CHRISTMAS AT THE ARMORY – FROM OBSERVANCE TO CELEBRATION
Contact: James Roberts, (413) 734-8551
SPRINGFIELD, MA: Christmas is banned in Springfield! Few people know that the observance of Christmas was prohibited in Springfield well into the 1800's. It was not until the Springfield Armory's religious observance of the holiday on its grounds that this tradition began in the Town of Springfield.
On Saturday, December 3rd from 1:30pm - 2:30pm it is fitting that 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 1800's, 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," says 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 celebrations familiar to those of today.
Frances Gagnon's credits and accolades on history and preservation include: Lifetime Achievement Champion Award of Springfield Preservation Trust, Lifetime Preservation Award from the Massachusetts Historical Commission, and 28-year member of the Springfield Historical Commission. Gagnon is the author of books and articles on Springfield's history, and is a film consultant for several historical documentaries.
In addition, Gagnon has the distinction of being the only Lifetime Member of the Friends of the Springfield Armory National Historic Site, where she has been a volunteer, lecturer, researcher, tour guide, and political advocate for several decades.
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. It is open daily from 9am - 5pm. The site is wheelchair accessible. Admission is free. For information on this event check www.nps.gov/spar or call 413-734-8551.
Did You Know?
After visting Springfield Armory during his honeymoon, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published a poem in 1845 entitled "The Arsenal at Springfield," which used the racks of muskets stored there as an anti-war metaphor. More...