Christmas in Duval County in the 1880s held many of the same elements of today, although is some respects it was more lively.As Christmas approached stores decorated with holiday displays. Most merchants closed on Christmas day.
In San Diego, the day started with with Father Peter Bard celebrating midnight Mass or misa de gallo at St. Francis de Paula in San Diego. More than half of San Diego’s residents usually attended the liturgical celebration. Many worshipers had to stand outside the church, which was packed. After Mass, eggnog was served and rockets, Roman candles and fire crackers were lit.
Not unlike today, drinking was part of the celebration. Fortunately, usually no problems arose from the use of alcohol. The Gun Club hosted a shooting match later in the day. In 1888, the Laredo Daily Times reported that “Juan Puig was the entertainment, missing all his shots. Everyone had good laugh.” In addition to the shooting demonstration, horse races were also held as well as several dances. In 1888 one dance was organized by John Buckley Jr. and Willie Rallston at the Spann Building for the younger crowd.
Regrettably there is no book documenting Father Bard’s life; there is, however, one on Father Claude Jaillet who founded the church in San Diego. This book has a lot of good history on early San Diego, I highly recommend it. You can get it in our bookstore.