Home Front Friday: 75th Anniversary of the First Home Front Christmas
Home Front Friday is a regular series that highlights the can do spirit on the Home Front during World War II and illustrates how that spirit is still alive today!
The days were supposed to be merry and the times bright, but in the case of American’s first Home Front Christmas in 1941, this was not a family’s typical holly jolly season. Pearl Harbor had been attacked 18 days prior to Christmas day and the U.S. was now a part of the world war. Some men were drafted, others enlisted. Women headed to the factories and children began collecting metal scraps. It was only a few weeks into U.S. involvement with the war, but this Home Front was already unified, and in this unification they demonstrated one of the true meanings of Christmas. It was, and still is, a time of the year to set aside differences, to celebrate and to unify with one another in honor of the spirit of the holiday season. Although they may not have been celebrating with numerous amounts of gifts, a lot of food, and seasonal travel, people were realizing that the effort they had put in on the Home Front had already helped reach highs in production. Through their constant work, they would be one small step closer each day to helping reach the end of the war, which was far off in the distance.
On this day, December 23, 1941, in the world of politics and the fight to devise plans to end the war, Winston Churchill met with President Roosevelt at the White House. The first Home Front Christmas for the White House was nothing shy of somber. Rooms were decorated more with maps and military plans rather than with tinsel and lights. The Roosevelts’ four sons had left for war and their daughter was out of town. It was as if Christmas was just another day following the Pearl Harbor attack in which they had to come to terms with the fact that the U.S. was now an actual part of the conflict. If you have more of an interest in exactly how Christmas eve and day were spent at the White House in 1941, check out this article featured in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
A Christmas Tree lighting was held, and President Roosevelt delivered a speech that reminded the American public to not let their spirits hang low, but rather to unite with one another as a nationwide support system that was fighting to restore freedom. He stated, “Our strongest weapon in this war is that conviction of the dignity and brotherhood of man which Christmas Day signifies – more than any other day or any other symbol.” Follow this link if you wish to read his whole speech. Roosevelt dedicated the 1941 Tree Lighting to those armed forces who were preparing to head off or were already overseas.
In the 1941 world of pop culture, Bing Crosby released a radio broadcast of the infamous song, “White Christmas,” on December 25. A rather slow song, not very upbeat, and kind of sad, “White Christmas,” struck a chord with the American public and by 1942, Crosby had released recordings of this seasonal song for public distribution. The tune paralleled with the Home Front’s feelings of nostalgia for a world before war, even though 1941 was just the beginning for the U.S.
Families still decorated their homes with a small tree covered in ornaments and lights, but the ornaments they used were not all made of aluminum or tin or metal. A lot of them were home made of paper or some sort of thing from nature, like a pine cone. With the do it yourself culture on the constant rise today, it is not uncommon to find many homes at Christmas time, or during anytime of the year really, decorated with handmade objects compiled from paper, scrap wood, and coated with a little bit of paint. It’s never too late to throw a new ornament up on your tree, so here are some instructions for a snowflake ornament made from paper.
- 6 pieces of paper (you can use computer paper, wrapping paper, scrapbook paper, whatever type and design you want)
Step 1: Fold each of your pieces of paper diagonally then cut off the rectangle strip.
Step 2: Cut three strips that vary in size into each of the triangles
Step 3: Open up the triangle. It should form a diamond shape.Step 4: Fold the inner most slits and tape them together.
Step 5: Flip the diamond sheet over and now fold the next level of slits and tape them together.
Step 6: Continue this process until all of the cuts of each of the six pieces of paper have been folded and taped.
Step 7: Staple or tape (your choice) three of the twists together at the center. Then do the same with the other three.
Step 8: Now, staple (or tape) the two parts together at a central meeting point.
And now you’re finished. Add some color and hang it from your tree or around your house.
Posted by Camille Weber, Education Intern and Lauren Handley, Assistant Director of Education for Public Programs at The National WWII Museum.