When the Anacortes American phoned to see what we had on the history of Christmas in Anacortes, museum staff began research in a way that anyone reading this column might do also.

A keyword search for “Christmas” on the museum’s online database (www.anacortes.pastperfect.com) brings up 300 results. You’ll see a Lewis Jones photograph of the purse seiner Sea Comber decked out in lights for the boat parade. On sea and on land, Christmas parades are found in Anacortes history.

Red Cross float photos in the collection feature an orange Copeland Lumber truck as the float passes Fisher’s Music Store. Holiday events for Oddfellows, Rotary, pulp mill employees, schools, churches and more are documented. Images show decorations inside and outside the stores along Commercial Avenue, as well as lights covering the trees at Causland Park.

Articles on “Christmas in Anacortes” can be found within the century-old pages of local newspapers online (www.washingtondigitalnewspapers.org). A 1905 headline reads “Everybody’s Christmas Tree Demanded by the People,” and one from 1913 notes “Christmas shopping season came to an end last night with the usual eleventh hour rush – post office deluged with holiday mail.” The Northwest Enterprise of Dec. 27, 1884, provides an early view:

“The Christmas tree at the Nelson school house was a success. Fidalgo Island was represented from Anacortes to Similk Bay, and from Fidalgo to Lake Erie, Guemes also being well represented. The tree reached from the floor to the ceiling, was covered all over with bright gauze packages containing fruits, nuts, candies and presents, and was brilliantly lighted with wax caudles. Although the house was filled to overflowing, everybody present received a Christmas gift. Mr. Negley, in his personation of Santa Claus, was very funny. Songs, recitations and readings were given by the members of the Fidalgo Singing Club.Mr. Bresee deserves credit for the part he took in getting up this pleasing entertainment. Thanks are also due to C. Nelson and H. Wooten for securing the funds, and to Misses Ida Weaverling, Ida Powell and others for the handsome decorations.”

In 1922, poet Lue F. Vernon wrote the following for his column in the Anacortes American:

“Christmas, like home, is not a matter of place, not a matter of snow or sunshine, flowers or frosts, but of the heart. To the youngsters who have not begun to learn life‘s lesson, Christmas is a matter of traditions and associations: as one grows older Christmas, unlike many other things of maturer years, becomes a matter of hopes. One sees not the individual but humanity.

There’s always for the fortunate ones, who have treasured memories tucked away, the joy of remembrance, but for all to whom life’s message has become a bit more intelligible, there is the greatest vision and hope of a movement of some sort or other that will march on towards a real “Peace on Earth. Good Will Towards Men.”

If the spirit of Christmas is lived up to, there should not be a hungry man in Anacortes Christmas day; not a child without a gift.

Christmas giving is an excellent thing, but somehow, like many others, if carried to excess, is sometimes made to serve as an excuse for coldness, for selfishness.

Common sense, reason — two good balance wheels. Excessive expenditures far beyond one’s means: gifts of selfishness; gifts which should bear the mark “in exchange for,” or “for value received,” instead of “with love”— those are indeed mockeries. But genuine, real saving or sacrifice or thought for another — they are the leaven which adds to life‘s happiness.

Poor, indeed, is the gift which bears not the personal thought; beautiful is that which, if no more than a smile and a word of greeting, is real. The one freezes the heart and checks all happiness; the other makes the darkest day bright, and makes warm the loneliest wanderer.

A Happy Christmas, a beautiful day in which all the world is your friend, and which will be a star shining in all the gray moments that must come; a day of thought for others and, therefore, happiness for yourself, to you all.”

(Lue F. Vernon writing in his “Just Gossip” column for the Anacortes American, 21 December 1922)

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