Christmas Past, Present and Future
The historic Marshall House was built in 1870. 227 North Street is the manifestation of the love blacksmith John Marshall, had for his wife, and that love can be felt in the home's walls and halls. Love and family is especially important this time of year, when loved-ones gather together, sheltering one another from the cold dark days of winter, and shine a little brightness within the warm walls of the family home. But, this time of year didn’t always hold such a place in the American heart. The Marshall House came about just as the country, as a whole, was realizing the need to pause, breathe out the previous year and breathe in the new one, with peace and community at heart.
Before 1870, there was no standard tradition for the Christmas Holiday. The day was not a national holiday, and families tended to celebrate, borrowing the traditions from their countries of ancestry.
Then in 1870, President Ulysses Grant made Christmas a federal holiday. During this time, the works of author Washington Irving were exceedingly popular and praised looking back to ancient traditions. His writing celebrated the idea of different types of people, in a community, coming together to celebrate common traditions and give forth wishes of peace for the year ahead. People borrowed old traditions and customs from European countries, like lighting Yule logs, singing carols and hanging festive wreaths.
Christmas became an increasingly important time for families to celebrate at home. More and more Christian Americans also began to follow the European traditions of Christmas trees and giving gifts. Dutch immigrants celebrated the feast of St. Nicholas on December 6th, German immigrants brought decorated trees into their homes, and the exchanging gifts became an important aspect of boosting a post-war economy.
The Civil War tore the country apart, and this new national holiday about peace, love, and togetherness spoke to the hearts of communities across the country. The changing political and social climate at the end of the 19th century had many longing for the traditions of times past. Holding onto the traditions of their ancestors, sharing those with their new home and community, brought neighborhoods together and aided in unifying the country as a whole.
The traditions of this holiday season are here to celebrate all of the things that America represents, then and now. The seamless combination of the old and the new, the nostalgic and the contemporary, the antique and the modern. These community traditions and our ever-changing national virtues, come together in a time of reflection but also to communicate our hopes of peace and growth in the year to come.