Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Lore--Day 4

Godey's Lady's Book & Magazine, December 1864

Christmas Noise
Noise used to be a big part of Christmas.  Beginning on Christmas Eve and lasting through Christmas Day, folks would shoot guns, popguns, firecrackers, and larger fireworks such as Roman Candles.  This practice was sometime's called "Shooting in the New Year" or "Christmas Guns."  Most of the references to this tradition are from Virginia.  There are a few mentions of it in North and South Carolina, Baltimore and New York, but for the most part, it never really caught on up North. 

In 1804, the mayor of Richmond, Virginia complained to the governor about all of the guns being fired in city limits.  He referred to it as "being an old established custom."  Years later, there is also mention of the Civil War troops around Richmond firing their guns and shooting off firecrackers for Christmas. 

Most folks have heard of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.  They being good old Virginia boys from the Charlottesville area, celebrated Christmas in 1804 in a Mandan Indian village by firing their guns into the air.  The next year found them at Fort Clatsop near the mouth of the Columbia River where they once again fired their guns and exchanged gifts..  "We were awaked at daylight by a discharge of firearms which was followed by a song from the men, as a compliment to us on the return of Christmas, which we have always been accustomed to observe as a day of rejoicing." wrote Captain  William Clark.  They also fired guns a few days later for New Year's Day.  (from: Coves, Elliott. The History of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.)  

A noise maker for the kids involved saving pig bladders at slaughter time and blowing them up like a balloon.  On Christmas morning they would be held near the fire until they swelled up.  Then, when jumped on, they would explode with a bang!.  

I am thankful that no one at my house wakes me up on Christmas morning with gunshots or exploding pig bladders!


  1. Oh my! A bladder balloon burst. Have to admit, even in Vermont we did not have such an earthy tradition!!

  2. Hmmmmm....pig bladders! Glad we didn't do that during living histories and reenactments!!!!

  3. I live in a housing complex where many Marines live who work at a local base. They're not much for making noise on Christmas but on New Years' Eve at midnight........Hello, Afganistan.

  4. I'm visualizing a bunch of hannibal lecters with those pig bladders...I don't know why.


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