The Holidays are Better in Fort Wayne - 2011

By Eric Olson
By Jason Meyers, Meteorologist

December 14, 2011 Updated Dec 15, 2011 at 11:24 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Indiana (Indiana's NewsCenter)--If there is an official start to the holiday season in Fort Wayne the lighting of the big Santa is it…a time when the city gathers to kick off what many call the best time of the year. A few blocks away another seasonal standby, the Embassy Theatre’s Festival of Trees attracts holiday revelers in droves. These Fort Wayne traditions, the big Santa, the tree festival and numerous others..can be traced back to one source.

At one time Fort Wayne was well over 60 % first and second generation Germans” says local historian Jim Sack, “people that came off the boat and came up the Ohio River to Fort Wayne or down from Toledo and it was a very overwhelmingly German city.”

That’s right, the holidays are better in Fort Wayne, frankly, because of the Germans who, over the decades, have shaped the tone and tenor of this town. It all began in the 1830’s with the Wabash and Erie Canal, built largely by German and Irish immigrants. The Germans who settled in Fort Wayne, Lutherans and Catholics, established churches, the city’s vast parochial school system…built the city’s parks and launched local industry. And they kept alive all the Christmas traditions from the homeland. The Christmas tree first appeared in Freiburg Germany in the 15th century…Santa Clause himself, America’s version is modeled after Germany’s Weinachtsmann..even our Festival of Gingerbread at the History Center, an idea imported from Nuremburg where gingerbread is king.

“And it’s wonderful they sell tons of gingerbread during the Christmas market there” says Jim Sack “and it’s the great tradition and still in America many families in Fort Wayne will receive an order of Liebkuchen from Germany direct from Nuremburg over the Christmas holiday to continue on that tradition.”

There are many others, the Christmas wreath, candy canes, holly, mistletoe, our favorite Christmas carols..the list of holiday traditions borrowed from Germany is nearly endless..not just one of the reasons but the main reason the holidays are just a little better, right here in Fort Wayne.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - Family is an important part of the holidays. And there's usually a holiday meal involved once everyone gets together. Jason Meyers shows us why those meals make the holidays better in Fort Wayne.

When we think of the holidays, a lot of things come to mind, but one thing we all do, at least the one thing we need to do, is eat. And the Community Harvest Food Bank helps with just that.

The Community Harvest food bank collects food and distributes it to people who need it the most. And this time of year, demand goes up.

Claudia Johnson of the Community Harvest Food Bank says, "We do get a lot more folks coming in over the holidays. We also luckily get a lot more donations because people are feeling very generous around this time of year."

Community Harvest starts to see more donations coming in beginning in October. The Turkey Rally a couple weeks before Thanksgiving really helps stock the shelves and freezer. Food keeps coming in through December, but it's hard to keep food in the pantry after the first of the year.

"We're no different than the retail stores, in that they count on the Christmas season for a big bulk of their sales for their entire year. We count on the Christmas holiday season for a big bulk of our donations to help tide us at least over the cold winter months," says Johnson.

It's no secret times have been tough the last few years. But even in the hard times, people of Fort Wayne don't hesitate to help.

Johnson adds, "This is the most generous community on the planet as far as I'm concerned. They are so giving, and we see everybody right now and for the last three years has been affected by the economic mess."

Economic mess or not, the holidays are better in Fort Wayne thanks to a family meal.

The Community Harvest Food Bank is only a small piece of this puzzle. The Associated Churches also provide a lot of food all year round. It's not just during the holidays, but it is one of the reasons the holidays are just a little better right here in Fort Wayne. And that wraps up our season long look at hometown holidays. And we certainly want to wish you all the happiest of holidays however you may observe or celebrate them.

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