The following blurb came from the Indiana School Journal for December 1877. It was written by Charles Wackford of Shawnee Prairie, Indiana, and retells a very charming Christmas tradition mixed with fishing. I love it.
We reached home at ten o'clock, receiving an invitation on the way to eat Christmas dinner with the Graham family. Their family and ours took Christmas together at our house last year. It was half past twelve when we reached there, and they had dinner at one.
After dinner, the first thing to receive attention was the Christmas fishing. It was a substitute for a Christmas tree, and I think a very good one, for it was thoroughly enjoyed by all, and was much less trouble than a tree. All the gifts were placed in paper sacks, such as the grocers use, and upon the sack, or upon a card attached, was written the name of the one for whom the gift was intended, and also the name of the giver. These were all placed in a clothes basket and set in the back parlor. The folding doors were partly opened and a sheet stretched across the opening, extending from the floor up about four feet.
Mr. Frank King, the teacher in the district school, took charge of the basket, while all the rest of the company gathered in the parlor. Two little children did the fishing, standing upon chairs. Their fishing poles were sticks like pointers at school, and the lines were strong cords, such as are used in hanging pictures. The hooks were simply bent into a suitable form. They would throw their lines over the sheet, and then Mr. King would put a sack on the hook and jerk the string a little, whereupon the young fisherman would say, "There, there's a bite," and then draw up his fish. After his grandpa had taken it off die hook and told for whom it was intended, the little fellow would deliver it to its proper owner and then run back to his fish pond, while the remainder of the party watched the opening of the sack to see what kind of a fish it might be.
Most of them were useful articles, but some were nuts, candies and toys. One little girl, Nora, who is just ready to emerge from the chart class at school, fished up a First Reader for herself, and after seeing it she said she did not want to fish any more, handed the pole to her mother, and sat down to read her book. It was not long, however, till she was fishing again. At the close of this exercise, the children took possession of the dining room and improvised another fishing party, using the same gifts again. -- Dr. Todd