September 20, 2014

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‘Frolle weihnachton an alle’
Written by Terry Viel   
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 6:43 PM

This is a story of Christmas past in the thriving little community of Harrison circa 1895.

On Christmas Eve, a beautiful white blanket of snow covered Harrison and the surrounding Whitewater Valley, what a perfect time.

The children were all so very anxious for old Saint Nick to arrive on Christmas Day.

Surely the covering of snow would ensure his journey to Harrison to be a successful one, wouldn’t you think?

Perhaps a new bisque doll for little Anna, or a handsome new slingshot crafted by Uncle Eugene, delivered to Henry by St Nick’s helper.

The children all had been good, doing their chores, helping around the house and making good marks in primary school.

No lump of coal for Anna or Henry, not so sure about the mischievous Clarence.

The congregation of St. John the Baptist was preparing to attend midnight mass in their quaint sanctuary on Hill Street.

This was the location of the original St. John’s until the new church was built on Park Avenue in the 1920s.

The midnight service performed in Latin would commence with a special prayer for Pope Leo XIII, who was nearing his 25th year of his papacy as the Bishop of Rome.

One of Pope Leo’s most famous quotes was “Each needs the other: capital cannot do without labor, nor labor without capital.”
Doesn’t that sound familiar to today’s debated topics?

The German Evangelical Church at 414 Broadway was preparing to have their Christmas Day service, in the German dialect of course.

The substantial German population of Harrison conducted their services spoken in their language from the old country.

Not until the breakout of World War I was the practice of using German for services verboten.

Sadly, the charming wooden structure German church at 414 Broadway would be lost to a fire in 1919.

For many from the old country, the Christmas Day meal was their favorite, straight from Deutschland, hasenpfeffer.

To others it is known as “sour rabbit.” Grandma Bertha would toil all day on her Montgomery Ward Windsor wood cook stove so she could present this delicious dish to the family at dinnertime.

Bertha was so proud of her husband Hermann for bagging two nice rabbits early that morning, down by the canal.

Following that wonderful meal, the family would sit around the old potbelly stove enjoy some freshly baked pfeffernusse cookies, sipping a nice warm glass of wassail. A perfect way to warm their weary old bones on a cold winter’s night, while sitting around looking at all the images from around the world on the stereoscope (a 19th Century View Master).

Additionally, many families in town on Christmas Eve would travel to the woods with the horse and buggy to harvest that perfect fresh tree to display in the family parlor.

Decorations would be hung while singing Christmas carols perfectly on key, except for Uncle Elmer, a little travel weary from his journey all the way from Gallipolis, was resting at the Central Hotel.

At night, the tree would be illuminated with candles closely watched by the head of household, keeping the tree lit until the children were put to bed for the night.

What a special feeling to be tucked in by father on Christmas Eve.

Father was hoping for a couple of fresh Havana cigars from the  Bruntz -Viel general store for his stocking.

We never really outgrow being a child on Christmas Day what a special time.

If you try hard enough, on Christmas Eve, quite late, a cold crisp night, sounds easily echoing through the river valley, you may be able to hear Santa arriving in Harrison.

Listen as he makes his way across the old suspension bridge with its wooden plank floor, heading to visit the sleeping children.

Clip clop clip clop, jingle jingle, jingle. Pretty good chance he will stop at Penny Livery on Market Street to refresh the reindeers and maybe a short snoot for himself, just to keep warm.

Merry Christmas to all, “Frolle weihnachton an alle” May the spirit of Christmas touch your heart.

Terry Viel is an avid Harrison history buff who collects and restores vintage Harrison photographs.