Marshfield, December 1915: A Christmas tradition is born
By Kris Leonhardt
Preparation for the 1915 holiday season required great effort. Electricity was still a novelty, and iceboxes loaded with seasonal fare needed frequent attention. Women stood by their coal or wood cook stoves boiling sugar and corn syrup to create hard candy and fashioned sugar, corn syrup, and popcorn into round balls.
As tension rose overseas, local clubs worked to draw the population together in brotherhood while changing the focus from the turmoil created by war to the comfort and security of community. Members of the Eagles Club erected a large Christmas tree in the center of Marshfield’s main street near the Blodgett Hotel.
As Christmas Eve approached, the weather turned bitterly cold. Undeterred by the cold temperatures, thousands assembled on Central Avenue at 5:30 p.m. that holiday evening.
The Second Regiment Band led the Christmas program, followed by a song from a local choir.
Marcus Hansen addressed the throng of Marshfield residents, thanking both the Eagles Club and the community for preparing the evening’s events. Hansen encouraged Marshfield residents to promote more community interests and gatherings as a means to foster brotherhood within the city.
Charles Duval followed with a rendition of “Silent Night,” which was followed by the crowd singing “America.”
As the program went on, children anxiously waited for the appearance of the evening’s star. The anticipation slowly turned to impatience as the children grew cold in the darkening evening.
Not a minute too soon, Santa appeared with three helpers to the delight of the exasperated boys and girls in the crowd.
The jolly man and his assistants spent the next hour and 15 minutes handing out gifts to an estimated 2,000 children that had packed onto crowded street.
As the children lit up with excitement, residents were filled with the comfort of the community that surrounded them.
The fellowship and exhilaration of the evening triggered a pledge from organizers and the community to display a Christmas tree in the city every year from that point forward.