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Texas in Review - Christmas Cookie Making and Tradition in Fredericksburg (1957)

Texas Historical Commission

Sound | 1957

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  •  Fredericksburg 
  •  Founded by German colonists, May 8, 1846 
  •  Peter Tash house 
  •  Tash house built 1857 
  •  Dutch chimney 
  •  Holiday traditions 
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  •   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.  
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This clip, originally shown as part of the December 16, 1957 "Texas in Review" episode, presents the history and a tour of the Peter Tatsch House in Fredericksburg. Built in 1857 of native limestone, the house features a large kitchen and hand carved woodwork and furniture made from local trees. The clip also highlights the Christmas traditions of the largely German-settled Texas hill country.

"Texas in Review" was a television series sponsored by the Humble Oil & Refining Company.  Originally produced in a news-like format by Fort Worth's Channel 5, the series was later given to the Jamieson Film Company, who developed its newsreel and TV-magazine style. For five years, Jamieson produced the program in its entirety (writing, filming, editing), until recession-induced budget cuts caused Humble Oil to cancel it in 1958. While on air in Dallas, it enjoyed the prime time spot between the popular "Burns & Allen" and "I Love Lucy."