Peace on Earth. It’s such a central message of the Christmas season, but wars don’t stop for Christmas. Nor do they prevent Christmas from being celebrated by soldiers far from home fighting for that peace. In fact, many of our beloved Christmas traditions came out of wartime celebrations.
Prior to the Revolutionary War, Christmas in America was a quiet religious occasion and not celebrated with a lot of outward festivities. 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 catch on 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 that reminded them of home, with visits from Santa, wrapped gifts arriving from loved ones, decorations, and usually a special Christmas meal.
On Saturday, November 24 the grounds and first floor of the Keith House at Graeme Park will be open for free tours from 3:00-8:00 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 and refreshments will be available for purchase.
Call 215-343-0965 for details. Directions are available on our website at www.graemepark.org.