Moravian Christmas Traditions We Still Have Today

img_1022By Tamera Lynn Kraft

In my novella, A Christmas Promise, I write about Moravian missionaries in Schoenbrunn Village, circa 1773. The Moravians brought many Christmas traditions to America that we use to celebrate Christ’s birth today. Here are a few of them.

red room with christmas-tree and colorful gift - rendering

The Christmas Tree: Moravians brought the idea of decorating Christmas trees in their homes in the early 1700s, long before it became a popular tradition in the United States.

 

Illustration of Christmas candle lighted with wreath isolated on white background done in retro style.

Christmas Eve Candlelight Services: Most churches have Christmas Eve services where they sing Christmas carols and light candles to show Jesus came to be the light of the world. The Moravian Church has been doing that for centuries. They call their services lovefeasts because they also have a part of the service where they serve sweetbuns and coffee – juice for the kids – and share Christ’s love with each other. For candles, Moravians use bleached beeswax with a red ribbon tied around them. The white symbolizes the purity of Christ and red symbolizes that His blood was shed for us.

The Moravian Star: In the 1840s at a Moravian school, students made 24 point stars out of triangles for their geometry lessons. Soon those Moravian stars started making their way on the tops of Christmas trees. The star as a Christmas tree topper is still popular today.

The Putz: The putz is a Christmas nativity scene surrounded by villages or other Biblical scenes. Moravian children in the 1700s would make a putz to put under their Christmas tree. Today, nativity scenes and Christmas villages are popular decorations.

achristmaspromise_medA Christmas Promise

By Tamera Lynn Kraft

A Moravian Holiday Story, Circa 1773

During colonial times, John and Anna settle in an Ohio village to become Moravian missionaries to the Lenape. When John is called away to help at another settlement two days before Christmas, he promises he’ll be back by Christmas Day.

When he doesn’t show up, Anna works hard to not fear the worst while she provides her children with a traditional Moravian Christmas.

Through it all, she discovers a Christmas promise that will give her the peace she craves.

“Revel in the spirit of a Colonial Christmas with this achingly tender love story that will warm both your heart and your faith. With rich historical detail and characters who live and breathe on the page, Tamera Lynn Kraft has penned a haunting tale of Moravian missionaries who selflessly bring the promise of Christ to the Lenape Indians. A beautiful way to set your season aglow, A Christmas Promise is truly a promise kept for a heartwarming holiday tale.” – Julie Lessman

Available at these online stores:

Advertisements

Moravian Missionaries in Colonial Ohio

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Schoenbrunn Village

In the 1770s, Moravian missionaries moved to Ohio from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to settle a village called Schoenbrunn which means Beautiful Spring. Their goal was to bring the Gospel to the Delaware Indians. Delaware Native Americans who converted to Christianity moved into Schoenbrunn to be a part of the Christian community. Within a year, the village grew so large, they started another settlement called Gnadenhutten.

Schoenbrunn, in many ways, was ahead of its time. The settlers of the village, including the Delaware, created their own code of conduct and opened a school. The school taught both boys and girls when other colonial schools at the time only accepted boys. The students learned to read both English and Lenape out of a Bible that was translated in the Lenape language.

The Moravians built a church there with paintings on the walls depicting Biblical scenes. They used these painting to teach about the Bible. They had church every morning and twice on Sunday. On special occasions they would have Lovefeasts where they served coffee, juice, and sweet buns. The Christmas Eve Lovefeasts were the most special and became the forerunner of Christmas Eve candlelight services popular in the US.

The settlement only lasted a few years. When the Revolutionary War broke out, British troops suspected the Moravians of giving information to the colonial army. These charges against them were true. In 1781, Native Americans supporting the British forced the Moravians to relocate to the Sandusky area to protect themselves from reprisals. The British arrested the two leaders of the villages, took them to Detroit, and tried them for treason.

When a group of Christian Lenape went back to Gnadenhutten to harvest their crops, a company of Continental military from Pennsylvania accused them of raiding farms in Pennsylvania. and massacred them. The militia the militia murdered and scalped 28 men, 29 women, and 39 children and burned down the village.

Settlers were outraged by the massacre, but the men were never brought to trial. In 1810, Tecumseh reminded future President William Henry Harrison, “You recall the time when the Jesus Indians of the Delawares lived near the Americans, and had confidence in their promises of friendship, and thought they were secure, yet the Americans murdered all the men, women, and children, even as they prayed to Jesus?”

Schoenbrunn Village is still open today for visitors and tourists to learn about Christian Native Americans and some of the earliest missionaries in America. A Christmas Promise was set in Schoenbrunn Village.

 

The Real History of the Pilgrims

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Thanksgiving is coming soon. There are many facts about America’s spiritual heritage ingrained in the Pilgrims and Puritans. These are some of the facts that children are not taught in school.

Most children are taught that pilgrims came to America to flee religious persecution. That’s not exactly true. Pilgrims and Puritans were persecuted for believing that Christians could have a personal relationship with Jesus separate from the Church of England. But they traveled to Holland to flee the persecution, not America.

So why did they travel to America? There were many reasons, but the main reason is they felt compelled by God to come to America and establish a colony of people that honored God. Many called this colony, New Jerusalem, believing that God had established this new land to spread the gospel to the world. William Bradford wrote in his journal that the motivation came from “a great hope for advancing the kingdom of Christ.”

Pilgrims and Puritans were not the same. Pilgrims were separatists who believed they should separate themselves for the Church of England and the world systems. Puritans believed in working within the system. When they came to America, Puritans wished to set up the government so that religious freedom of expression would be established. Pilgrims wanted freedom of religion so they were free to worship without fear of persecution. Both Pilgrims and Puritans wanted freedom of religion to protect the church from the government, not to protect the government from the church.

Many schools teach that Thanksgiving was a secular celebration. But letters written by the Pilgrims tell a different story. God was such a part of their everyday life that they included God in everything. One such letter states that Thanksgiving was a celebration called so that “God be praised” for what He had brought them through. John Winthrop called New England a City on a Hill in one of his sermon. He, as well as many other Puritans and Pilgrims, believed they had made a covenant with God to be a new nation that was a model of Christianity to the world.

William Bradford believed that America was called to spread the gospel to the world. Since the Pilgrims and Puritans came to America, the United States of America has sent missionaries to more nations and more remote places in the world than any other nation on Earth. Could it be they were right?

PTSD Throughout the History of American Warfare

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

War is horrific. Those who choose to fight for the freedoms we share risk not only loosing their lives or suffering bodily harm, they face emotional turmoil of having their friends shot in front of them and dealing with the emotional scars that living in wartime condition create. In honor of the veterans who have served our country, here is how PTSD was handled throughout US history.

USA Betsy Ross Aged Flat FlagRevolutionary War: In the 1700s, PTSD was called nostalgia. A French surgeon described it as having three stages: 1) “heightened excitement and imagination,” 2) “period of fever and prominent gastrointestinal symptoms,” and 3) “frustration and depression” (Bentley, 2005).

Not much was written about the effects of the war on soldiers. But they had to have suffered emotionally. These men fought for the freedom of their country in conditions where they didn’t have the resources needed to keep them warm, dry, and fed. Many died from starvation and exposure. Yet after the war, when they returned to civilian life, they were forgotten. The new nation couldn’t even afford to pay them.

War of 1812: Again, not much was known about PTSD during this time, but the White House burning to the ground and British soldiers marching into America had to affect these soldiers.

Civil War: The Civil War is when the condition of PTSD first started to be recognized as Soldier’s Heart. Many soldiers returning from battle after the war suffered the effects of soldier’s heart.

World War I: In World War I, PTSD was called Shell Shock. Life in the muddy trenches caused desperation and emotional turmoil. Many soldiers suffering from shell shock were executed for cowardice instead of treated for an emotional condition. Others were institutionalized as insane and were taught skills like basket weaving to support themselves. After the war, many soldiers suffering from this were encouraged to keep it hidden because of the attitude toward it.

World War II: In World War II, Battle Fatigue was a recognized condition by psychiatrist. Over a million men who suffered from it during the war were pulled away from duty for treatment and rest. The attitudes toward it were still not favorable, and those suffering from the condition were considered weak. In one account, General Patton slapped a man suffering from battle fatigue and called him a coward.

Korea and Vietnam: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual I (DSM-I) by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) in 1952 included a diagnosis for “gross stress reaction,” which was thought to be related specifically to combat-related trauma. However, “Gross Stress Reaction” was dropped from the DSM-II in 1968, for reasons that remain unknown (Andreasen, 2004). Soldiers from Vietnam were treated for Gross Stress Reaction, but their systems became worse when they returned home and were disdained for their service. Vietnam vets with PTSD were diagnosed as having Vietnam Combat Reaction, a severe form of PTSD.

Desert Storm and the War on Terror: PTSD, Post Tramatic Stress Disorder, is understood better now than it used to be, not only by mental health personnel who treat the disorder, but by the public. Soldiers go through a lot and need to be supported through the physical and emotional damage combat causes.

History of Veteran’s Day

While Memorial Day honors those who have died in service to the United States of America, Veteran’s Day honors all American veterans who fought in wartime. It is a national holiday held every year on November 11th when we as a nation, say, “Thank you for your service.” Here is a little history about Veteran’s Day.

On November 11th, 1918, an armistice was declared, and World War One, declared the war to end all wars, ended. Armistice Day was proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson and celebrated the following year on November 11th. The first Armistice Day was celebrated with parades and a brief pause of activities at 11:00 am, the time the aggression ceased.

In 1921, on Armistice Day, an unidentified soldier killed in the war was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Unknown soldiers were also buried in London and Paris. Congress declared the day a national holiday. On June 4, 1926, Congress passed a resolution to commemorate November 11th with “thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and understanding between nations”. In 1938, it became a legal federal holiday known as Armistice Day.

Because of all the veterans that fought in World War Two and the Korean War, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation to change Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954. Veterans Day became a day to honor all American veterans who fought for our country.

In 1975, Gerald Ford signed legislation to keep the observance of Veterans Day on November 11th unless it falls on a Saturday or Sunday. Then it is celebrated on the previous Friday or following Monday. An official wreath-laying ceremony is held every Veterans Day at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery while parades and other celebrations are held in states around the country.

The Birth of the Protestant Reformation

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

The 500 year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation is tomorrow. On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis entitled Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences to the church wall and sent a copy to his bishop. In these thesis, Martin Luther challenged the authority of the Pope when he conflicted with Scripture. He also challenged the church’s policy of selling indulgences. An indulgence was a absolution from sin given by a priest. Luther stood on the Scripture in Ephesians 2:8-9. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it isthe gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Many people today don’t understand the courage it took for Martin Luther to make his stand. He risked excommunication and could have been executed. A meeting was held at the Diet of Worms by a council of the church. Luther was threatened with excommunication if he did not recant. Surely Peter’s words to the Pharisees went through his mind as the challenge was issued. Did he obey the church or God?

This was Luther’s answer, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.” He then his arm raised his arm “in the traditional salute of a knight winning a bout.”

Luther hid out after the meeting, fearing retaliation. During his sequester, he translated the New Testament into German. He was excommunicated and the Protestant Reformation was firmly under way. He spent the rest of his life preaching salvation by faith through faith. Luther wasn’t the best role model of a Christian. His anti-semitism and faulty doctrine left scars on his legacy, but he stood strong in the face of persecution.

Luther wasn’t the only reformer at the time in a sea of men and women who stood for the truth of Scripture and faced of persecution, imprisonment, and death. Through it all, the reformation led the world out of the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance. Science, art, and theology flourished. The Bible was translated into many European languages and the Gospel was spread throughout the known world.

The Girl Who Warned “The British are Coming”

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Most Americans have heard of Paul Revere’s fateful ride to warn “the British are Coming.” His ride was made famous in a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, but there were other riders who warned about the British during the Revolutionary War. One of these riders was a sixteen-year-old girl named Sybil Ludington.

Sybil, the oldest of twelve children, was born in 1761 in Dutchess County, New York. Her father, Colonel Henry Ludington, was the commander of the militia there. His farm was a receiving center for collecting information from American spies.

In April 1777, Colonel Ludington and the members of his militia were at home taking care of their farms. It was planting season. Around 9:00 in the evening on April 26, a man rode to the farm with news the British were burning down Danbury, 25 miles from Ludington’s home. The man’s horse was worn out from hard riding, and he didn’t know the area. Ludington needed to send a rider to rally the militia, but he couldn’t go himself because he needed to stay where he was to help arrange the troops as they arrived.

Sybil was recruited. She rode a total of forty miles in pouring rain to warn the militia and order them to meet at the Ludington farm. Revere only rode twenty, and it wasn’t raining.

During Sybil’s ride, she faced more danger than getting wet and tired. She rode along narrow roads after dark with only a stick to protect her. British loyalists were in the area, and she risked capture. There were also “skinners” around. Skinners were roadside bandits with no real loyalties either way. One account of her ride had her fighting off a skinner with a stick.

When she arrived back home, 400 men had gathered there. The British had moved to Ridgeville by then, and the militia rode seventeen miles to battle them there. It was a strategic victory for the Americans.

After the ride, Sybil was congratulated by General George Washington. She married a Revolutionary War solder, had a child, and died in 1839. Her hometown was named Lundingtonville in her honor.

She didn’t have a poem written about her, but 1961 Sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington created a statue of a statue of Sybil on her horse. In 1976, the US Post Office issued a stamp also commemorating Sybil’s ride. She is a true Revolutionary War heroine.