Special Occasions

A Country Christmas 100 Years Ago

View along John Street, Rosewood ca. 1920
(Photo: Qld State Library)

Christmas Day fell on a Monday in 1922. Customs and traditions that were considered old back then were still maintained. One of the biggest differences between then and now is that people didn’t decorate their homes until Christmas Eve, mainly because of time and financial constraints. They were just too busy working! Many families went out and cut their own trees from their property or a family member’s farm. Christmas stockings were not the mass produced items we are familiar with but were their own stockings or knee-high socks stocked with fruit and nuts, candy canes and chocolate drops. The most common gifts for children were handmade items like wooden skittles and bottle stopper marbles, although a variety of tempting gifts were available in the shops for those who had the wherewithal. Christmas dinner was usually roast chicken rather than turkey, or ham and vegetables, home-baked fruitcakes, puddings, pies and cookies and jelly.
[See some of the recipes of the day – The Housewives’ Exchange]

On Christmas Eve in Rosewood most of the business people had their stores decked out with greenery trimmed with brightly coloured crepe paper chains and streamers, pinecones, ribbons, flowers and sometimes candles to light the display. In the heat of our Queensland summer a delightfully cool appearance was given to John Street by the avenues of green chestnut boughs arranged by storekeepers on the facades and on the posts in front of their premises. 

This evergreen custom of country towns was a joyous one and I was told by my own father who grew up in a small country town, that it was still a tradition when he left to find work in 1949. 

The stores were stocked with a variety of toys such as lead figurines (cowboys, Indians, soldiers), wind-up pecking birds, timber spinning tops, whistles, balloons, trumpets and drums; Raggedy Ann dolls and dolls with bisque faces for girls and French Boudoir dolls for their mothers; Crayola crayons (even back then) and Tinker Toys, toy engines, wagons and trains, toy pistols and pop guns.

The noisemakers have always been desirable treats for children who are enthralled by the sheer fun of it all and oblivious to more sensitive ears. To their delight, Santa Claus would appear at an early hour in the street and pop into the different shops. It was certainly customary at Ruhno’s store down in Railway Street.

Just as they do now children counted the weeks and days until the big day arrived and everyone enjoyed the cheery optimism that the season brought, along with cards full of wishes and goodwill to all men.

Forget your work, forget your woes
Forget your worry too.
Forget the way the money goes
Forget you’re feeling blue.
But whate’er you forget
These words I like to say,
Don’t forget I wish you yet
Good luck this Christmas Day.

In the days leading up to Christmas the townsfolk received some good news when another rail service was added. The goods train which left from Ipswich at 7p.m. on Saturdays would also carry passengers and stop at all stations between Ipswich and Laidley. Determined efforts were made by the Shire Council to push the the Main Roads Board to start work immediately on building a new approved road from Marburg to Frenchton so the local unemployed returned soldiers could have a week’s work before Christmas. Ninety points of rain were recorded at the local post office throughout one day and on another day a violent storm broke over Tallegalla. An inch of rain was registered. The scene was set for a hot Christmas Day. The local schools and churches all held their own celebrations. We still sing many of the same popular Christmas Carols today.

Songs like these were playing on gramaphones.
When The Christmas Chimes Are Ringing (Lewis James)
Auld Lang Syne (a cappella)  (Peerless Quartet)

And other things like this.
Christmas Morning at Clancey’s (Steve Porter)

Elsewhere on Christmas Eve, five businessmen walked into a Sydney orphanage carrying armfuls of toys and confectionery and the charity “The Smith Family” was born.

We are so fortunate to be able to read about the events of Christmas one hundred years ago in the pages of the old newspapers. Here are some of those articles from 1922.

When you are puzzled over the question of Christmas gift selection, it is sometimes helpful to cast the memory back to those you have received and found most acceptable. Or you may have a letter from some dear friend of yesteryear which ran like this:-

“Dear Cousin, Probably you are wondering what we got for Christmas! Father got a lovely moustache cup, white with gold flowers; Flora gave mother the loveliest decorated rolling pin. It is covered with red plush, and the handles gilded, and tied with some kind of ribbon it hangs up by. There are four hooks for keys and shoes buttoners on it. We gave mother a toothpick holder with ‘Take Your Pick’ on it in gold. 

Anna got a lovely stick pin of white pearl, with her initial in gold. And Eddie’s girl sent him her picture on a button. It sure is swell. 

Mother’s Sunday school class gave her the loveliest oil painting you ever saw. It is a winter scene, with diamond dust all over the snow, just glistening, so natural it makes you shiver. The frame is green plush. Our cousin in Chicago gave us a hand-painted fire shovel, all gilded, with a bow to hang it up by in the parlour. 

I’ve saved the nicest thing till the last. Uncle John, our preacher uncle, gave us a stercopticon and a whole lot of lovely views. There are the Red Room and Blue Room at the White House, a little girl’s tea party, pictures of scenes in England, Niagara Falls, Italy, and lots of others. Jim gave me the loveliest manicure set in an orange plush case. On the looking glass is printed, ‘Give Back Smile for Smile and Frown for Frown.’

Write soon and tell me everything you got. Your loving cousin, BERTHA.” (1)


A member of the staff of this journal (QT) has made a hurried tour through the whole of the Rosewood electorate during the past few days, and states that in every direction the district is now a perfect picture. City folk have little conception of the beauty of the scenery within easy reach of Ipswich. The panorama from Two Tree Hill, Tallegalla, is not excelled in any portion of Australia. The glorious vistas in the Rosewood, Marburg, Lowood, Back Plains, and Rosevale districts are also very delightful. The undulating, yet fertile country and the rich valleys have responded remarkably well to the recent rains. Added to the beauty is the still more gratifying fact that there is promise of an abundant harvest and rapidly increasing cream cheques. These factors will make for a much more enjoyable Christmas-time than would have been the case had Nature withheld the refreshing showers of rain. (2)


THE ANNUAL CHRISTMAS TREE arranged by St. Luke’s Church of England Sunday School was held in the Farmers’ Hall on Saturday afternoon last. The function was opened by Mr. F. J. W. Eichstadt. The Rector (Rev. T. Edwards) was present. A large tree laden with toys and other gifts occupied the centre of the hall and Father Christmas distributed the prizes. There was a very large attendance in the afternoon, and excellent business was done by the stall-holders. The following were in charge of the various stalls:- 

Refreshment stall: Mesdames R. Elliott J. Collett. R. Wallace, F. Eichstadt, H. McGee, – Arndt and Miss Schimming.
Sweets stall: Misses I. Dolling. L. Coogan, Q. Rossow, A. Harding, and R. Haines.
Fancy work stall: Mesdames W. White, H. McGeary, E. Millard, and Miss McGeary.
Competition stall: Mesdames Collett and Rawlingson, and Miss Blackmore.
Produce stall: Messrs. A. Kleve, R. Elliott, W. White, W. and G. McGeary, S. Yarrow and J. Sillman.
Ice-cream stall: Misses E. Lergesner, G. Millard and I. Haines.
Dips: Misses A. Dolling and P. Harding. 

The prizes in the competition were awarded to the following for their entries: Plate Lamnington cakes: Mrs Sailer; orange cake: Miss McGeary: rainbow cake: Mrs. McGeary; Victoria sandwich: Mrs. Canham: sponge sandwich: Mrs. Canham 1st. Miss E. Kleve 2nd: sponge roll: Mrs. J. M. Bruce; coffee sandwich: Miss V. Grant; passion fruit cake: Mrs. H. M. Grant; cocoanut (sic) cake: Miss Downing; sultana cake: Mrs. W. Pearn; marble cake: Miss M. Millard; seed cake (gentlemen): Mr. J. Harding; plate of scones: Mrs. Haines 1, Mrs. Kleve 2; home-made loaf: Mrs. Eichstadt; marmalade jam: Mrs. Thompson; date creams: Miss A. Harding: toffee (gentlemen): G. Dow. 1. J. Thompson 2: toffee (ladies): Miss G. Elliott; cocoanut ice: Miss A. Harding; milk jug cover: Miss Blackmore: Mount Mellick d’oyley (sic): Mrs. J. Gibson: crochet d’oyley (under 14): Miss G. Freeman 1, Miss E. Sailer, 2: plum pudding: Mrs. J. Sailer. 

At night the hall was cleared and a flannel and gingham dance was held. This was largely patronised. Excellent music was supplied by Miss D. Allen’s orchestra. Mr. J. Sillman was M. C. Mr. R Elliott effectively disposed of any remaining goods from the stalls by auction. (3)


DRIVING ACCIDENT – On the way home from the Christmas Tree function Mrs. Harry Embrey was thrown from her sulky, and sustained a broken collar-bone and several bruises. Her little baby also received a severe bruise on the face and ear. Mr. Embrey and two other members of the family escaped unhurt. (4)


ROSEWOOD PIG SALES – On account of the approaching Christmas holidays the usual fortnightly pig sales were held on Monday instead of Wednesday. One hundred and 48 pigs were yarded. Four buyers operated, and prices realised were Baconers, £3/3/ to £4/9/6; porkers £2 to £2/12/6; stores, 25/ to £1/ 17/6; weaners 9/6 to 14/6. (5)


CHRISTMAS EVE – As is invariably the case on Christmas Eve, the railway trains brought a very large number of passengers from the various stations on the Downs and as usual when the people got to Ipswich they found no conveyance to Brisbane. Neither King Cobb nor the steamer companies were equal to the occasion. The consequence was that some fifty men humped their swags and started off at once for the metropolis, and that every bed in every hotel in Ipswich was occupied. (6)


ROSEWOOD CHRISTMASTIDE – The Christmas holidays passed quietly here, and fair business was done by the shops, which remained open until 10 o’clock on Friday night. Special religious services were held in the various churches on Christmas Day, and midnight mass was celebrated at St. Brigid’s Church. The Principal attraction on Boxing Day was a race meeting at Glamorgan Vale.  (7)


ROSEWOOD Thursday, Christmas Season. – The Christmas holidays passed happily, though quietly, in this district. On Friday night the business houses remained open to cope with the increased business, and the town presented a very busy appearance. Many people took advantage of the holidays to spend several days at the seaside, while many visitors were noticed in the town during Christmas. Special services were held in the churches. Midnight mass was celebrated in St. Brigid’s Church by the Parish Priest (Rev. Father M. McKenna). There was a very large attendance, people from all parts of the parish being present. The sanctuary and altars were beautifully decorated by the Sisters of Mercy. Several hundreds approached the altar rails for the reception of Holy Communion. A special Mass was sung by the choir and Miss M. Sloane rendered an Ave Marie. The Christmas crib, which was arranged in the church, attracted many worshippers. In St. Luke’s Church of England festival evensong was held on Christmas eve and on Christmas day Holy Communion was celebrated at, 11 a.m. The altar was tastefully decorated with palms, and special hymns were sung by the choir. The rector (Rev. T. Edwards) delivered an address appropriate to the occasion. The attendance was large. At the 11 a.m. service in the Congregational Church on Sunday, special hymns were rendered by the choir in honour of the approach of Christmas.

Mr. and Mrs. Todd, Mr. and Mrs. C. P. Ward and Miss Dolling (Brisbane) spent Christmas at “Argyle House,” Rosewood.
Mr. and Mrs. A. Pioch and child of Maryborough, were the guests of Mr. A. H. Sakrzewski, at Frenchton, during the Christmas holidays.
Misses Ella M’Laren, Molly Sloane and Molly Thomas are holidaying at Coolangatta.
Mr. and Mrs. R. M. Bourke of Ipswich visited Rosewood during the holidays.
Mr. and Mrs. E. O’Sullivan spent Christmas at Danderoo.
Mr. and Mrs. Alex Johansen (Brisbane) spent Christmas in Rosewood as the guests of Mrs. Hogan.
Misses Rose Allen (Rosewood) and M. Cocking (Walloon) are holidaying at Coolangatta.
Mr. and Mrs. J. F. Collett of Ipswich were the guests of Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Loveday, “Ashwell Villa,” for the Christmas.
Mr. A. Imrie (Maryborough) spent the holidays in Rosewood.
Mr. and Mrs. P. O’Reilly, formerly of Kin Kin, are at present staying at “Bremer View,” Rosewood.
Mr. and Mrs. D. Morgan of the National Bank, Rosewood, are holidaying at Lota. Mr. Lawson is relieving in Mr. Morgan’s place.
Mr. and Mrs. M. J. O’Reilly spent the holidays at Sandgate.
Mr. P. Capern visited Pamona during the holidays.
Mrs. Ferris (Roma), Mrs. R. Stevens (Roma), and Mrs. A. J. Stevens (Brisbane) were the guests of Mr. and Mrs. A. B. Clark for Christmas.
Mrs. Cooney and Misses E. Cooney and N. White of Brisbane were the guests of Mr. and Mrs. T. White, “Pendleten,” for the holidays.
Miss Hilda Jacobs of Ipswich spent Christmas at “Glenburn,” Rosewood.
Mr R. Larter of Ipswich also visited Rosewood during the holidays.
Miss Thelma Sellars is spending the vacation at Murgon.
Mr. and Mrs. J. Madden (Ipswich), Misses M. Hogan (Clifton), and M. Collins (Brisbane) visited Rosewood during the holidays. 

Other visitors who spent Christmas in Rosewood included:-Messrs. J. and H Reddan (Ipswich), R. Millard (Brisbane), Ray Millard (Harrisville), P. J. Hogan (Helidon), J. B. Farrell (Brisbane), B. Coveney (Nambour). Mr. and Mrs. R. Sellars motored to Esk during last weekend where they visited Mr. and Mrs. A. L. Adams. Miss D. Madden is spending a holiday at Swan Creek, via Warwick.. Miss B. Kingston, of the staff of the Ipswich Mental Hospital, spent the holidays at her home in Rosewood. 

The many school teachers who are spending their holidays here included; Misses Zerner (Gatton), O’Reilly (Brigaloo), Guymer (Barambah), Cannan (three), Hogan (Dugandan), Brown (Harpers Hill), Coogan (Mulga), Messrs. M. Howe (Advancetown), and D. O’Sullivan (Toogoolawah). Rev. Father Wheeler, who was recently ordained in Sydney, paid a short visit to Rosewood during the week. (8)

Compiled by Jane Schy

(1) The Daily Mail Sunday 17 December, 1922 page 14
(2) Queensland Times Saturday 16 December, 1922 page 8
(3) Queensland Times Wednesday 20 December, 1922 page 9
(4) Brisbane Courier Friday 21 December, 1922 page 7
(5) Queensland Times Thursday 21 December, 1922 page 2
(6) Queensland Times Saturday 30 December, 1922 page 12
(7) Brisbane Courier Friday 29 December, 1922 page 9
8) Queensland Times Saturday 30 December, 1922 page 13




  1. So much activity in Rosewood over Christmas,so many people!! Jane you’ve done yourself proud again, thank you! Great reading as usual.

  2. Jane you have done a marvellous job in compiling this information about Christmas in Rosewood in 1922. It shows how times have changed in the last 100 years. I like that fact that Christmas was not commercialised back then. People worked hard and life was simpler. Rita

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