Civil War Stories: Christmas Greeting

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Joanna Redesiuk/Fotolia
A special Christmas tradition began for family shortly after the end of the Civil War.

Many of my grandfather’s slaves remained with him after the War between the States, and I grew up hearing stories of them.

It was the custom at Christmas for the male slaves to.go into the woods and select the largest log they could find to burn in the fireplace as the Yule Log, for as long as it burned they were free to do no heavy work.

Christmas morning the Master and Mistress would have the servants bring the boxes of clothing, extra goodies and other Christmas gifts and follow them to the slave quarters out back. The slaves met them shouting, “Here comes Master and Mistress with Christmas Gifts!” and “Christmas Gifts a-comin’!” Out of this came the greeting that our family always used every Christmas morning. Instead of “Merry Christmas,” we would greet everyone with “Christmas Gift.” Later my father delighted, when we were grown and in homes of our own, in calling us on the telephone very early Christmas morning and beating us to the greeting. We were wise to him, and we’d shout, “Christmas Gift” first thing when we took down the receiver.

One story we always demanded our grandfather to tell was of the two slave babies who were left in their cradle by their mother who ran away with a Union soldier. My grandfather found them crying in her cabin, and took them to the big house and had them cared for. Their legs were badly bowed and he made splints so that they grew up with straight legs. These little boys were bright and everyone grew attached to them, but about two years later the mother returned with her husband, demanded her children, and my grandfather had to give them up. This was a great heartbreak for the family. However, the boys returned from time to time to visit, and in their adult years they were porters on the C. B. & Q. railroad and would stop off to see my grandfather.

Leslie Laughlin
Scottsbluff, Nebraska

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then CAPPER’S WEEKLY asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.