Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Soldier's Christmas

Peace on Earth. It’s what we all wish for, not only at Christmastime, but throughout the year. Wars don’t stop for Christmas, but soldiers not actively engaged in fighting on Christmas day strove to celebrate the holiday in ways that reminded them of home. In fact, many of our beloved Christmas traditions came out of wartime celebrations and Christmas became a federal holiday in 1870, five years after the end of the Civil War, in an attempt by President Grant to reconcile the still divided north and south. 

Prior to the Revolutionary War, Christmas in America was a quiet, religious occasion and not celebrated with a lot of outward festivities and fanfare. Many historians credit the Hessian soldiers from Germany, who fought in America alongside the British, with introducing Christmas trees to the United States. Decorated trees were just starting to become popular when the Civil War broke out, and at least one account records Civil War soldiers as decorating their tree with “hard tack and pork” – materials they had on hand, just as they would have used popcorn, dried fruit, pinecones, and homemade paper decorations had they been celebrating at home. Later generations of soldiers did their best to maintain established traditions, with visits from Santa, wrapped gifts arriving from loved ones, singing carols - many of which originated during the years leading up to the Civil War, and decorations made from foil, tin cans, and anything else they could make with salvaged materials and creativity.

On Saturday, November 30 the grounds and first floor of the Keith House at Graeme Park will be open for free tours from 12:00 noon-6:00 p.m. with soldiers representing different wars encamped on the property demonstrating how Christmas was celebrated on the battlefront during different eras throughout our history. Crafts, ornaments and refreshments will be available for purchase in the Visitors’ Center and we're working on rounding up some musical entertainment.

Call 215-343-0965 for details. Directions are available on our website at

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