compliments they received well paid them for their time and labor. The Christmas tree was loaded till the branches nearly touched the floor.
The exercises of last evening, consisting of declamations, recitations by magnesium light during the singing was magnificent. Among the many beautiful presents on the tree was one of a silver tea service for Mr. Wilson, Superintendent of the Sabbath School. The entertainment was good enough to be repeated.
Christmas At the State-St. Church
Those who failed to attend the Christmas entertainment at the State-st. M. E. church last evening missed a rare treat. The charming cantata entitled Santa Claus, written by W. H. Doane, was rendered in a manner which elicited the highest encomiums from the large audience who had the pleasure of listening to it. It is safe to say that no better or more pleasing entertain of its character was ever produced in Watertown. The performance captured the audience from the first, and the success of the piece was a happy surprise, even to those who had labored so faithfully in its production.
The general excellence of the whole program makes it impossible for us to particularize in the limited space at our command. All did splendidly from first to last: even the little children seemed to catch the spirit of the joyous occasion and rendered their parts in the beautiful bed-room scene faultlessly.
At the urgent request of a large number who were not able to attend in consequence of numerous other entertainments in the city on the same evening, it has been decided to give it again this evening at 7:30 o’clock. Those who attended last night will not need a second invitation. The price of admission has been reduced to fifteen cents. We predict a crowded house.
The Universalist Sociable
As usual with the Universalist Society, their entertainment and sociable at Washington Hall last evening was a glad, joyous and successful one. The early part of the evening was spent in disposing of the very enjoyable viands spread out on the tables and prepared on the spot by chief-cook Holden. The exercise by the Sunday School begun precisely at eight o’clock, and we have scarcely seen a better and more pleasing performance. The opening chorus, “Onward, Christian Soldier,” was well done and well received.
The “Alphabet” by the infant class, an original recitation, was an excellent performance; the little folks receiving immense applause, and when they followed with the “Christmas Carol,” the interest was immense. “What ailed the pudding” set the audience in a hearty laugh; Master Wooley told it well. The song “Lullaby” rendered by Miss Anna Dewey is a perfect gem, and was exceedingly well rendered, and the accompaniment by the Boy Orchestra and piano was delightful and charming: this song was doubly encored.
The tableau “A scene from Fairy Land” was a beauty: this was made up by Mrs. Lizzie Kane and shows that lady to be possessed of talent and ability for such work, in addition to her well known vocal powers. The duet by Misses Dewey and Davis was another gem: these two young ladies have very fine voices and they are evidently making good use of a good gift. The closing piece, “The Auction,” written by Rev. G. J. Porter, is a good production, and was well done.
We want to say that the performance of these young people entitles them to very much credit, and the Boy Orchestra is deserving of special mention. They play very nicely in tune, time and expression, and will some day make their mark as musicians. Their accompaniments are very meritorious. The whole affair was a true success, financially and otherwise.
Baptist Church Entertainment
The Christmas tree and festival was held at the Baptist church on Wednesday evening. The exercises which preceded the distribution of presents were performed mainly by juveniles, who sang and recited in a very pleasing manner. The church was crowded and everything passed off very pleasantly indeed. Everybody received a present.