Holiday traditions have not changed much in the past 130 years. December in Blue Earth County in 1885 was unusually mild, but a week before Christmas the weather turned cold and sufficient snow fell for holiday sleigh rides and ice skating. For those who preferred to skate indoors, Mankato had two new roller skating rinks. The managers of the City Skating Pavilion arranged to have music at the rink every evening during the holidays and announced skating matinees on Christmas and New Year’s afternoon.
The social highlights of the 1885 Christmas season were the holiday dances. On Christmas Eve a Grand Christmas ball was held at Spraugue’s Hall in Mapleton. In Mankato, H. Himmelman invited the public to a Christmas Ball at Union Hall. The Germania Orchestra played new music and Santa Claus was there with presents for all.
Gift giving was strongly promoted in Mankato prior to Christmas. Brett’s Empire Store announced its sale as a “Fearful Slaughter of Cloaks” for Christmas giving. A. J. Busch carried a full-page ad that brought in a wagon containing eleven people just to see the display described. Max Krolik’s shoe store gave away free merchandise for every $3.00 purchase resulting in 300 silk handkerchiefs and 150 articles of neckwear being given away.
The 1885 Christmas season was not without injury. According to the December 29 issue of The Review, “Saleen Swenson was found near Franklin School suffering from a pistol wound on his chest. Inquiries to City Hall revealed Swenson to be under the influence of liquor and while walking home with a companion and fooling around with a revolver, Swenson accidentally shot himself. The companion fled the scene but was later arrested and released after both men told the same tale.”
Society a century ago apparently enjoyed a more formal style than people do today. But if that hypothetical time machine traveler visited Blue Earth County around 1885, put aside the newspaper and joined in the festivities, they should have a jolly Christmas Holiday.