How Arizona has celebrated Christmas tells us as much about our state history as it does the holiday’s more universal symbols. A quick tour through our historic newspapers finds stories of church, trees, masquerades, gifts, Santa Claus, and cheer happening in ways that could only take place in our state.
140 years ago, Prescott chronicled a visit from Santa Clause, with gifts for between two and three hundred children. “Some of the older ones also received valuable presents and immediately forgot their childhood days were things of the past,” the Miner reported. The 12th Infantry Band provided music. Among these celebrations, the paper also noted a soldier “partaking of the good things generally yesterday , including egg-nog and perhaps something stronger in the line of ‘O be Joyful’”. He later mistook a private residence for Ft. Whipple and demanded entry.
Meanwhile, in Phoenix, the Salt River Herald reported on the Christmas tree at public schools, crowded church services, private parties, and turkey shoots and horse races. A ball took place at Smith & Stroud’s hall.
Ten years later, the Arizona Citizen in Tucson noted their city celebrated “appropriately”, detailing local church celebrations as well as a gathering of the Southern Pacific Library Association at the Masonic hall, with gas lamps dimmed to let the tree’s lit candles flicker.
120 years Holbrook saw a masquerade ball by both adults and children. The Argus reported on two masquerade balls. The children’s party lasted from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. “The little folks were attired in a variety of costumes, some beautiful, and some very ludicrous.” The “fun ran high” until 9 p.m. Later, in the same hall, a party for the adults began at 11 and continued with dancing until 3 a.m.
At the same time, if you wanted to do some shopping for the holidays in Phoenix, you could do so at the New York Store. If the name is unfamiliar, note that it was run by Sam Korrick and would be Korrick’s shortly thereafter.
Overindulging in the holidays had not ceased when the Republican reported three men “wrapped in the arms of Bacchus” narrowly escaped a building burning in 1898. The fire, in the back of a shoe shop at 13 Wall Street, was probably caused by a lit cigarette. The men got rescued, the fire put out, and the paper noted cause and consequence: “… their condition was due to potent libations they had consumed in an heroic endeavor to usher in the Yuletide in a fitting and proper manner. They will be arraigned in the city court this afternoon.”