SIDNEY — “This year we have been so busy celebrating Shelby County’s 200th birthday we almost forgot a milestone of our own, said Tilda Phlipot, director of the Shelby County Historical Society. “On Dec. 7, 2019, the Shelby County Historical Society will celebrate the 20th annual Christmas of Yesteryear open house at the Ross Historical Center from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“Twenty years have passed so quickly but the mission of the Christmas of Yesteryear celebration has remained the same. The original Christmas of Yesteryear committee wanted to create an event that enticed Shelby County residents to visit the Ross Historical Center while giving the community a celebration that reminded them that Christmas is a time to remember the past and how we sometimes forget all the blessings we have today,” she said.
“I come from a family of simple means. My mother prided herself with helping her mother in law in making a Christmas gift for every grandchild in the family. Each year she would study the McCall’s magazine to learn how to create gingerbread houses and castles made of different sizes of boxes covered with foil paper. She worked hours creating homemade gifts for everyone she knew and she shared her creativity with many youth groups during the holiday season. Christmas of Yesteryear was created to share this special Christmas Spirit. Gifts don’t have to cost a lot to be filled with lots of love and kindness,” shared Phlipot.
Christmas in the early years of Shelby County looked nothing like it does today. Our pioneer and immigrant ancestors would have practiced the traditions that they brought from their home countries. Some might have celebrated Saint Nicolas Day on Dec. 6 by setting shoes outside the door but most were just trying to survive the harsh conditions of a new land. Living in small wooden homes, the only glow after dark was candles and the fireplace which was the only source of heat during the cold winter nights.
Most pioneers had no extra money for store bought gifts. Instead presents were handmade and items that family members needed for the coming winter months like quilts, scarves, hats, and mittens. Few children would have been lucky to receive a doll or hand carved animal. Homes would be dressed for the season with dried flowers, leaves, twigs, and a few fresh sprigs of pine and only the most fashionable homes would have been able to decorate with fruit. By the mid 1800s, pioneer families would splurge for a large family meal and use the small amount of sugar, flour, and salt that they had been saving to create a delicious dessert.
Christmas of Yesteryear has also faced several changes over the past 20 years; however the committee still continues to help children design and create Christmas gifts for members of their families. The Society has only been able to continue to host Christmas of Yesteryear due to the generous support of Peg and Steve Baker and Sidney Manufacturing Company.
Children this year will be given an opportunity to create a clay ornament and decorate a small grapevine wreath for their Christmas tree. Members of the Delta Kappa Gamma Sorority will make over 300 houses from graham crackers for children to decorate with candy and icing for a tasty treat to take home. Richard Bailey will mesmerize children with an antique toy train display, while the Shelby County Wood Carving Guild will demonstrate how toys are carved out of wood. Members of the Society will roast chestnuts and pop popcorn over an open fire. Santa will be on hand to listen to the children’s Christmas lists and for a donation of $5 receive a photo with Santa.
To commemorate the 20th annual Christmas of Yesteryear event, the committee has created a brass Christmas ornament featuring the Ross Historical Center dressed for the holiday season. Ornaments can be purchased at the Ross Historical Center during Christmas of Yesteryear for $20. If you pre order your ornament by Dec. 1, you will receive a 10 percent discount.