Winter Tradition

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At one-room country schools, during the early 1900s, there was yearly tradition of busy preparations for the Christmas program. About a month before the event, the teacher would assign a recitation for each child to learn.
First through eighth graders all had something to memorize, in varying degrees of difficulty. These would be practiced over and over again during the intervening weeks.
These “pieces” were presented in front of the classroom, filled with parents, family members, friends and neighbors, at the annual school event, held just before classes were dismissed for the holidays. The students also made decorations for the classroom, pasting together long paper chains to loop above the chalkboard and cutting out large paper letters of the alphabet to spell out words of greeting.
For the children, it was an occasion of anticipation and excitement, combined with the dread of making a mistake during their recitations. Memorization, “learning by heart", played a big part of education at a country school.
On that winter evening, people arrived at the schoolhouse by horse and buggy or wagon for the event. Those families from nearby farms, walked to school.
The horses were tied to a hitching rail in the schoolyard and covered with blankets to keep warm, while they waited for the trip back home. An iron stove, stoked with wood or coal, provided heat for the classroom. Flickering kerosene lamps, placed along the walls, lighted the classroom.
Sometimes, people would bring several violins for music or even take a family piano to the schoolhouse in the back of a wagon, as part of the evening’s entertainment.
After the school program and all the parts had been recited, a spelling bee or geography quiz might have been held for children and adults alike.

    Then came singing, music and games, filling the little schoolhouse with merriment and songs. Homemade cookies and cakes, brought by the families, made up the refreshments, and everybody visited together before going back out into the cold and darkness to their homes.
    Individual farms were often isolated places, but on that night, the community of far flung neighbors came together for the annual school children’s program.
During the holidays, neighbors might visit each for an evening of making candy, called “pulling taffy”, popping corn and singing together. As part of the entertainment, children were often called on to once again recite the pieces they had memorized, both for their school and church programs that year.Wild_Creatures_of_Winter.html