Christmas a century ago

By on December 19, 2014

Festivities reigned throughout the town

As we prepare for Christmas this year, I thought I would take you on a nostalgic trip back in time. Let’s travel back exactly 100 years — to 1914 — to learn how the holiday was celebrated right here in Lititz.

The dirt roads downtown were frozen hard and free from dust — perfect for snow and sleighing. And snow they had! The previous day, on Christmas Eve, a few inches of snow fell, which made it a white Christmas. Numerous sleighs with children perched were spotted during the day, and the jingling of the bells added festive notes of happiness and glee to the occasion.

For the adults, there was a shooting match on the baseball diamond on Christmas afternoon. Blue rocks served as targets, and all gunners around the town were invited to participate. Although the weather was cold, several marksmen showed up on the ball grounds. Frank Rader led the event with a score of 50 percent of the targets accurately shot.

Christmas at Lititz Square during the early 20th century

Christmas at Lititz Square during the early 20th century

Much to the surprise of the school children (and teachers!) of Lititz today, the Warwick public schools were closed only on Christmas and New Year’s days that year.

The chocolate factory was also shut down on Christmas Day only as the many orders forbade the managers of the plant to allow any extra time off that season.

The gift of charity was also in full swing: the citizens at the eastern end of town rallied behind the Christmas spirit when they presented to Harry Shenenberger and family (who resided at Rome and were in destitute circumstances), two large baskets filled with all kinds of food, a ton of coal, and a small amount of money which assisted the family during their time of need.

At the Lititz market the Saturday before Christmas, plenty of goods were for sale. Chickens sold from 60 to 90 cents each; succulent ducks commanded 75 cents each; and fresh pork ranged from 16 to 22 cents a pound. For baking, butter was available for 38 cents per pound; eggs were available for 40 cents a dozen; fresh sausage sold at 18 cents a pound. The smoked variety sold for an additional 2 cents per pound.

Christmas trees and moss, sold by W. M. Kissinger downtown, were very popular items on the days leading up to Dec. 25. Deliveries were made available to any part of town for free.

Shoppers didn’t have to leave Lititz to find everything they needed for holiday gift-giving. Miller’s store, located at the corner of South Broad and Orange streets, offered special Christmas bargains including glassware, warm gloves, pure spices, table linens, imported salad dishes, and more. B.B. Lehman’s store on North Broad Street offered a full line of candies, fruits, and nuts. A great selection of candy, including their famous clear toy variety, was also available at various prices via parcel post or in person by stopping at C. Fred Regennas’s candy shop. For that very special someone, Hepp Jewelers sold Hamilton watches, Kodak cameras, rings, and bracelets.

Several churches throughout the town also held services, which helped spread the true meaning of the season. Below is just a handful of some of the activities that took place at local places of worship:

At the Lititz Moravian Church, Christmas Eve love feast services were held at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m., both to capacity crowds. Lighted wax tapers were given to each child; and following the services, a chorus went all over town on foot, singing Christmas carols for those that could not leave home. On Christmas morning at 10 a.m., the Rev. Hagen preached a very special holiday sermon, and an offering was received. The Sunday School performed “Christmas Classics No. 3” later that evening. Following their performance, the Moravian Orchestra played “Figaro Hochzeit,” “Sanctus St. Cecelia,” “Pique Dame,” and “Around The Xmas Tree.”

At St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, “Realms of Light” was beautifully rendered by the talented musicians of the Sunday school on Christmas evening before a large audience. A duet by Dorothy Jenkins and Gladys Stoner was also performed, noted as being “exceptionally pretty.”

At the United Evangelical Church, the Sunday school members also performed “Realms of Light” on Christmas evening. The entire pulpit recess was decorated with greens, tinsel, and other ornaments.

Over at the United Brethren Church, members of the Sunday school held their holiday program entitled “All Hail the Messiah” on Christmas evening. The orchestra performed a number of selections, including three exercises by girls and boys entitled “The First Christmas,” “Eight Little Lights,” and “Our Xmas Tree.”

Finally, at St. Luke’s Reformed Church, the pupils of the Sunday School performed their Christmas exercises entitled “His Natal Day” on Christmas afternoon.

These were just some of the many holiday events which took place 100 years ago here in our wonderful village. Certainly, the warm spirit of Christmas was felt all through Lititz that year as it still is today.

Although many things have changed, Lititz still hasn’t lost its small town charm, especially around this very special time of year. Let us all take a few moments this holiday season to reflect on the past as we look to the future.

May you all have a very Merry Christmas; and a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

Cory Van Brookhoven is President of the Lititz Historical Foundation and has authored several books  on topics involving Lancaster County history, including Lititz. He welcomes your comments at coryvb 


One Comment

  1. Tim B

    December 16, 2018 at 1:22 am

    I enjoyed this charming look back into time a century ago and Christmas, thank you.

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