Hints For Christmas Decorations (and a recipe) From 1887

The 1880s were a great time for Christmas – and this letter to the Editor describes one family’s traditions from end of that decade.


Dear Editor :

—Noticing “Anxious Auntie’s” call in the October number-of our interesting department, which I feel like thanking the editor of the Home Magazine for every day, I made up my mind that I would try and break the ice by offering her a few suggestions, which, I trust, will be acceptable.

To begin, why does she care particularly for a tree? This device for the giving of gifts is as old as the hills themselves, and a great deal of work. Why not, for a change, try the “Christmas Pie”?

We had one at our house last year, and it gave universal satisfaction. Of course, the presents are to be surprises, the same as if put on a tree, and should be done up in oddly-shaped packages, each marked with the recipient’s name, and that of the giver, if desired. These packages are put into a tub or clothes-basket, which is covered with a cloth and placed on a stand in the centre of the room. Each member of the family in turn ” puts in his thumb and pulls out a plum,” Jack Horner like, reads aloud the name or names written on it, and passes it to the one for whom it was intended. This continues until the basket is empty and all have received their presents. Of course, the more surprise the more fun ; a locket or ring done up in many wrappings and boxes will cause much merriment as the various coverings are removed.

Christmas wreaths and festoons are easily and rapidly made. Take a small rope and tie the smallest branches or tip of evergreens, spruce, fir, etc., thickly upon it with twine. A very good representation of snow for these and for the tree itself is cotton batting, lightly pick-up and fastened on in patches, here and there. Touch the batting with white mucilage lightly and scatter on diamond powder. If white letters are desired, use cotton batting and sprinkle with the powder.

Popped corn, threaded in long strings, red-cheeked apples, golden oranges, sticks of striped candy tied together, home-made corn-balls, stars cut from gilt paper and fastened to the ti]» of the branches, and lace bags filled with bright candies, are all extremely pretty adjuncts of a Christmas tree and will help to keep the little people who are so anxious to “do something for Christmas” busy and happy in assisting to prepare them.

One Christmas I made some fancy cakes for our tree after an old recipe. To make these ” daisy cakes” take one cup of granulated sugar, one-half cup of butter, and one-half cup of sour cream, two eggs, one scant teaspoonful of soda dissolved in a very little cold water; flavor with nutmeg and use flour to roll, taking care not to get the dough too hard. Roll out like cookies (which, in fact, they are) and cut with a scalloped cookie cutter. Bake in a slow oven, and do not let them overdo. Prepare an ordinary frosting with the white of one egg and powdered sugar, having it just stiff enough to keep the shape. Take some of this in a confectioner’s syringe or a little roll of stiff white paper with the point cut off, and put white petals on the cakes when cold, not bringing them auite together in the centre. Make a frosting of the yelk of the egg and sugar and make the centre of the daisy of this, a spot about the size of a copper cent Flavor both kinds of frosting to taste.

Hoping that what I have written may be of service to some one, and wishing the “Home” housekeeper all success, I will close. L. H. M.

Source: Arthur’s Home Magazine 1887

Index: Historic Christmas Recipes

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