The month of December, more than any other month, evokes memories of family and society rituals that are steeped in tradition, both from a religious and secular perspective. Our society is continually looking for common ground in its observance of this festival month. The Town of Yorktown has a new look in its downtown area…snowflake lights, and banners that trumpet “Seasons Greetings” to all! No controversy here, unless you believe that snowflakes are Angel dandruff, as my children used to speculate. Of course, the idea that the town’s former holiday candle lights might have been offensive to some is odd. Everyone used candles before electric lights came to town…Yesterday.

Traditions are a fact of life in our culture, whether you pass on family recipes, decorate your Christmas tree with ornaments from Grandma, or simply eat the same turkey dinner with all the fixin’s at Thanksgiving. Look at your family albums…who was there at gatherings - who is now missing. Speak with the “older” ones…Today.

A do-it-yourself fresh-cut Christmas tree has been a 29-year tradition for my husband and I. We haven’t had to venture far in the past several years, thanks to our woodland friends the birds, who have planted numerous saplings for us in various crevices of rock wall and tree stump. When I find a little tree, I transplant it to the side of our yard and then we wait…Tomorrow.

We don’t have a horse to haul the tree home, only the strong arms of my 23-year-old son who complains that the needles hurt his hands (the birds didn’t plant the soft-needle variety). My husband always insists on cutting the tree with a hand saw, just like in the old days. Probably it’s because he can’t get the chain saw going! My daughter loves the home-grown trees for the time and toes it saves, not having to walk through a Christmas tree forest looking for that perfect specimen; and I dutifully record the event with a camera in hand, assured that the rest of the work will be mine…Remember.

The whole process would be simpler if we bought an artificial tree. Progress has surely been made in that department! The old ones had to be built, one branch at a time…kind of like the semi-live Charlie Brown tree my Dad used to buy, which always required some doctoring (extra branches wedged into pre-drilled holes). Later, the artificial trees came in one piece with wired branches that bent down for set-up, then up for storage. They came in green, gold and white, and short, medium and tall for every décor. Two years ago, singing trees were all the rage (I confess I bought one of those…came in handy for children’s parties and nursing home visits). This year you can buy trees fully lit, and trees with fiber optic tips for that rainbow effect! For those who opt for newer and better, their traditions will be just that…Dream.

Traditions are a vital component of history. They keep the memory fresh and relevant in our lives. Without history, there would be no today; without today, no tomorrow. Whatever tradition you celebrate this season, keep its history alive in your heart. Through tradition, the ordinary activities of our lives are captured and preserved in pure gold, waiting for the moment when they will be unwrapped and treasured once more.

Written by Linda L. Kiederer

Continuation in a series of predictions about the 20th Century from The Ladies Home Journal of December 1900 (click HERE for the complete list of predictions):

PREDICTION #20: Coal will not be used for heating or cooking. It will be scarce, but not entirely exhausted. The earth’s hard coal will last until the year 2050 or 2100; its soft-coal mines until 2200 or 2300. Meanwhile both kinds of coal will have become more and more expensive. Man will have found electricity manufactured by waterpower to be much cheaper. Every river or creek with any suitable fall will be equipped with water-motors, turning dynamos, making electricity. Along the seacoast will be numerous reservoirs continually filled by waves and tides washing in. Out of these the water will be constantly falling over revolving wheels. All of our restless waters, fresh and salt, will thus be harnessed to do the work which Niagara is doing today: making electricity for heat, light and fuel.

PREDICTION #21: Hot and cold air from spigots. Hot or cold air will be turned on from spigots to regulate the temperature of a house as we now turn on hot or cold water from spigots to regulate the temperature of the bath. Central plants will supply this cool air and heat to city houses in the same way as now our gas or electricity is furnished. Rising early to build the furnace fire will be a task of the olden times. Homes will have no chimneys, because no smoke will be created within their walls.

PREDICTION #22: Store purchases by tube. Pneumatic tubes, instead of store wagons, will deliver packages and bundles. These tubes will collect, deliver and transport mail over certain distances, perhaps for hundreds of miles. They will at first connect with the private houses of the wealthy; then with all homes. Great business establishments will extend them to stations, similar to our branch post-offices of today, whence fast automobile vehicles will distribute purchases from house to house.

PREDICTION #23: Ready-cooked meals will be bought from establishments similar to our bakeries of today. They will purchase materials in tremendous wholesale quantities and sell the cooked foods at a price much lower than the cost of individual cooking. Food will be served hot or cold to private houses in pneumatic tubes or automobile wagons. The meal being over, the dishes used will be packed and returned to the cooking establishments where they will be washed. Such wholesale cookery will be done in electric laboratories rather than in kitchens. These laboratories will be equipped with electric stoves, and all sorts of electric devices, such as coffee-grinders, egg-beaters, stirrers, shakers, parers, meat-choppers, meat-saws, potato-mashers, lemon-squeezers, dish-washers, dish-dryers and the like. All such utensils will be washed in chemicals fatal to disease microbes. Having one’s own cook and purchasing one’s own food will be an extravagance.

PREDICTION #24: Vegetables Grown by Electricity. Winter will be turned into summer and night into day by the farmer. In cold weather he will place heat-conducting electric wires under the soil of his garden and thus warm his growing plants. He will also grow large gardens under glass. At night his vegetables will be bathed in powerful electric light, serving, like sunlight, to hasten their growth. Electric currents applied to the soil will make valuable plants grow larger and faster, and will kill troublesome weeds. Rays of colored light will hasten the growth of many plants. Electricity applied to garden seeds will make them sprout and develop unusually early.

PREDICTION #25: Oranges will grow in Philadelphia. Fast-flying refrigerators on land and sea will bring delicious fruits from the tropics and southern temperate zone within a few days. The farmers of South America, South Africa, Australia and the South Sea Islands, whose seasons are directly opposite to ours, will thus supply us in winter with fresh summer foods, which cannot be grown here. Scientist will have discovered how to raise here many fruits now confined to much hotter or colder climates. Delicious oranges will be grown in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Cantaloupes and other summer fruits will be of such a hardy nature that they can be stored through the winter as potatoes are now.

PREDICTION #26: Strawberries as large as apples will be eaten by our great great grandchildren for their Christmas dinners a hundred years hence. Raspberries and blackberries will be as large. One will suffice for the fruit course of each person. Strawberries and cranberries will be grown upon tall bushes. Cranberries, gooseberries and currants will be as large as oranges. One cantaloupe will supply an entire family. Melons, cherries, grapes, plums, apples, pears, peaches and all berries will be seedless. Figs will be cultivated over the entire United States.

PREDICTION #27: Few drugs will be swallowed or taken into the stomach unless needed for the direct treatment of that organ itself. Drugs needed by the lungs, for instance, will be applied directly to those organs through the skin and flesh. They will be carried with the electric current applied without pain to the outside skin of the body. Microscopes will lay bare the vital organs, through the living flesh, of men and animals. The living body will to all medical purposes be transparent. Not only will it be possible for a physician to actually see a living, throbbing heart inside the chest, but he will be able to magnify and photograph any part of it. This work will be done with rays of invisible light.

PREDICTION #28: There will be No Wild Animals except in menageries. Rats and mice will have been exterminated. The horse will have become practically extinct. A few of high breed will be kept by the rich for racing, hunting and exercise. The automobile will have driven out the horse. Cattle and sheep will have no horns. They will be unable to run faster than the fattened hog of today. A century ago the wild hog could outrun a horse. Food animals will be bred to expend practically all of their life energy in producing meat, milk, wool and other by-products. Horns, bones, muscles and lungs will have been neglected.

PREDICTION #29: To England in Two Days. Fast electric ships, crossing the ocean at more than a mile a minute, will go from New York to Liverpool in two days. The bodies of these ships will be built above the waves. They will be supported upon runners, somewhat like those of the sleigh. These runners will be very buoyant. Upon their under sides will be apertures expelling jets of air. In this way a film of air will be kept between them and the water’s surface. This film, together with the small surface of the runners, will reduce friction against the waves to the smallest possible degree. Propellers turned by electricity will screw themselves through both the water beneath and the air above. Ships with cabins artificially cooled will be entirely fireproof. In storm they will dive below the water and there await fair weather.

Written by Linda L. Kiederer

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