As the title suggests, this is more of a collection of thoughts that just occurred to me than a well thought out post. Why it just occurred to me today, you'll see towards the end of the post. Perhaps some future research could more fully flesh out these ideas, but for now here's some things to think about as we move through what for us today is the back end of the Holiday Season.
I don't believe that I've ever come across any firsthand accounts of holiday celebrations in MCH in the 1700's, but I think we can make some fair assumptions. As we've seen, there were three major cultural/religious groups in MCH in the 18th Century. Yes, there were still some Swedes, Danes, and their descendants, but primarily the area was populated by English Episcopalians, English Quakers, and Scots-Irish Presbyterians. In thinking about this, I realized that these three groups celebrated the holidays in very different fashions from each other.
Of the three groups, the "proper" English settlers who still held to the Church of England (the Episcopal Church, in America) celebrated the season in the way that would look the most familiar to us today. The Christmas Season was a religious holiday first, but was also a time of family, decorations, and celebration. A good account of an 18th Century English Christmas can be found here. One interesting note is that for them, Christmas was the beginning of the holiday season, not the end. MCH Episcopalians would have gathered at St. James Church near Stanton to celebrate all of the holy days falling in the 40 day season of Christmas.
Their English brethren who belonged to the Society of Friends, however, took a much different view of the season. Quakers at the time, like the similarly-minded Puritans of New England, did not celebrate Christmas at all. They were more likely to be at work on December 25 than at the Meeting House. This disdain for celebrating Christmas is a reaction to what the holiday had become during the Middle Ages, which was more of a wild, Mardi Gras type atmosphere than what we see today. The Puritans and Quakers saw the celebrations as far too pagan and wild, so they decided to ignore it altogether. In some places in New England, laws against celebrating Christmas were in place well into the 19th Century.
This all leads us to the third, and probably most influential, group in 18th Century MCH -- the Scots-Irish Presbyterians. I've not seen any accounts of their holiday festivities, but I have a good guess to make, and it has to do with today. In the 1600's, the same "purifying" religious forces that attempted to squash the Christmas celebration in England also took hold in Scotland. While Christmas was only "outlawed" for a few decades in England in the mid-17th Century, celebrating the holiday was forbidden in Scotland for far longer. In fact, some laws were on the books until the 1960's, and even today the holiday is not as big there as it is elsewhere.
So, hundreds of thousands of Scotsmen and women were forbidden from celebrating Christmas. But, you see, the thing about Scotsmen is that trying to stop them from celebrating is like trying to stop a baby from crying -- you might succeed for a little while, but eventually you're going to lose. What the Scots did was to shift their Christmas celebrating to New Years, and thus Hogmanay was born.
The roots of Hogmanay go back centuries, borrowing from Celtic, Norse, and other traditions. Basically it's a big New Year's Eve celebration that involves, in true Scottish fashion, revelry, food, and drink. It's still a major celebration in Scotland today, and not only is January 1 a holiday, but so is the 2nd. A true Scotsman needs a couple days to recover from a good celebration.
Although some of the Scot-Irish immigrants in MCH might have spent a generation or so in Ireland prior to coming to the New World, they were still Scottish. I think that if you could go back 275 years or so, you would have caught a good Hogmanay celebration in the hills of Mill Creek Hundred.