The Victorian Christmas had it all. In this episode, it takes a dark turn thanks to the powerful lessons brought on by the American Civil War.
Is it wrong to say this is an important episode?
Candidly, I tell you few episodes have affected me as emotionally as this one did. It was necessary to dig deep into journals and letters from this time period. What they went through, how they felt and what they said is frankly haunting.
For these years, what happened with the war turned Christmas into a sobering, reflective time for everyone.
Nobody was immune and all had to endure Christmases that were frankly painful for what they missed. But Christmas was also a heartfelt teacher during these years. Their lessons are ones we simply cannot ignore.
Nobody teaches us more about the tragedy of the times and the meaning of Christmas — and Thanksgiving — than the singular and surprising figure of Abraham Lincoln.
We explore Lincoln’s personal Christmas history like few have ever done. While it is not noted at all by most historians we give Lincoln his due not because he was a huge fan of Christmas but because he understood the joy and the pain of Christmas to nearly every generation around him.
He saw it — and he reacted to it in brilliant, significant ways.
Lincoln partnered with a much younger but infinitely talented man named Thomas Nast. The Victorian Christmas would be marked by the imprint of Santa’s image that Nast left behind.
Though Lincoln’s tenure was brief his impact on both Thanksgiving and Christmas should never be forgotten. He helped shape what we call today the American Christmas.
The Civil War was also a huge turning point in technology. We explore all of that in this episode. How trains changed mass transportation — and Christmas. And how what was bought for Christmas shifted so quickly after the power of industries adjusted to post-war life. We learn that Christmas turned from the homemade to the store-bought largely due to the advances brought on by the war.
We explore how the war left emotional scars that are still felt today. We dig into the numbers of the Civil War. And we break it all down to a very personal level, as well.
If you listen to only one episode in this series about the Victorian Christmas, make it this one. That’s how important it is.