Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas During the Civil War

Although certainly celebrated during the Civil War, Christmas did not become an official holiday until 1870, five years after the end of the war. Gift giving was limited to mainly handmade items - dolls, sleds and carved toys for children and baked goods and fruits for everyone.

Decorated trees were popular during the Civil War with some even present on the battle field. At home the trees usually sat upon a table and were decorated with easily- accessible items such as pine cones, brightly colored paper and strings of popcorn and fruit. Occasionally a blown glass ornament or metal whistle could be found on the tree.

While there were no radios or CDs to provide music, songs were sung in church and in the homes. Favorites, then as now, included Jingle Bells, Deck the Halls and Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.

Churches were decorated with holly and greenery and were the center of the celebration for many folks.

After the Civil War, in some areas of the South, the time to celebrate with fireworks was Christmas, rather than the 4th of July. Shops would load up with fireworks and children felt slighted if no fireworks appeared in their Christmas stockings. The practice of celebrating Christmas with fireworks didn't last long, though, and firecrackers were relegated to a more appropriate time. Celebrating with horns and the beating of toy drums continued for New Year's Eve up to the present time.

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