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Texas in Review - Christmas Cookie Making and Tradition in Fredericksburg (1957)
Texas Historical Commission
Sound
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1957
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B/W
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English
  • Map
  • Highlights
    Fredericksburg
    Founded by German colonists, May 8, 1846
    Peter Tash house
    Tash house built 1857
    Dutch chimney
    Holiday traditions
  • Transcript
    As we enter the holiday season, we are reminded of many old Christmas customs, one of which is cookie making.
    These cookie cutters, this star and this rabbit, have been cutting out cookies in the Hill Country of Central Texas for over a century.
    They represent just one of the many fine, old world traditions that have been preserved by the people of Fredericksburg.
    This is the main street of Fredericksburg.
    Not only is it one of the widest, but its two mile length makes it one of longest main streets in Texas.
    This neat and friendly town was founded May 8, 1846 by German colonists, who left the crowded cities of their native land to build new homes in Texas.
    One of the more famous of these old homes standing and still in use is the Peter Tatsch House.
    In its simplicity, sturdiness and craftsmen-like use of native materials, it is among the most beautiful of all early Texas homes.
    When Peter Tatsch discovered that the stone found in this area could support its own weight, he constructed this thick-walled limestone dwelling.
    The Tatsch house is a masterpiece of ingenuity.
    It must be remembered that when it was built in 1857, there was a scarcity of tools, but the builder adapted his ideas brought from his native land to the materials he found on the frontier.
    The most striking thing about the Tatsch house is the huge Dutch chimney which is attached to the side room or kitchen.
    It extends some nine feet across the east side of the room.
    Its fireplace heated the kitchen and was used for cooking family meals.
    It was used also for the making of syrup, the curing of meat for the whole community.
    The chimney was specially constructed to carry away all smoke and soot and to regulate the draft.
    Since the first stone was laid until today, the structure has served a century of Tatsch descendants.
    Peter Tatsch was an expert woodcarver.
    This was a necessary skill for the early settlers.
    The staircase, the spinning wheel and the furniture, in good condition today, were made by Tatsch himself.
    Whether for ceiling beam or chest of drawers, all of the woodwork in the house is from trees felled in the vicinity of Fredericksburg.
    Cherry, Black Walnut and Hackberry were chosen for their durability and beauty when polished.
    As Christmas approaches, the 9 foot wide fireplace, large enough to accommodate whole logs, becomes a focal point again, as it did in the old community.
    The charm and warmth of this part of the Tatsch house, is never more appealing than those times when the present occupants celebrate some special occasion.
    Whether it be a Sangerfest, a Centennial Celebration or a holiday, you can be sure of one thing, the accent will be on good things to eat.
    These Germans are much like their grandfathers who settled the valley, frugal and simple in tastes, with a talent for cooking that is known all over Texas.
    One delicacy that will always be made as it was in the old days is animal form cookies.
    Not only are the recipes unchanging, the cutter patterns for rabbits, geese and horses are handed down from mother to daughter as the seasons go by.
    One holiday in the Tatsch house that requires a lot of cookie making is Christmas.
    That's because the delightful custom of tying cookies onto the tree is still observed in many parts of the Hill Country.
    Of course, with children around the house, this is taking quite a chance, but no one really minds too much if some of the rabbits or star cookies disappear mysteriously.
    Many fine customs and traditions were transplanted along with the people themselves.
    One was the early appearance of Saint Nicolas, the German counterpart of Santa Claus.
    Placing candles on the tree and lighting them to greet Saint Nick is another custom, this is done only while adults are in the house.
    Just how thoroughly the century old tradition of an early Saint Nick is interwoven into the lives of the people, is evident as Christmas approaches.
    But how the custom began in the first place doesn't bother the youngsters of Fredericksburg.
    They all agree that it was a wise and generous ancestor who thought it up.
    Yes, Tatsch house has echoed the sounds of many Christmases.
    Sounds from young and old, and in this atmosphere of simple pleasures, a warm fire, good, wholesome food, laughter of children, and good talks between the grownups, in this atmosphere can be found good reasons for Tatsch house remaining as it has.
    For Peter Tatsch, built not so much with stone and lime as he did with love, love of friends and family, love of time honored holidays with the welcome of a candle's light.