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Another Small Tale of Sisters House in Salem

by John Hutton

Christmas Maus

There was once a small mouse in a small town called Salem, at the Edge of the Wilderness. The mouse was named Maus Kraus. She was a very smart maus: she knew how to sew, and she went to school every day with her great friend Catherine, who was the teacher in the Girls School. Sister Catherine called her Sister Maus, and you may already know about her from reading her first book. This new story tells how Sister Maus learned about Christmas and discovered other ways, indeed, to be useful.

Dedicated to Natalie, Marco, Luscinda, and everyone in the Sister Maus Fan Club.

Christmas MAUS Text and illustrations copyright Š 2008 by John Hutton Published by Salem Academy and College P.O. Box 10548, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27101-0548 and All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. This publication may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the permission in writing of the publishers. Typeset and designed in the United States of America by Carrie Leigh Dickey Printed and bound in the United States of America by Keiger Printing Company, Inc. FIRST LIMITED EDITION, first printing ISBN 978-0-9789608-1-0

Another Small Tale of Sisters House in Salem

S a le m Ac a de m y a nd C olle g e 2008

and t is the morning of hristmas ve. It is long ago in Old America, again –


Maus wakes up in her cozy mouse hole! She must help Sister Catherine decorate Sisters House. A little higher, please, Sister Maus! Everything must be beautiful this afternoon for the Love Feast for the children of the Girls School.

ome with me to the bakery, Sister Maus,” says Sister Catherine.

“I am afraid we do not have

enough cookies!” Sister Catherine pushes through the deep snow – across the Square – past the Boys School – to Brother Winkler’s bakery. Sister Catherine is tall and strong. Snow won’t stop her! Sister Maus is glad to be warm and dry in the pocket of an apron.

n the bakery, everything smells delicious. There are so many cookies to make before Christmas. Perhaps the bakers could use some help.

Sister Catherine has so much to do that she has quite forgotten Sister Maus and has left her behind.

“Help, help!� cries

Sister Maus. How will she get home through the deep snow?

omeone has found her – it is Brother Maus! “My

name is

Tom,” he says. “Please follow me!” He leads her through a snow tunnel to the Boys School where he lives. The tunnel is surprisingly warm and dry.

he Boys School mice are very happy to meet Sister Maus. They have often heard of her and how well she sews. She has much in common with their teacher, Brother Samuel Crumbs.

“I, too, came down

from Bethlehem,” he says, “but not in a sewing basket! I traveled in a trunk full of books.”

ister Maus wants to thank her new friends for their kindness. She will help them build their Christmas Pyramid. She finds –






he Pyramid is finished. Sehr Schone! Very beautiful, Sister Maus!

fter supper, Brother Samuel decides that they all will go together to take Sister Maus home. He has heard that the decorations at Sisters House are especially pretty this year.

he streets have been cleared of snow are full of wagons and people.


“Be careful!�

whispers Tom Maus. He and Sister Maus stroll arm in arm across the Square and soon arrive at Sisters House.

special back stair takes them directly to the Saal

– the

main room.

ow lucky! everywhere.

The Christmas Eve service has just begun. Candles are

he Mouse scholars especially admire the Putz

– the Nativity

Scene – under the tree.

t is time to put the Baby Jesus in his Manger. But where can the manger be? The children have been playing with it – and have lost it!

as it fallen behind the organ?” asks Tom. “Here it is!” squeaks Sister Maus. They carry it back to the tree. And so a place is found at last for the Baby Jesus – in his little manger, and in our hearts!

veryone is surprised

and very pleased by the helpful mice. Frau Kater

is especially proud to know Sister Maus. How very useful she is – and so are her companions from the Boys School!

he children recite their Christmas verses

and receive their

gifts. Presents and cookies for everyone – including visitors! CRUNCH, CRUNCH, CRUNCH!

nd what a wonderful present it is to have Sister Maus safe at home!

uf Wiedersehen! AND –

Farewell to new friends! Farewell to old friends!

Special Thanks Salem Academy and College gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the Sam N. Carter and Pauline Carter Fund of the Winston-Salem Foundation and grantmaking partner Charlie Hemrick for making this book possible. Special thanks are also due to Penny Niven, Gwynne Taylor, Jane Carmichael, Paula Locklair, and Johanna Brown for their encouragement in bringing this project to completion.

Author’s Notes Christmas for Sister Maus, like Sister Maus, is a book based on the early days of Salem Academy and College, an academic institution for women founded in 1772 in the village of Salem in the Moravian settlement of Wachovia, in northwestern North Carolina. The Single Sisters House, where both stories take place, actually still exists on the Salem College campus in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and visitors are encouraged to come to see Sister Maus’s historic mouse hole! Please see the Author’s Notes in Sister Maus for more general historical information about Salem. The story of Christmas Maus is woven from many historical threads drawn from the early days of Salem Academy and College. The beautiful Christmas traditions of the Moravian founders of Salem are the starting point for the present tale. The twelve-pointed star found on the front cover is a striking decoration long connected with the Moravians. The first example was constructed by a Moravian teacher and his pupils in the mid-nineteenth century as a geometry exercise, and such stars quickly became associated with Advent and Christmas decorations. Its display here is somewhat anachronistic: Christmas Maus takes place ca. 1785 – but the star is used in this story to honor the tradition, so widespread today. Sister Catherine’s and Sister Maus’s adornment of Sisters House with greens and small decorated trees is an old tradition dating from the earliest days of Moravian settlement in America. The greens were gathered on family outings to the countryside, and used to festoon walls, windows, and in some cases entire rooms. Tree decoration, which started as early as 1748 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, began simply at first and eventually came to include popcorn, apples, candles, and small inscribed watercolor drawings in the 19th century. Cookies were an important part of Moravian Christmas festivities, both for treats and for decoration. They were made in many whimsical shapes, were often used to adorn trees or wall displays, and were given as presents to children on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The Winkler Bakery in Old Salem, which celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2007, would have been a ready source of extra cookies for hosts – like Sister Catherine – who needed more than their own kitchens could provide! It is a source of delicious treats to this day, and welcomes visitors. Elizabeth Winkler, the wife of Salem’s first professional baker, briefly taught at the Girls School before her marriage, and could possibly have known Catherine Sehner, one of the two early Salem teachers on whom the fictional Sister Catherine was based. In addition to Winkler Bakery, another Old Salem building mentioned in this story is the Boys School. It is located a short – and mouse accessible – distance from the bakery across an open courtyard. Moravian educators in Salem established schools for both boys and girls in the late 18th century, but only the Girls School has survived to the present day, as Salem Academy and College. The ‘mouse scholars’ classroom was modeled on an early 19th century drawing thought to show a Moravian classroom. A Moravian Christmas decoration less well known today than Moravian stars is the Christmas pyramid constructed by Sister Maus and her new friends in the Boys School. This striking object took the form of a pyramidal framework of wood with several shelves which would then be filled with a variety of greens, fruits,

cookies, candles, strung popcorn and other ornaments. The Christmas pyramid would be displayed on a table. The Saal, or ‘main room’, in Sisters House was a large room on the second floor of the building, used for group meetings and religious services for the Single Sisters who lived and worked there. In the years before 1800, when Salem’s Home Church was built, Saals in the Gemeinhaus, the Single Sisters House and the Single Brothers House provided needed worship space for the community. The Saal in Sisters House has a very beautiful organ made by Henry Erben in 1839. I decided to have the mice find the Baby Jesus’s lost manger behind this marvelous instrument, even if it is somewhat late in date. Moravian Love Feast worship services took place both on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day in these rooms. A Christmas Eve service was conducted for children at five o’clock, and another service for families at seven o’clock on that day. The scene in Christmas Maus shows what a special Christmas Eve afternoon children’s service might have been like for the students in the Girls School and their parents. The Saal in Sisters House in the book is generously decorated in good late 18th and early 19th century Moravian fashion, with wreaths, garlands of greens, and numerous candles. Later in the 19th century, candles decorated with red ribbons were often used in Salem for Christmas celebrations, and these have become so connected with the season in modern times that I have taken the liberty of using them in my drawings rather than the plainer candles that would have been used ca. 1785. Part of every Moravian Christmas – then and now – was a Putz, or manger scene. The Putz was traditionally centered on the Holy Family, but also included a wide range of other elements – buildings often mimicking real buildings in the town, fictitious hills and streams, shepherds, the Magi, and so forth. A typical Putz would be located at the base of the Christmas tree, and would occasionally be surrounded by its own fence. The Baby Jesus would usually be put into his manger in the Putz on Christmas morning, but I am imagining that indulgent parents might have allowed the children to anticipate His coming on Christmas Eve as well. An interesting feature of Salem Christmas Eve celebrations was recitations at the end of the service by the students of the Girls School. These might be as simple as the reading of a few Bible verses, or as complex as very elaborate dialogues when several students explained the most important elements of their Christian faith. After the recitations, presents would be exchanged. In the early years of Salem these would include such simple treats as fruit, nuts, cookies, candles, and small watercolor wreaths of flowers, suitably inscribed with scripture. These last items would also often be hung on trees as decorations. The ‘Christmas card’ given to the reader by Sister and Brother Maus on the previous page is my illustration of this tradition.

John Hutton was educated at Princeton, Harvard and the University of London. He has written and illustrated several books for children, including Sister Maus (2006), and has taught in the Art Department at Salem College since 1990.

Another Small Tale of Sisters House in Salem

by John Hutton

Christmas Maus  

Another Small Tale of Sisters House in Salem by John Hutton Christmas maus Christmas maUs Dedicated to Natalie, Marco, Luscinda, and everyon...

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