Christmas has always been a celebration in America. We celebrate the birth of a savior. Freedom of religion is what brought the pilgrims to America. But with the end of World War II, America had something else to rejoice--the war was over.
A Time to Celebrate
December of 1945 was a time to celebrate and be thankful for the men and women who would make it home alive. It was a time of reuniting families, giving gifts, and feasting on a sumptuous Christmas dinners.
Getting them home
But before any of that could happen the United States had to get their soldiers home.
Ships loaded with troops fought rough seas to deliver their cargo home on time for the holidays. But when the ships did arrive the troops found they had another problem. With the influx of American sons and daughters arriving from the war, the rail system was overwhelmed. According to a December 19th 1945 newspaper article up to 82,000 service men and women headed home for Christmas were stranded in West Coast ports. San Francisco had their share of stranded troops. Residents of that city opened their homes to the soldiers for Christmas dinners. The Midwest and East coast didn't fare any better. East and west rail lines converged in Chicago where thousands more servicemen couldn't get the needed ticket home. New York Central system refused to sell tickets on eastbound trains due to stampeding, impatient passengers. It is said 40 trains a day were needed to get the soldiers home with only 4 available.
Lighting of the National Tree
Christmas Eve 1945, at 5:00pm President Truman surrounded by Secret Service officers made his way through the crowded South Lawn to celebrate Christmas with the lighting of the National Christmas Tree. The tree had remained dark since December 24, 1941, when President Roosevelt and good friend Prime Minister Churchill held a somber ceremony just seventeen days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Approximately 10,000 attended the 1945 tree lighting while millions listened in at home on their radios. To conserve resources during the war, most trees remained unlit from 1942-1944.
The first post war American Christmas also saw a change in toy and ornament manufacturers. Once the United States was reliant upon Germany for these products, but America became self-sufficient after the war and began manufacturing their own. The toys and ornaments made in the United States were less expensive than those purchased from Germany. Mattel Toymakers was founded in 1945.
I'm giving away a copy of A Cup of Christmas Cheer Tales of Christmas Past. Answer one of the questions: What do you know about the end of the war and Christmas? What is something about WWII that you'll never forget? I'll be drawing a winner on December 11th.
I'm excited that my story, "The Letter," is included in this year's A Cup of Christmas Cheer in the Tales of Christmas Past.
Debbie Lynne Costello is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. She attended Heritage University, where she studied Journalism and worked in the editing department.
She has a short story coming out in Guideposts 2014, Christmas Cup of Cheer on October 20th. She has completed five full length novels set in Charleston and Savannah areas in the late 19th century along with one Medieval, and is now seeking homes for them.
She and her husband have four children and two grandbabies. They live in upstate South Carolina with their family. Debbie Lynne has been raising Shetland Sheepdogs for 18 years and her and her husband enjoy their Arabian horses.