… written by one of our young writers! New Woo Voices! Yeah!
By Rosa Tremaine
Holiday Season is in full swing. Lights are twinkling, trees are up, and the seasonal aisle at Walmart is full of chocolate; yet some of the things that we often think of as being quintessentially Christmassy only really became popular in America around 150 years ago.
Christmas trees and gift-giving had been part of English culture since the late 1700s when Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III, brought these Teutonic traditions with her from Northern Germany. Author and 18th-Century expert Nancy Bilyeau says that Queen Charlotte in 1800 “threw a memorable party at Windsor for the kingdom’s leading families, showing off an entire tree […] Before long, anybody who was anybody wanted a Christmas tree.”
America, however, was still having trouble with the idea of Christmas celebrations. New England struggled to break away from its Puritan origins, and this holiday, with its ancient traditions of drinking and jollification, just had too much of a pagan and Anglican flavor for some die-hard New Englanders.
Christmas was not even a recognized holiday in Massachusetts until Senator Dewey introduced a bill to that effect in 1856. This did not mean, of course, that nobody in Massachusetts celebrated Christmas until 1856 – on the contrary, in 1835 Harriet Martineau, a Unitarian social theorist from Norwich in England, wrote of a Christmas tree in Charles Follen’s Boston home in the course of her travels to America: “I have little doubt the Christmas tree will become one of the most flourishing exotics of New England.” She was quite right. During the reign of Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert from 1837 onward, Christmas with all its associated trappings became extremely fashionable in both England and America.
In 1850, Godey’s Lady’s Book (a popular women’s magazine in 19th-Century America) reproduced a picture from the London Illustrated Times showing the royal family around a German-style table tree loaded with decorations, candles, and gifts. The making of gifts to give at Christmas became a popular pastime for American women, and was promoted in various women’s magazines along with ideas on things to make: mittens and slippers were an obvious crowd-pleaser in the middle of a cold New England winter, but other commonly made items included embroidered handkerchiefs and painted trinket boxes.
Letters from this time period between members of the Worcester Salisbury family mention gift-giving and delightful dinner parties as part of family Christmas traditions as well as the more sober religious angle of seasonal sermons and church servies. Plum pudding, roasted turkey or goose dinners, and bowls of punch or mulled wine were already established Christmas treats in England by the 1800s, but carol singing and greetings cards were respectively revived and invented by the Victorians.
Slowly but surely, the festive season began to evolve into something that we would recognize today. Popular books such as A Christmas Carol and The Night Before Christmas anchored the holiday more firmly into the hearts of the American people, and it became a highly important time of year for family bonding and for children. Charity was also an integral part of a Victorian-era Christmas – the idea of giving to those in need without any expectation of return fit in very nicely with 19th-Century Christian sensibilities, but naturally a person can be generous and thoughtful whatever their religious beliefs and background.
The Salisbury Mansion in Worcester still brings to life the nostalgia and magic of a Victorian Christmas each year, with candlelight tours and beautiful, era-appropriate decorations, giving a buzz of much-needed warmth and light as the nights draw in and the weather slips into a wintry chill. No matter what traditions you hold dear, spending time with family and friends over the holiday is a great way to strengthen relationships and prepare together for what the new year may bring.
This New Year don’t forget … to help the planet! Eat less meat!
GREEN SALSA TOFU ENCHILADAS!
1 Tbsp. oil
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 block extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into strips
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. chipotle adobo sauce (optional)
6 yellow corn tortillas
1/2 cup mild green salsa
1 Tbsp. sour cream (optional)
1 Tbsp. vegan cheese (optional)
Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion, tofu, garlic, cumin and salt.
Add the chipotle adobo sauce, if desired.
Cook for 5 minutes, or until the tofu is slightly golden.
Warm the tortillas on a separate pan or in the microwave — that way, they’re easier to work with.
Place a tortilla on a plate and fill with 3 tablespoonfuls of the tofu mixture.
Roll the tortilla with the filling and repeat with the remaining tortillas.
Heat the green salsa and pour over the enchiladas.
You can top these with sour cream or vegan cheese! Enjoy!
AND, finally …
What Happened Here, at Worcester’s Cambridge Street Salvation Army Headquarters/Family Store?
Text and photos by Rosalie T.
The authorities have filed the dead woman away – found her recent death on that 11 F morning “Inconclusive.” They dismiss her personhood: We do not know how this woman died and do not really care, they seem to say.
The 1-word description authorities have slapped on this heart-wrenching holiday story is the word that describes the City of Worcester’s help for the homeless!
To a T!
INCONCLUSIVE – No real CITY OF WORCESTER game plan. Just a lot of platitudes from City Manager Ed Augustus: blah, blah, blah, blah. We are sick of this bull shit. Caring Worcesterites know better!
As Woo gentrifies, we will see more of this. When we were just Utility Closet of New England Worcester we DID NOT CARE FOR OUR WEAKEST brothers and sisters – even back then! With the PIP’s closing, the replacement Queen Street shelter does not do it! We need more services! The amazing Father John Madden has opened up the basement area of his St. John’s church on Temple Street to a grassroots homeless shelter and he feeds the homeless and poor, too. Without him, there’d be more dead women found among the Salvation Army donation bins looking for blankets, sweaters, warmth …
We guess, since there were no guns found, no stab wounds, no signs of rape, sexual assault that the dead woman was homeless in a city that doesn’t properly care for its homeless.
Right around Christmas – she was searching for a present – a warm blanket. Maybe a thick, cozy hoodie. Or boots. Among the good stuff left by good people as they move on or pare down their lives. To simplify is GOOD!
I am moving and have brought big white plastic bags of winter garb, and boots … and some shelves, end tables to this exact spot. On weekdays and early weekend mornings there are Salvation Army volunteeers to help you unload your stuff – guys in recovery working the SArmy program. They look grizzled, rough cuz of all their hard luck, living, but they are always NICE, GRACIOUS EVEN!
Do not believe the haters who want to degrade this helping blueprint: good people all around – donors, the guys, the stuff… and, yes, the people on the fringes who, after hours, pick thru the donations looking for stuff to stay warm … feel human. From my several trips dropping stuff off, I can say the donations are always clean, sturdy, useful … the SA guys helpful and efficient – they do a great job of sorting goods, moving stuff into the big SA trucks or placing items into donation bins, even covering stuff up with tarps, if it looks like rain and there is no room for the donated goods in the many white SA bins or big SA trucks.
Yes, after hours, donations do pile up, but it is all cleared up and organized within 24 hours. I have seen this!
Thousands of good donations – from small dolls to big desks – are given to the needy by the good people of Worcester. And maybe the old SA donations lot is a GOOD place where the city’s homeless can congregate … for safety (well lit area), furniture for their nooks in the woods or secret city spaces … or maybe to find a mattress to sleep on. Rest. Peace in the SA lot.
The dead woman found amid the Salvation Army donations did nothing shameful: she tried to make it through a frigid Worcester night with only the clothes on her back.
The shame is on City Manager Ed Augustus and our city “leaders.”