The New Years Tree


Traditions always have a tie to the past.  Many have grown up with different traditions, some handed down the generations, some families just starting their own.  These traditions can be religious, heraldic, ethnic or "just because that's the way it was always done!"  What IS interesting though, looking back in time, is just what some of these old traditions entailed and how they were started.  Some traditions are now lost in time, no record of them, no existing facts about them.

And for some traditions, we never to know the origins or why they were started in the first place. Here's a look at one such instance.

01/02/02:  From Melanie Mendelson:  "This New Year's custom is from Russia.  In Russia, New Year's Day is a huge holiday where everybody puts up and decorates a tree in the house (it looks like a Christmas tree).  They have Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) - a character similar to Santa Claus - and his female helper Snow Maiden bring the gifts to children.  Everybody exchanges gifts on the New Year, often people put them under the tree. Everybody stays up all night and celebrates.

Judy Holmes Baugher wrote about her grandfather's diaries mentioning the tradition of the "new years tree".  Though the entries are brief, her grandfather, Lovillo G. Holmes, kept journals from 1901 until his death in 1940, making everyday observations and recording them!

The entries below describe what little clues are available about the New Years Tree tradition and are transcribed here as he wrote them, including punctuation.

Judy writes:  "I'm so curious about this "New Year's Tree" custom.  My dad was born to Lovillo's second wife, Lydia Dockstader, and my dad knew nothing about the custom.  I'm wondering if my grandfather's family at that time celebrated gift giving only at New Year's eve and not at Christmas.  That's what it sounds like."  If you have any idea about this tradition, please contact the site coordinator or Judy.  Thanks!

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December 24, 1901 says " Fred, Ivy & Margie went to Glen to Xmas tree. I was cold when I got here."

January 1,1901, Tuesday:   "Very cold and clear.  Rube got pails for me.  Ate turkey at Herricks and we took the 2-26 train on N.Y.C. for Fonda.  Fred met us at the depot.  Got up home about 5 o'clock.  Uncle Waldo and Aunt Annie there, they staid till after the New Years tree at night.  No sleighing anywhere except toward Charleston 4 cors.  We all rec'd nice presents.  N.Y. basketball 5 won from 46th P.M. score 30 to 12 46th,5 won from Cohoes in evening. score 22 to 12.  Pa went to the Corners. Deloss is peddling while I'm gone."

January 1, 1905 Sunday:   "A little colder than yesterday.  We wanted to go to church but Karl T. Knutsen came and bothered me some so I didn't get there. We were all well remembered last night on the tree.  I gave Lovica a clothes wringer, electric seal cap and one doz table knives and forks.  She gave me electric seal driving gloves.  There were at least 150 presents on the tree.  Lulu came back with us and went down again with Hoags this P.M."

December 24th and 25th are missing from the 1905 diary. After the 1905 diary, I don't have any more until a few years later.  Lovica came down with comsumption toward the end of the 1905 diary and in the next one that I have she is dead.  Their daughter, Orvetta was then raised primarily by her grandparents.  The next diary I have is 1908 and for some reason it wasn't started until January 5th - Saturday.  According to the diary they were living in the town of Glen.

The diary says on Dec. 25, 1908:   "Christmas tree entertainment went off all ok.  Pa, Mathes & Orvetta went home at 10 oclock".

January 1, 1910 - Saturday:   " Very nice, clear and sunny A.M. Cold east wind P.M. cloudy & threatening.  We went down home 10-45.  Dinner at 1-45.  were at table 1 hr.  Unloaded tree at 3.  Orvetta delighted.  Had fine dinner, ice cream etc.  Weather moderating considerable in eve. strong indications of rain. south wind.  We came home 5 oclock.  I gave Baby solid silver tablespoon engraved OMH and hand sleigh. Lydia, a lovely doll.  Uncle Fred dandy set dishes.  Harvey & Silvia game "Mother Goose Puzzle". Oh and so many other things.  We had pancakes and gravy, cold ribs etc. about 9.  They were good too.  Retired at 10.  Johnnie Ostrom's funeral to be Tues. 2PM."

January 1, 1917:  " We all went at 2 pm dandy new years dinner.  Ochampaughs also had big dinner so Frank & Margie were not at our table, but came down in P.M. they with their little baby boy, Roland.  Fred, Mabel, Ernestine, Orvetta, Aunt Mant, Pa, Mother, Harvey, Anna.  Bernerd, Lydia, Myself and our little honey girl, Kathleen, comprised the gathering.  The Kiddies all were remembered on the tree."


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Copyright , 2000 Judy Holmes Baugher
Copyright , 2000 Jeanette Shiel
All Rights Reserved.

Last updated Tuesday, 13-May-2008 13:12:02 PDT