Tonight many families will gather at church for special Christmas Eve services. In the 1870s, young Ella Grimes (born on April 3, 1867) celebrated the holiday at her family's Episcopal church, located near today's 50th and France.
Victorian tree by Dover Books.
By Ella Grimes Eustis
Excerpt from memoir Out of My Mind
"Christmas was a great time. The large Sunday school Christmas tree always came from my father’s nursery. It was lighted with small tallow candles and trimmed with strings of popcorn and cranberries.
"The unwrapped presents, marked with the pupils’ names, hung from its branches. As each gift was taken down the name was called, and the pupil would go up the aisle to receive it. The girls would get a small doll, a bottle of perfume, a book, or a picture. I do not remember ever seeing a toy or piece of clothing, and certainly no pot-bellied red Santa Claus.
"Money for the presents was always contributed by the fathers, and a committee went to town and bought the presents. My brother Everett and Hattie Godfrey usually served on the committee.
"Two or three families who never sent their children to Sunday school invariably showed up in full force for the Christmas party. These children would be given presents which had been marked for regular attendants. My father was by far the largest cash contributor, so when I would come home with nothing after these once-a-year children had been so splendidly rewarded, my mother would have plenty to say to those responsible for the generous handouts. If those unearned rewards had been inducements to attend Sunday school regularly, all would have been forgiven; but we would never see these families again until the following Christmas."
If this were a Hallmark Christmas movie, the incident would have taught Ella the spirit of giving. But in real life, children with no presents under the tree (or in this case, on it) might be more disgruntled with sharing.
What are your Christmas memories? Did you have to memorize Bible verses to tell the Christmas story? Did your church elders give gifts to the children? Please share your memories by commenting here or emailing me.
The Edina History Museum will be open Thursday, Dec. 27, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Bring your family or get together with your pals from the old neighborhood to see "Growing Up in Edina" exhibit. Free admission.
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