The preservation of western cultural and the American Cowboy. Sharing the history of the early trail drives, the Chuck Wagon and those who pioneered untamed land. The content is for educational and entertainment purposes. Cowboys and Chuck Wagon Cooking reviews cooking techniques, products and western gear which today is part of western life style. We hope you will enjoy your visit and look forward to comments, recipes and shared heritage. Thank you for your visit. Hope you follow us along the trail of news, stories and the Cowboy way.
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Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Christmas Lighting - As traditions Grows

One Christmas tradition has grown brighter and brighter each year. Christmas lights. A tradition taken from 16th century Germany where candles were glued to the tree using melted wax. One Christmas Eve, Protestant reformer Martin Luther was walking home thinking of words he would use in his sermon. As he saw how beautiful the evergreen trees looked dusted in snow under the moon light with the twinkling stars shining above, he found his words. Once home, he erected a small fir tree in the main room of the house, wired with candles and began lighting them as he told his children the story of Christ. 

The custom grew throughout Europe and came to the America's likely during the revolution. The tradition grew adding special Candle holders to the trees and even small candle lanterns. This custom sometime between 1902 and 1914 found specially design glass balls manufacture to hold candles as ornaments.  Although, those traditions would soon be replaced because of  Edward H. Johnson.  

Johnson was an associate of inventory Thomas Edison. While he worked for as Vice President of the Edison Electric Light Company, he had 80 special bulbs made in the colors or Red, White and Blue. The lights were placed on his Christmas Tree  on December 22, 1882.

In 1895, President Grover Cleveland would be the first President to have display a lighted Christmas Tree. The multi colored lights were made by General Electric. Although, lighting the White House Christmas Tree would not become a public celebration until 1923 with President Calvin Coolidge. 

By early 1900's, decorating American businesses with Christmas lighting placed in office and retail windows began growing. Today, this custom has spread world wide. 

One special tradition that has also grown out of the Christmas lights is taking a drive through the many neighborhoods viewing homes that have decorated for the season. Some with Angels, others with Santa and some decorations go far beyond the character, Clark Griswold played by Chevy Chase in National Lampoon's "Christmas Vacation."

Teresa Hutchison Mathias is a long time friend with us at Cowboys and Chuckwagon Cooking. Each year she enjoys decorating the holiday lighting throughout her home and yard. The results is a master piece finding travelers from all over the Austin, Texas area taking a trip over to view. We were so impress with her creation, we ask Teresa to share her story about building the beautiful WINTER WONDERLAND.  

Teresa Hutchison Mathias - About 20 years ago I moved into my present location, and there were two houses up the hill from mine that exceptionally decorated their respective homes. The corner house was done completely in blue and had a large Santa on their upper deck. The touch that always intrigued me about this house was the beautiful Christmas music they played softly as to not disturb their neighbors, but visitors could hear and enjoy it while viewing their amazing display. The house next door was covered in multi-colored lights with decorated, wooden cut-outs all over their yard, and was equally quite a gorgeous site. Both houses were always kind enough to allow us to take pictures in their colorful yards, but sadly, the blue house sold after a few years, and the elderly couple with the multi-colored house eventually passed away, so unfortunately it isn’t the same. But one thing is for certain, I can guarantee you those memories will stay with me forever. These two houses are what inspired me to start my own tradition all those years ago.

As each year passes, I wonder if I am getting too old to do this, but it has become such a landmark in my area, that I think my neighborhood would kick me out if I didn’t, ha ha. I think what puts me in the Christmas spirit is the thought of all the little children who come year after year to see my house. To see the wonder and sparkle in their eye of knowing that Santa will be coming soon is absolutely priceless. Because of the press I have received over the years, I also have many visitors from all over Austin and the surrounding towns, and I never tire of the opportunity to meet and enjoy conversation with new people. I live on a somewhat busy street, but it never deters cars from stopping to wave, take pictures, or holler compliments out their window as they pass by. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have received delightful gifts, homemade goodies and letters from people I don’t even know thanking me and telling me how much it reminds them of their childhood. It is truly heartwarming and I have kept every letter, press video and newspaper article to pass down to my children when they are older.

Each year is different in terms of how long it takes me to decorate. As you know, Texas weather can be quite fickle, and I can usually guarantee that it will rain the first day I am ready to light everything up. Needless to say, Mother Nature did not disappoint on that one this year! In the old days, my goal was to have everything up and running the day after Thanksgiving, but now I am satisfied if it is completed by December 1st. Typically, weather permitting, I have the majority up in 3 to 4 days if I work at it most of the day. I try to test everything prior to placing it, but you can always be sure that there will be some cantankerous ones that don’t want to light up. As the years go by, it seems that repairing has become more time consuming than actually getting them up! This year it took about a week, but fortunately, they are all working and in their full glory. I have to say, I’ve become quite the master at fixing them!

In the early days, I did have a friend who came and helped me. He was much younger and stronger than I and not afraid to get on my roof, but everyone grows up and gets busy with their own families, so now I pretty much do it by myself. I do have a little help when it comes to the extension cords and where to plug it all in. Lord knows, there is always a breaker or two that gets overloaded, so I have to switch it around a bit to get it just right. I have everything else down to a science, but for some reason, getting them hooked up and not blowing up has remained a challenge!. The Griswold’s would be proud, ha ha!

I have collected my decorations since the very beginning, so many of them are very old. I don’t see the kind I have much anymore. It seems things are made much smaller and cheaper now, so I haven’t bought anything new in several years. I do try to change a few things around from time to time so it makes it look as if there is something new, but it is the same things I’ve had forever. Interestingly, none of my decorations are from big fancy places. They were all purchased over the years at Walmart, Target, Garden Ridge, Michael’s and Hobby Lobby. You can’t find them like that at any of those places anymore, so I treat them with kid gloves in an effort to get another year out of them.

My favorite thing about the holidays is probably being in my kitchen making all the special things you only do during the season. The wonderful smells that emit from there are like no other time of the year. Food is a passion of mine and I would rather give gifts from the heart, so I spend many hours baking cookies, breads and other treats to share. It feeds my soul to spend time with friends and family gathered around a big roaring fire, sipping on eggnog, mulled wine or hot cider while telling stories, sharing memories and enjoying goodies that were made by hand. For me, it is a time to reflect and appreciate what is truly important in life... 

The Choo Choo

Merry Christmas

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