Christmas in One-Room Schoolhouses
Celebrating Christmas in the School Days of Old
Children from the 1880′s to the 1940′s celebrated Christmas in their one-room schoolhouses very differently than the students of today. Children had a shorter Christmas Break, performed a Christmas Program, and decorated the School tree with handmade ornaments.
Christmas Break was often very short for most children. There was little farm work to be done, so the children went to school. Usually during this term, school superintendants preferred to hire male teachers so that they could deal with the more difficult students with a firmer hand.
One of the biggest events of the year was the Christmas Program. The students would gather together in a schoolhouse to perform carols, a nativity, a play or to recite poems for parents. For the program, a wire was hung from wall to wall and old sheets were draped on them to make a curtain for the stage. Since this was one of the largest community events around, some schools would be packed tight with citizens. One night a school was so full, the candles reportedly wouldn’t burn because of the lack of oxygen.
One-room school students would bring in a tree and decorate it with strings of popcorn, chains made of paper, paper ornaments, and gifts tied to the limbs. If some of the gifts were breakable, they were set on the floor.
Not all schoolhouses and schoolmasters or schoolmarms celebrated in this way. Every school had it’s own traditions, but sometimes the teacher’s job for the next year was determined on their practices around Christmastime.
If the teacher didn’t do enough in the parents’ and school board’s eyes, he/she was to find a job elsewhere for the next term.
Find out more about old schoolhouse traditions at www.geocities.com/oneroomschoolmarm/