Last Glance: Historical Holiday Happenings around White Bear Lake

The many ways Christmas was (and is) celebrated around the lake.
Santa visits Kohler's Romance Ice Cream Parlor on Washington Avenue, circa 1950.

The holidays have always been festive in the White Bear area. Community churches and organizations have embraced both the religious and secular traditions of the season in many ways. The residents of Mahtomedi gather for an annual tree lighting ceremony. The congregation at St. Stephen Lutheran Church on County Road E organizes a live nativity scene. The White Bear Lake Area Historical Society hosts an annual children’s event, where little ones gather under the Christmas tree in the parlor of the 1879 Fillebrown House and listen to stories both old and new. Organizations around the community coordinate tree lots and cookie baking commences throughout the neighborhoods. The White Bear Lake Lion’s Club sponsors a toy shelf as a way to make the holiday a little brighter for children who might otherwise not have gifts on Christmas morning.
A favorite way to mark the Christmas holiday has been visits with Santa. Each year, there are many opportunities to climb upon the lap of the jolly fellow and have a little chat about the hopes for that special something. In more recent times, that tradition takes place in downtown White Bear on Saturdays in December, in conjunction with horse-drawn carriage rides and shopping excitement.   
In the past, the magical site was the Wayzata Children’s Shop on Washington Avenue in downtown White Bear Lake (now soon to be a gourmet pizzeria). When the heavy front door of the Children’s Shop clanged shut, the eyes of each little one turned to the chuckling man in the red suit sitting in the front window. As you waited your turn in line, you were treated to shelves and racks of magical proportions—they had everything from Madame Alexander dolls to hand-carved wooden fire trucks and remote control helicopters. No holiday season was complete without that experience, and each Christmas morning was a little more special for the memory.  

Sara Markoe Hanson is the executive director of the White Bear Lake Area Historical Society. She is one of a handful of community representatives sharing history thoughts monthly on the back page of our magazine.

For more information on the history of Christmas in the area, visit, or call 651.407.5327.