Decorations, particularly for a Presbyterian minister’s home like that of the Reverend and Mrs. Wilson, tended to be minimal. Simple garlands and modest arrangements of greenery and berries were used to decorate the home. The Christmas tree would have been quite small and probably would have been displayed on a table top. Prior to 1870 the tree ornaments would have been handmade. Some decorations would include walnuts covered with real gold and silver leaf. Designs of many shapes including stars were cut out of pasteboard and covered with gold and silver paper, and cookies were suspended by strings. Strips of paper were made into chains and candles were fastened on tree branches. Presents also hung from the tree. The first Christmas trees in Staunton and Augusta County were displayed in 1855, the same year the Wilsons moved to Staunton. Christmas trees were uncommon at that time, except in German households. In general the holiday emphasis was on socializing, family gatherings and special meals prepared for these occasions. The elaborate Victorian Christmas that spawned many of the traditions we now associate with the 19th century came later, after the Civil War.
Last Updated: 11/20/2014 9:27 AM