Seymour's Christmas Traditions
The storm on December 9, which brought 14.2 inches of snow to Seymour and turned our world into a Winter Wonderland, makes us aware that Christmas is just around the corner. Through the years, many different Christmas traditions have been held in Seymour, and the holidays are such a wonderful time to look back and remember.
Back in the 1860’s our great-grandfathers would go out in the woods and chop down the best Christmas tree that they could find, lug it home, and then decorate it with homemade trimmings usually made from paper. The children would hang their stocking and were lucky if they found an apple or an orange in it on Christmas morning. Little girls were happy with a homemade rag doll. The first settlers in our area usually purchased their supplies in Appleton, and they were toted back to Seymour on the backs of the men who made the trip on foot.
In the 1920’s John Bunkelman, a member of the American Legion Post, organized the “turkey raffle to raise funds to buy candy so that Santa Claus could come to town”. It was still being done in the 50s. The Krause-Kraft Legion Post of Seymour and the Fire Department would work together by having an annual poultry fair The fair was held in November. Its purpose was to raise money for the Children’s Christmas Party. In 1952, over 900 bags and candy were handed out by Santa Claus, assisted by the Firemen and Legionnaires.
The Seymour Woman’s Club in the 40’s sponsored a house trimming contest, even the city water tower was decorated with a Christmas wreath. The contest came to a halt during the World War II. However, the Seymour Businessmen and the Kiwanis started it up again after the war.
The Museum‘s “Memory Forest” has made Depot Street the most decorated street in town. It was started and organized by Janice Eick in 1995. People can buy a tree and decorate it in memory or in honor of loved ones. Since the beginning of the forest, Muehl-Boettcher Funeral Home has always had a tree in memory of the people from the community who died in the past year. It is decorated with wooden ornaments painted by Julie Busch. The first year there were ten trees, today there are 42. In the beginning for two years, Ken Eick donated the trees. After that, the Chamber of Commerce purchased the trees and for the past two years, the trees have been donated by Doctor Donald Hoff.
Another wonderful Christmas tradition in Seymour was the Ecumenical Advent Tea. It was started in 1968 by Maxine Bathke, who was then President of the Methodist Woman’s Group. The women from all the churches in area would look forward to the second Tuesday of Advent and to an afternoon of fellowship and music. It was a wonderful way to get into the spirit of Christmas. This continued until 2006, with the various churches taking turns hosting.
However, with so many women now working and not being able to attend the afternoon tea, in 2006 the Emmanuel Lutheran Church started “Christmas by Candlelight”. It was begun by Angie Baker, Dianne Woldt, and Sarah Kneisler. Area woman come together on the second Sunday evening in Advent to enjoy dessert, coffee, music and various readings pertaining to Christmas.
In 1992, the Friends of the Library, with Pam Zak & Karla McClone, as co-chairpersons, started the “Christmas Walk” to raise funds for the new library. Six area homes were selected and opened to the public to view the family’s Christmas decorations. In 1999, the Seymour Woman’s Club, with Dorothy Reed in charge, took over the Walk to raise money for the club’s scholarship fund. The Walk continued until 2007.
In December of 1981, The Ecumenical Concert, with 6 churches, Emmanuel Lutheran, United Methodist Church of Seymour & Cicero, St John’s Catholic Church, Freedom Moravian Church, and United Church of Christ in Black Creek, was held. It was organized by Colleen Sutherland and the chorus of 94 voices was directed by Jerry Solberg. The chorus was made up of the choirs from the various churches. By 1989, 160 voices were raised in song to standing room only crowds for its two performances. The churches took turns being the host for the evening of sacred Christmas Music. The proceeds went to Good Shepherd Nursing Home. The Ecumenical Concert continued until 2007.
This year the United Methodist Church held an Advent Concert. They finished their concert, by going back to a tradition that was started by the Rev. Franklin Block, when he was Pastor of their church. They dimmed the church lights, and then by candle light, the congregation sang Christmas Carols. The favorite song was “He Is Here”.
Mrs. Flora Boyden wrote in 1967 in “Seymour’s Early History”
“The meaning of Christmas hasn’t changed. It’s the same old Santa Claus, the same deeply religious meaning, the same love, help and friendliness that makes the holiday season such a wonderful time. And from us to all of you goes our best wishes for the happiest Christmas you ever had and the best for the New Year...”