There was a nice blanket of snow across Columbus on Christmas morning in 1910. Almost everyone was able to enjoy the holiday because in this year, as was the case every seven years, Christmas fell on a Sunday.

There was a nice blanket of snow across Columbus on Christmas morning in 1910. Almost everyone was able to enjoy the holiday because in this year, as was the case every seven years, Christmas fell on a Sunday.

For many people, an extra day off from work was taken on Monday as well. But even for the people who didn't do this, a Christmas Sunday was a special day.

The Columbus of 100 years ago was different in a number of ways from the sprawling capital city of 2010. For one thing, it had only about a quarter of the population it does today and those people took up a lot less space. The old "walking city" of the 19th century had given way to the "streetcar city" of 1910, but people still lived only a mile or two from where they worked, and most people worked in or near downtown Columbus. Downtown was where people came to shop and spend their leisure time as well.

As the Christmas season approached, shopping became more and more centered on preparations for the holiday. In a time before supermarkets, that meant almost daily shopping at one of the several public markets scattered around the city.

Today we can visit North Market near the convention center and get some sense of what it must have been like to shop in those days.

A local newspaper described North Market at Christmas time in 1910: "The North Market is a particularly attractive one just now It is a clean and comfortable place with many stalls filled with appetizing edibles.

"Here is one where the proprietor calls out cheerfully, 'Right this way, folks; right this way for fancy apples.' Another cries his cabbages and celery; another oranges, nuts and cranberries, in a wheedling, coaxing tone that is irresistible.

"The hubbub made by all of these calls, by the quacking, clucking and crowing of the ducks, turkeys and chickens, and by the merry patrons, adds to the gayety and picturesqueness of the scene. An eager crowd surrounds the place where Christmas trees, wreaths and greens are for sale, and many a well-filled basket is topped with a holly garland."

But not every home and hearth had a fresh-cut Christmas tree. For more than a few families, something new was being tried:

"Reports seem to indicate that that fewer large Christmas trees are being employed than formerly. This is due to the fact that the price of wood has advanced enormously within recent years and every tree cut down before it has gained its full growth means that the forest of the future has been denuded of a commercially valuable tree As a result, there has been a tendency to substitute artificial trees for the old-fashioned Tannenbaum

"These artificial trees are made of soft iron wire. A piece of stout wire comprises the trunk and smaller wires are placed around the upright standard to represent the branches. The tree is then wrapped with paper colored so as to represent natural bark and to the bark is pasted strips of fringed paper to represent the green of the well-known Christmas tree.

"While these trees are stout enough to support candles of various sizes, they'll hardly do as yet to hold presents, but those who are employing them say they answer the purpose of the Tannenbaum very well."

This description is a reminder that Christmas was celebrated somewhat differently than it is today. In an age before widespread use of electric tree lights, lighting the tree was a careful exercise in every family.

Some people lit their tree on Christmas Eve. Others waited until Christmas morning. But in either case, the ritual was the same. While father carefully lighted the tree's candles, two other family members stood close by - one with a bucket of water and the other with a bucket of sand, ready to put out the flames if the tree caught fire. It was an unfortunately common occurrence in those days.

The family enjoyed the lighted tree for a few precious minutes. Then the candles were extinguished and presents could be exchanged.

Later in the day, family and friends would gather for a traditional Christmas dinner. For each family, that traditional dinner varied a bit, but usually included favorite dishes and specially prepared desserts and other comestibles.

Most people enjoyed Christmas then as we do now - at home. Some people were not so fortunate. But many, if not most of these people celebrated Christmas as well.

The poor and destitute of the city received shelter and dinner from organizations like the Salvation Army. Other newer volunteer organizations like Charity Newsies solicited funds in the days before Christmas in order to provide clothing for children in need.

Other people were confined to institutions of one sort or another for one reason or another. But even in these places, Christmas was celebrated.

More than 1,600 prisoners and 400 guests at the Ohio Penitentiary in downtown Columbus enjoyed a special Christmas dinner and a musical variety show presented by 60 inmates of the prison. Employees of the State Institution for the Insane entertained the inmates of the asylum with a farce on the day after Christmas, titled, "The Persecuted Dutchman."

A local paper reported, "The characters will be in costume, electrical effects will be used and a full orchestra will stationed in the pit to render overtures between acts."

At the County Children's Home, "there were two large trees loaded down with presents for the children. A great fireplace had been rigged up with a chimney big enough for a live Santa to come down it, and he came down in good form, with a bag of toys on his back."

And so it went at all of the major institutions in the city where the blind, the deaf, the aged and the infirm were all treated to a special day.

Even the patrol barn of the Columbus Police Department had a celebration of sorts on a day when the police and their horses still had to work. Wagonmen Sells and Smith topped off a nice dinner with a plum pudding they had prepared especially for Christmas.

Other popular desserts after a large Christmas dinner included various cakes, pies and ice creams. Some of the more elaborate ice cream creations available for sale in town included:

"Christmas Neapolitan - a blending of maple cream, orange ice and vanilla glace; a combination of frozen desserts pretty to look at and very good to eat. A quart will make six good size portions. Per quart, 60 cents."

"Santa Claus Ice Cream - Nothing pleases the children more or makes a prettier showing on a Christmas table than Santa Claus molded in ice cream. These are individual portions and made to your order. Per dozen, $2."

Of course, many people liked to make their own dessert. Here is one from a local paper.

"Edinburgh Fog - Mix half a pint of cream with two tablespoonfuls of powdered sugar and whip to a thick froth. Stir in half a cupful of finely crumbled macaroons, flavor with vanilla to taste and serve very cold in individual dishes. If desired, garnish with blanched almonds just before sending this dessert to the table."

Happy Holidays.

Ed Lentz writes a history column for ThisWeek.