Home for Christmas
by Lois Bolin
Old Naples Historian
WWII changed the ways Americans celebrate this precious holiday but those holiday lights changed the dark experience of war. Many of the changes happened because of shortages, but even more happened because time and distance separated loved ones.
For example, those of us who complain that Christmas decorations are already on store shelves are actually following the tradition set in WWII because of the time it took to ship things overseas. If gifts weren’t shipped by the middle to late October, the “hugs and kisses” in the form of wrapped goodies, would never have made it to the remote parts of the Pacific.
The traditional Christmas tree underwent a transformation due to the lumber needed for the war effort; so artificial trees filled the gap.
Companies also began making cut out prints of ornaments in order to save certain materials needed for the war effort. The glass ornaments, originally made in Japan and Germany, were replaced by the Corning Glass Company, who transformed their light bulb machines to make glass Christmas ornaments.
Even Santa had a makeover. Prior to the war, Santa resembled the European version of Santa Claus; but our Jolly Old Saint Nick received a more American look during the war.
Traditional songs we love to hear during the holiday season such as, “White Christmas,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” “Let It Snow,” were written during this time period and found their way into many films after the war. Perhaps the most famous Christmas song from the war was “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” The song’s sentiments and longings made it an instant holiday classic in America at the front and at home.
Christmas 1945 is known as the greatest celebration in American history. President Truman ushered in the first tree lighting since December 24, 1941, when President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill led a somber ceremony only seventeen days following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Seven years ago, I was invited by the City of Naples Community Services Department to assist with the Christmas Parade’s theme, judging and prizes. Along with the prizes, the winners are announced at the City Council meeting following the parade. My self-prescribed mission was to connect the theme’s meaning to our local history and select an Honorary Chair who would best reflect that meaning.
In honor of the 70th Anniversary of the ending of WWII, I am please to announce that The City of Naples Christmas Parade’s theme is “Home for Christmas, Celebrating An American Family Holiday.”
When speaking to any one of the members of our Greatest Generation, Korean, Vietnam, Cold War Veterans, current Armed Forces or their families, they will say that of all the important things they sacrificed during their service; Christmas at home was the most difficult thing to give up. It was also one of the key memories that gave many Vietnam POWs hope. I know it did for my husband, Wayne Smith.
Our Honorary Grand Marshall this year is a family, whose patriarch served in WWII then came back home to Naples to build legacy of service that is a benchmark for our community. And that family is none other than the Wynn Family of Wynn’s Market and Sunshine Ace Hardware.
Last year my husband (I like saying that word now) suggested that I find some way for our WWII veterans to see the parade. We filmed the parade from 5th Avenue South, which was shown live on the City of Naples Comcast Channel 98. On December 8th, we will film live from the steps of City Hall so the feed is directly uploaded to the City’s Channel, for better viewing.
Today, the American Family Christmas is still one of the greatest joys of life – even when siblings make you crazy or those ugly sweaters, you thought you threw out, magically reappear. With so many family members living far from home today, either in service to their country or due to employment opportunities, we invite you to come Home for Christmas at the 2015 Christmas Parade – live on the streets of downtown Old Naples or live in the comfort of your home.
Note: To give a special gift this year, visit WWII
Veteran, Albert Gonsalves, docent at the Museum
of Military Memorabilia on Mondays and Fridays
from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
He believes our children are not
learning about this period of America history.
we won’t forget. What a gift that will be.
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