Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Lay Off Christmas

Today as I was thumbing through one of my Christmas gifts, (Foreigners in Their Own Land: Pennsylvania Germans in the Early Republic, Steven M. Nolt)I came across this:

“On Tuesday 15 December 1808, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives set aside its normal routine of business and engaged in what one newspaper characterized as 'a rather heated debate' on the public place of Christmas." [Hmm, this sounds familiar ... ]

It seems that at that time, Christmas was not an accepted holiday among many early 19th century Pennsylvanians of British descent. The Quakers, et al observed the Sabbath, but did not, for the most part, celebrate holy days. My people, the Pennsylvania Germans, demanded a recess for the season, refusing to give up their holiday and challenging the Anglo-American basis for the public calendar.

"You'll want all day tomorrow, I suppose?'' said Scrooge.

Not only Christmas Day, but the day after, known to the Germans as Second Christmas. In the midst of the debate, one of my ancestors, George Spangler, said “that among the Germans Second Christmas (Dec. 26th) is observed as a holiday just like Sunday. So on that day no business could be carried out in the chamber in any case since the Germans would not be present.” The House eventually resolved to recess for both days. You tell ‘em George.


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