Retro is fashionable this holiday so we're jumping on the Christmas bandwagon to take a ride backwards to 100 years ago. I hope you will travel with me as we link history tales and proof of how some holiday traditions haven't changed much in a century.
Or, perhaps they've changed too much in our treadmill-like modern world where relax time is as sparse as Christmas snow on the Mississippi Coast.
Imagine this newspaper today publishing articles, as it did back then, on how to occupy all those free holiday hours of nothing to do. Imagine electronic games and devices being nonexistent, so much so that people actually made up holiday games to play together. We'll end with one of those games, but first, let's peek out the window of our time machine.
The year is 1915, a bit of an unsettled time on the Coast and nationwide because of a war in Europe that eventually would be labeled World War I.
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In fact, on this date a century ago, the recently widowed President Woodrow Wilson remarried. No doubt the people of Pass Christian had hoped he and his new bride would consider spending their holiday honeymoon in the town where Wilson and his first wife, Ellen, spent the 1913-14 winter holidays in a lovely beachfront home locals renamed The Dixie White House.
But that was not a consideration for Wilson and his bride, the widow Edith Bolling Gant, who like himself was a Virginia native. This newspaper, then called The Daily Herald, explained that the Wilsons would have a simple honeymoon in Hot Springs, Va., close to Washington, D.C., because of "a possible break of diplomatic relations between the United States and Austria."
The Pass could find solace in the fact that earlier in 1915 the town was graced with the presence of another White House dignitary, former president Theodore Roosevelt, who came to the Coast to fish, a sport that was luring many famous folks to this region.
TR, as all of us who love tedd bears should recall, is credited with giving popular rise to his namesake toy bear, a naming that many histories link to a 1904 bear hunting incident in Mississippi.
Was it much different?
Local stores 100 years ago sold tedd bears, along with a proliferation of other toys and foods. Turkey, for example, averaged 12 cents a pound. Mistletoe was sold on street corners by industrious youngsters who climbed trees or used guns to shoot down the holiday plant.
Although some pre-cut Christmas trees were available, many families ventured into the piney woods to find one of their own. Santa Claus was a popular visitor to local stores, as Herald advertisements confirm, complete with sleigh and reindeer.
Fireworks, a Southern Christmas tradition, were scarcer and cost 40 percent more, "the reason assigned being the European war." Although many think modern fireworks stands are for New Year's, they are in fact linked to French colonial times here when musket shooting celebrated the birthday of Christ.
Stocking stuffers were quietly advertised, for this too was an ancient and much beloved Southern tradition. Candies and tropical fruits, not so readily available in the early 20th century, were much-appreciated stuffers.
Notices for free holiday meals for the needy, or tasty fund-raisers for a number of civic organizations, were everywhere. The Doll & Toy Fund, whose origins are credited to this newspaper's founding family, the Wilkeses, was going strong and bringing smiles to children.
Obviously, in many ways the local traditions of Christmas haven't changed drastically in a century. But what stuck in my mind after studying these old newspaper pages is that time seemed more plentiful back then. That's impossible, of course, but those were simpler days, unburdened by today's demand of supposedly time-saving technologies that in fact turn into time consumption devices.
'Some Jolly Games' to play
Imagine reading this in a newspaper today: "During the holiday school vacation it is difficult to keep the youngsters out of mischief and yet keep them amused. This is especially true in the evening, when they cannot play out of doors." That statement of 100 years ago just wouldn't be repeated today with our overload of electronic devices for games, entertainment and communications.
So, from several homemade games suggested in the 1915 newspaper, I've selected one as holiday fodder from an article titled, "Some Jolly Games of the Merry Yule Party."
If this one doesn't appeal to you, still consider putting away your electronic devices, shutting off your smart phones and turning off the TVs. Dust off an old board game, deck of cards, even dominoes, invite a few friends or family and play together the old-fashioned way. What a wonderful holiday gift to yourself!
With a little ingenuity, this game could be modernized and subject matters altered for more diverse fun. Or it could be played just as it was a century ago.
100-year-old jolly game
"Fill a good-sized basket with words cut from newspaper headlines. Each word should be cut out in a small square. Players sit around a large table and each receives a square of pasteboard or a sheet of heavy paper. In the middle of the board is placed the basket filled with words. There should be a couple of bottles of paste or mucilage [glue] besides.
"Each player in turn is given a hatpin which he plunges into the basket. All words brought up on the hatpin belong to the person jabbing. When each player has jabbed six times in turn; the pins are laid aside and the point now becomes to see who can form the cleverest Christmas telegrams from the words jabbed up. Allow fifteen minutes for working out these phrases.
"The entertainer or someone who does not enter into the game decides which is cleverest. Give a book of witty sayings as a prize in this round."
Kat Bergeron, a veteran feature writer specializing in Gulf Coast history and sense of place, is retired from the Sun Herald. She writes the Coast Chronicles column as a freelance correspondent. Reach her at BergeronKat@gmail.com or c/o Sun Herald Newsroom, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-45667