By David J. Kent
Friday, December 16, 2022
As the year 2022 nears its conclusion, I want to take a few moments to wish everyone a happy holiday season!
This month seems filled with holiday celebrations. Admittedly, some of them seem a bit contrived, although I'm all for "National Chocolate Covered Anything Day" on December 16th. But among the frivolous are some of our most heartfelt celebrations of faith in our common humanity. Hanukkah begins on the evening of Sunday, December 18th and runs through December 26th. Christmas is on December 25th, with Christmas Eve the night before and Boxing Day the day after. Kwanzaa also comes to us on the 26th. There are many more.
In Lincoln's day, holidays like Christmas were not celebrated as much as they are today. Lincoln did not send out Christmas cards. He didn't even set up a Christmas tree. Most often, he worked. It was President Ulysses S. Grant in 1870 who signed a congressional bill into law making Christmas a national holiday. That said, General William T. Sherman did give to Lincoln the city of Savannah (Georgia) as a Christmas present.
That’s not to say that Christmas wasn’t important. In fact, Christmas was getting a lot of press in the 1850s, which is one of the reasons why Grant did what he did. The brutality of the Civil War also played a role in the resurgence of Christmas in American life. Ironically, it was the non-religious aspects of Christmas that saw the biggest growth during this period. Not the least of which was the popularization of Santa Claus.
While Santa may have had some origins in St. Nicholas and other regional folklore, he evolved into the jolly old elf we know today thanks in large part to Thomas Nast, a prolific illustrator and cartoonist for Harper’s Weekly magazine. It was Nast who first introduced Santa Claus (aka, Father Christmas) – as a recruiting tool for the Union army! One iconic image from the January 3, 1863 issue of Harper’s, has Santa “on a sleigh handing out packages to Union soldiers in Civil War camp.”
Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Festivus, or another holiday, we want to wish all Lincoln Group of DC members, families, colleagues, and strangers a wonderful, happy, and productive holiday season!
2022 was a spectacular year for the Lincoln Group of DC, but we're already looking forward to an equally great year in 2023. Please join us. Check out our upcoming events (new ones always being added), catch up on Abraham Lincoln news, and if you're not a member, now is a good time to join in the fun!