The Holidays In Early Oregon

With the onset of the winter holiday season, I’ve been looking through December issues of the historic newspapers, enjoying the nostalgic  illustrations, articles and advertisements from seasons past. You can do the same on Chronicling America, where issues of the Sumpter Miner and Klamath Falls Evening Herald are available for public viewing.

In turn-of-the-century Sumpter and Klamath Falls, people certainly got into the Christmas Spirit: when I performed a simple search on the word ‘Christmas,’ I received 1774 results!

Santa and Sam, from Klamath Falls Evening Herald, 12-18-1915, p.2

As in the illustration above, use of the abbreviation ‘Xmas’ was rather common–and, it would seem, entirely uncontroversial–in these newspapers of the early 20th Century. (See Wikipedia for a concise explanation of the history of the Xmas abbreviation, which was never really intended to make any sort of political statement or to offend anyone.)

My search on ‘Hanukkah’ (variant spellings included!) failed to turn up a single item in either of the Oregon papers. (This is probably reflective of period demographics in Eastern Oregon–it will be interesting to retry the search once the titles from Portland and Salem are available.) The earliest reference to Hanukkah that appears anywhere in Chronicling America is an item from the Hebrew Observer reprinted in the December 24th, 1885 issue of the Daily Honolulu Press. The earliest full and detailed article about the Jewish Festival of Lights was published December 17, 1887 by the Waco Daily Examiner.

Menorah, from New York Tribune, 02-24-1907, p. 20

For the time being, at least, we can’t expect to find information on ‘Kwanzaa’ in Chronicling America: the first Kwanzaa celebration was in 1966-67, and the digitized newspapers only run through 1922.

Come back in a couple weeks, when we’ll take at look at historic Oregon ‘Happy New Years’ items. In the meantime… Happy Holidays!  —Jason A. Stone

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