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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Moravian Christmas #MoravianStar #MoravianCookies By Sarah J. McNeal

The Emblem of the Moravian Church  

Who are the Moravians and exactly what so they do? Some have thought of the Moravians as Amish or Mormons, but they  are completely different.

Moravians are protestants much like the Methodists. Hans Hus (John Hus in English)started the Moravian movement in Bohemia, now the Czech Republic, in the early 15th century. He objected to the practices and doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church that dominated Europe. For instance, he wanted the liturgy to be celebrated in the common language of the people (Czech), lay people to receive communion in both bread and wine, priests to be allowed to marry, and to eliminate the idea of purgatory. These concepts predate the Protestant Reformation by a century and some historians claim the Moravian Church was actually the first Protestant Church. Even though the movement gained support in the Crown of Bohemia, Hus was summoned to the Council of Constance where he was declared a heretic and released him to the secular authority which sentenced him to be burned at the stake on July 6, 1415.
Hans Hus burned at the stake

The Moravian Church did not die with Hus, instead, the movement spread even to far flung places like Greenland, Africa, Tanzania, and the West Indies. The Moravians wanted to spread the Gospel even though they did not try to convert others to their religion. By the middle of the 16th century 90% of the inhabitants of the Bohemian Crown had become Protestant. The majority of the nobility was Protestant, and the schools and printing shops established by the Moravian Church were flourishing.

Protestantism had a strong influence in education of the population. By the mid 16th century every single town in Bohemia had a Protestant school, and many more had more than one with two to six teachers each. Girls were given equal education to boys studying at a level of high grammar school including lectures on Latin, Greek, Rhetoric, Dialects, fundamentals of Philosophy and fine arts as well as religion according to the Lutheran Augustana.

The Catholic churches could not compete with the Moravian schools and soon they began to persecute the Moravians. The Moravian refugees sought shelter in other countries and, eventually, made settlements in America. The first settlement in Georgia failed to thrive, so they moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and the Salem, North Carolina where they grew into thriving communities. 
Old Salem, North Carolina

The Moravians are best known for their beautiful music 
The Moravian Forsyth County Band in North Carolina 1900

and for their Love Feast which is celebrated upon the first gathering after Pentecost by breaking bread with one another. 

Salem, now referred to as Old Salem, has been preserved as it was in 1766 with its buildings intact and is now an historical site where visitors can go to the shops and purchase wares similar to those originally sold when the community began. I just have to add here that the women’s college in Old Salem was the first college for women in America. The Moravian women held the same level of offices as the men and held as equals in the society. 

Salem College and Campus, the Oldest Female College in the U.S., Winston-Salem, NC

Seasonal celebrations are still carried out in Old Salem including Christmas.

And Christmas is why I wanted to post about the Moravians because there are two Moravian Christmas traditions that people continue even to this day: The Moravian Star and Moravian cookies. 

The Moravian Star is a multi-dimensional creation made of glass or paper that are used today with a light inside and displayed at the entrance of homes and on Christmas tree tops. 
Moravian Gingerbread and Molasses Cookies

The famous Moravian cookies are thin, delicate gingerbread or molasses type cookies about the size of a silver dollar and shaped like a flower. 
Old Salem Bakery

They are still sold in the Winkler Bakery in Old Salem. They also make a traditional sugar cake that is mighty tasty. I’ve included recipes.

Moravian Christmas Cookies Recipe

Moravian Sugar Cake Recipe

December has just begun, but I’d like to wish you all who celebrate it, a very Merry Christmas! 


By Sarah J. McNeal

Prairie Rose Publications

Buy Link: A Christmas Visitor



Matilda Barton’s broken heart may never heal. The love of her life, Sterling Thoroughgood, has been gone three years with no word. Is he dead or alive? Why should it matter to her? She’s spent the past three years trying to save her father, her ranch, and her dignity—but her heart has taken the worst battering of all. Now that her father has died, the livestock has been sold off, and the ranch is in disrepair, her life is empty. When Sterling Thoroughgood rides up to her house on Christmas Eve, is it any wonder she greets him with a shotgun instead of a kiss?

Sterling Throughgood has worked hard to build a ranch in Hazard, Wyoming. Admittedly, it took longer than he thought, but he had to have a good start for Matilda, the woman he’s always loved. Arriving at her house on Christmas Eve, he discovers a lot has changed in three years. Her father, his mentor, has passed away—and Matilda has become bitter because of what she felt were empty promises Sterling made in the past. But Sterling is not a quitter, and he will pit his determination against Matilda’s iron-clad will any day of the week—even on Christmas Eve.

He hopes that the puzzle box he made for her with his special gift inside will prove to her his ever-constant love, but is it too late for that? Can Matilda understand his three-year absence amidst all the loss she’s gone through? Is their love lost forever, or does the peculiar puzzle box hold the key to happiness for both of them? Can Sterling be more than just A CHRISTMAS VISITOR…


“Don’t you even think about stepping up on this porch, Sterling Alexander Thoroughgood, or I’ll shoot a hole in you big enough for a team of horses to jump through.” The woman wearing a faded blue calico dress aimed the shotgun straight at his heart…and sometimes his liver since she wasn’t holding the shotgun all that steady.

Sterling raised his hands in the air. His bare hands were practically numb from the cold. He glanced up at the slate gray sky. Snow’s comin’. Then he grinned at the woman holding the shotgun. “Merry Christmas to you, too, Matilda.”

She dipped the shotgun for just a moment, but raised it again as if on a second thought. “What do you want here after being gone for three years? Did you break some hearts up in Wyoming? Maybe you have some fathers and brothers gunning for you and you thought you’d come running back here to hide.”

Well, there it was. He’d hurt her when he left and she wasn’t about to let him forget it. “I came to see Allister. I told him I’d be coming back soon as I got my place up and running. We had an agreement about him selling me some cattle and maybe a bull to get a good, diverse herd started of my own.” He reached out his hand to press down on the barrel of her shotgun pointing it toward the broken down boards of the porch. “So, if you could see yourself clear to let me speak to your daddy, I’d be obliged.”

Matilda placed a hand on her hip while the other held tight to that shotgun. “Seems you’re a little too late, Mr. Thoroughgood. Pa died last year from pneumonia. He’d been sick a while and I had to sell off all of the livestock except for the mule and a few chickens to pay for the doctor and his medicine. I guess you’ll be leaving here empty handed.”

“Tilly, darlin’, I’m so sorry to hear the news that Allister has passed away. He was a good man and a good friend to me.” He stretched out a hand to touch her arm, but she stepped back just out of reach.

“Don’t you dare call me sweet names or my nickname, you snake. You’ve been gone three years and not a single word from you in all that time. All that sweet talk means nothing to me now.” She opened the door and stepped back to wave him into the house.

“I need to get my horses settled in the barn first, but I’d be obliged if I could come in for some coffee after that. It’s been a long trip from Wyoming.” He tipped his hat and turned to step off the porch. Once he had hold of the reigns of both horses, he glanced back up at Matilda who still stood with her hand on the door wearing a strange expression on her face.

“Don’t be surprised at the condition of the barn. Part of the roof has a hole in it. You might want to put the horses in the stalls on the left to keep ‘em warm and dry. There’s a little hay in the loft still.” Her voice seemed less determined and ornery. Sterling liked it better when she cussed him than when she pretended to be obliging.

“Thank you, Matilda. I brought some feed with me. Do you have some stock you need me to feed or have anything I need to bring in for you?”

Her throat worked for a moment and her eyes took a watery sheen. Please don’t cry, darlin’. His heart hurt for her. Things must have been tough for her over the past year. Finally, she managed to speak and her voice had its defiant edge to it again. “Hector, the mule, could use some hay and there are a few chickens needing to be fed some dried corn, if you don’t mind a little work.”

Sterling chuckled relieved she had regained her starch. “No trouble at all. I’ll see to things in the barn. You best get on in the house out of the cold. You reckon we could have a cup of coffee and talk when I get back from the barn? I’ve been riding for days in the cold to get here and could use something hot to get me percolating again.”

“Ran out of coffee three days ago. Hot water might have to do.”

“I brought provisions with me and some things I thought Allister and you might need. I need to see to my horse first, so I’ll just get on out and get those chores done. You take it easy for a while and I’ll fix us up a fine pot of coffee as soon as I get back from the barn.”

Matilda nodded her head as an answer, took up her shotgun and walked into the house shutting the door with a decided bang behind her.

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  1. Such an interesting blog, Sarah. The equality between men and women hundreds of years ago further proves the Moravians were ahead of the times, especially when one sees that women of the 21st century are still struggling with equality in many parts of the world. And persecution still exists today. I've always said human nature never changes through the ages, just the window-dressing changes with the times. Thanks for sharing this bit of history, Sarah. And have a lovely Christmas, my favorite time of the year.

    1. I loved this part of my research, finding that women were treated as equals even in history all because of attitude. I remember when I was a kid how comedians would tell degrading jokes about women. People thought it was funny and women just accepted that they must be ditsy and stupid. There has been so many women leaders in other countries, and yet in the United States, we've never had a female president. There are several women candidates for president right now who are smart and politically savvy. I am so hopeful that one of them will win the nomination.
      Christmas time is exciting, spiritually renewing, and kinda exhausting. I like it, too. The weather can be gray and dull or, on occasion, be beautiful like when it snows. We don't get much of that here in the South. All it takes is a few sightings of snow flurries to amp up excitement around here and, when it does happen we immediately close the schools and make a run for the grocery store to stock up on supplies. It's almost a tradition to react in this way. We all burrow in like we're going to be stuck in 10 feet of snow for a month. You, of course, get to actually have those kinds of winters.
      I always love to hear from you, Elizabeth. Thank you so much for coming.

  2. Thank you for sharing such a rich history. It is greatly appreciated and of course the star and cookie recipe are an added bonus. Doris

    1. Doris, North Carolina has some wonderful history. I'm researching some of it to include in some stories because I have never really written stories about my home, so I want to give it a try. I was so amazed when I discovered this bit of history about Old Salem, NC. I am working on a story line using this bit of NC history. I'm getting excited about writing it.
      If you try these recipes I want to know how they turn out. I've bought Moravian cookies and sugar cake, but I've never attempted to make either of them on my own.
      Thank you so much for coming and commenting on my blog, Doris. I really appreciate it.

  3. There are so many of these societies in the USA, and the way they preserve their traditions and customs is a fascinating insight into living history. Thank you for posting.

  4. I don't know if Bethlehem, PA has preserved their Moravian settlement or not. I'll have to check it out. I enjoy visiting historical places when they have people dressed in the time period who explain what living there was like. The Hezekiah Home, a pre-Revolutionary house where a signer of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence lived, is only about a mile from my house. I've been there often. They have built a community center there near the old house which they have preserved and my Carolina's Romance Writers group used to have monthly meetings there.
    Thank you so much for coming and commenting, Christine. I hope you have a happy Christmas holiday.

  5. Thank you so much for posting this, Sarah. My mum went to the Moravian church in her village of Norwood Green when she was a child and always found them welcoming. They did pantos at Christmas and also had a choir.
    Happy Christmas to you and yours

    1. Lindsay, how wonderful that your mother attended a Moravian church. I have never attended a Moravian service. I have no idea what a pantos is unless you mean something like a pantomime...of the Nativity Scene?
      Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I wish you a very Merry Christmas, Lindsay.

  6. Yes, Sarah, Panto is short for pantomime.
    Merry Christmas and happy new year to you and yours, Sarah