Every locale has its New Year’s traditions, some dating back to ancient times. These celebrations are embraced by countries and ethnicities around the world – think fire-cracker Chinese neighborhood festivities, Morris Dances in parts of England and the annual Mummers’ Parade in Philadelphia. Here at the Greenbrier Historical Society, we’ve dug through our archives of letters and newspapers looking for the earliest references to the Shanghai Parade in Lewisburg, and posted the most interesting items to our display wall of parade photos and masks.
One thing I feel quite certain of – our Shanghai did not start with some guy from Texas who introduced a Mexican custom, as opined by one Mason Bell, Lewisburg merchant in the early 1900’s; nor did it have anything to do with rowdy Christmas celebrations which were separate shenanigans. The Shanghai Parade is its own celebration of the New Year. Anyone who wanted to participate dressed up and converged up the hill on east Washington Street to march. It wasn’t even an organized event until the 1920’s when rules were instituted by the Fire Department, at which point the discharge of firearms, in itself an old New Year’s Day custom, became forbidden.
In the earliest days of Shanghai the more grotesque the mask, the better. Our exhibit masks were donated by Rose Kirby, librarian at Alderson, and her after-school group of students. Swing by North House and take a look at these and other items exclusive to this mini-exhibit. Additionally, we want to know what you think about the origins of Shanghai. Leave us a message in the notebook and share your story or early memories of the parade. We also welcome masks, photos or letters that we can photograph or scan and add to our exhibit and archives. But don’t wait – this special holiday mini-exhibit will only be up until just after the New Year!
The North House is located at 301 West Washington Street in Lewisburg and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. For more information, contact 304-645-3398 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.