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January 10 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Are you sad Christmas is over?
Fret not, because you can celebrate it again, and do it the way our ancestors did by attending Old Christmas at the Museum Center at Five Points on Thursday, Jan. 10.
Old Christmas, which is traditionally celebrated on Jan. 6, has occurred at the museum for over 12 years, in collaboration with the Cleveland Storytelling Guild, which is providing the stories and entertainment for the evening. This event also traditionally takes place on the same day as the holiday known as Epiphany.
While Epiphany takes place on Jan. 6 and is seen as the day the Magi visited the young Jesus Christ, the observance of the Nativity in the form of Christmas did not actually catch on until the fourth century AD.
Jan. 6 was celebrated as Christmas in the Julian calendar until Pope Gregory reformed the calendar in 1582, removing 11 days between Dec. 25 and Jan. 6, making Dec. 25 the “official” Christmas Day. Even though the British Empire and the American colonies adopted the new calendar in 1752, many communities, especially in the Appalachian mountains, continued to celebrate what became known as Old Christmas in addition to New Christmas, resulting in a 12-day celebration known as “Breaking Up Christmas.”
Museum Center curator of education Mitch Mizell said you can thank the various European immigrants for the creation of Old Christmas, as it allowed them an opportunity to practice some of their different homeland traditions despite being so far away from home.
During the days between Dec. 25 and Jan. 6, neighbors in the mountains would gather in one another’s homes and celebrate with food, music and dancing. On Jan. 5, Old Christmas Eve, many would celebrate the end of the season with bonfires, gunfire, singing and storytelling. Then, after the raucous celebrations, Old Christmas Day, Jan. 6, would usually be celebrated quietly, with church going, family meals and other family-oriented events.
“England didn’t even adopt the Gregorian calendar until the 1750s,” Mizell said. “As the years went on, they just celebrated Christmas on Dec. 25 like we do now, but much earlier they kept it at Jan. 6, and really focused on these Scottish, English, Irish and Welsh customs.”
Many traditions and folklore surround Old Christmas. For example, many believed on Old Christmas Eve, as the hour approached midnight, the animals in their stalls would kneel and begin to low as if praying or crying. It was believed elder bushes would sprout and even burst into bloom, no matter how hard the frozen ground might be, and that bees would swarm with their collective buzzing sounding out the 100th Psalm.
At Old Christmas, members of the Cleveland Storytelling Guild will take you back in time through traditional songs and stories, along with simple treats like molasses cookies and hot cider.
“We continue Appalachian heritage at the Museum Center in nearly everything we do. We’ve got numerous local artists who use old and new styles of art to create their works that convey the beauty and artistry of the region. Old Christmas is just one more event to add to our mission, which is telling the story of the Ocoee region,” Mizell added.
Judy Baker, chair of the Storytelling Guild, invites everyone to come hear some stories, enjoy the entertainment — and most of all — experience your heritage.
Old Christmas begins at 6 p.m. on Jan. 10. Admission is free for Museum Center members and Guild members and $5 for nonmembers.
By: Colby Denton
Cleveland Daily Banner