Springfield – Few people know that the observance of Christmas was prohibited in Springfield well into the 1800s. It was not until the Springfield Armory's religious observation of the holiday on its grounds did the tradition begin in the town of Springfield.
Saturday, Dec. 3, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., the Armory will be the site to honor the city's first Christmas. Noted local historian Frances Gagnon will present a talk and PowerPoint show on Christmas from 1812 – 1950. The event is free to the public. The lecture will help recreate a very different time and provide unexpected insights into the evolution of Christmas celebrations throughout New England's history, and Springfield in particular.
Excluded from the official Congregational community in the town of Springfield in the early 1800s, the Armory workers and their families were only free to observe Christmas at their place of work: the Springfield Armory.
“The Armory established the first official observance of Christmas by fostering religious liberty within its federally-controlled grounds,” said Gagnon.
By the time of the Civil War, the city of Springfield incorporated Christmas for relief campaigns in support of its troops. Within a generation, Christmas changed from an observance of the day to more commercial celebrations familiar to those of today.
The Springfield Armory National Historic Site is the location of the Nation's first Armory (1794 – 1968) and was established by George Washington. The site includes historic grounds, buildings, and the world's largest historic American military firearms collection.
The Armory Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day). The site is wheelchair accessible and admission is free. For information on this event, visit www.nps.gov/spar or call 1-413-734-8551 ext. 223.