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Letter to Emily Bartlett from cousin Eunice Sherman Tabor regarding Christmas
(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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In early New England, Puritan leaders tried to repress rowdy Christmas festivities which were rooted in pagan tradition and offensive to the region's pious Protestants. In this period, presents were given to people of low social rank who walked the streets demanding gifts from gentlemen which were usually granted in the form of food and drink. By the early nineteenth century, clergy began promoting Christmas's Christian elements and encouraged holiday celebrations that centered on the family. Around the same time, middle and upper class children came to be viewed as "gifts from God," rather than being primarily valued for the labor they provided the household. This transformation corresponded with an emerging commercial society in America where manufactured goods became increasingly available. As Christmas traditions began to focus on the family and children's role in the family changed, little ones were particularly indulged with store-bought gifts. Eunice Tabor's letter illustrates this change in describing the "good many things from Father and Mother and other people" that she received that Christmas as well as her visit to a Christmas tree at her Sunday school.
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