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Christmas Past

Historic Arkansas Museum - Wednesday, April 01, 2015

We’d like to share with you some of the Arkansas Christmas traditions of yore that we have found in our research:

Christmas Cow

Each year Little Rock butcher Alex George’s Christmas bulls were “’dressed up fit to kill’”—a garland of flowers and evergreens around their necks, and rosettes and streamers of gaily colored ribbons on their ears and tails, a big orange stuck on the tip of the beef’s horns, and pantalettes of white muslin, fastened to their knees with gay bows of ribbon.” As Mr. George paraded his bulls down the street, Little Rock’s young boys went running after them, shouting and blowing their horns.

- Mrs. Frances Woodruff Martin

The Arkansas Pioneer

Vol. 3 No. 1, 1916

Yule Log

Burning the Yule log started and ended the Christmas celebration. People wanting a longer holiday took notice. Ozarks old-timers along with former slaves whose only holiday was between Christmas and New Years told the story of finding a huge log, well before Christmas, and putting it in the creek to soak up the water. When Christmas came, and they were required to prepare their owner’s or parents’ fire, they chose the water-soaked log. Obviously, it burned longer, and, thus, provided for a longer Christmas break.

Christmas Tree

“I found an interesting news item about the first Christmas tree in Fayetteville, introduced by a German in 1839 who decorated it with carved wooden toys of his own making ‘and charged ten cents admission for those who came to look upon this new feature in Christmas celebration.’”

Therese Westermeier, Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Spring, 1856

Celebrations

Hannah Donnell Knight moved with her family from New York to Little Rock in the 1850s and in an early letter back home told about being awakened on Christmas Day by canon fire, straight down Main Street, loud enough that it broke windows in some nearby houses.