Seeking U.N. sanctions against Iran, December 21, 1979, President Jimmy Carter stated in a speech:
“Henry Longfellow wrote a Christmas carol in a time of crisis, the War Between the States, in 1864.Two verses of that carol (“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day“) particularly express my thoughts and prayers and, I’m sure, those of our Nation in this time of challenge…
I would like to quote from that poem:
‘And in despair I bowed my head.
Then pealed the bells, more loud and deep,
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a professor at Harvard, where he taught a student named Phillips Brooks.
Phillips Brooks, born DECEMBER 13, 1835, became the Episcopal bishop of Massachusetts.
While on a trip to the Holy Land in 1865, Phillips Brooks wrote:
“After an early dinner, we took our horses and rode to Bethlehem…
It was only about two hours when we came to the town, situated on an eastern ridge of a range of hills, surrounded by its terraced gardens.
It is a good-looking town, better built than any other we have seen in Palestine…
Before dark, we rode out of town to the field where they say the shepherds saw the star.
It is a fenced piece of ground with a cave in it (all the Holy Places are caves here), in which, strangely enough, they put the shepherds…
As we passed, the shepherds were still ‘keeping watch over their flocks or leading them home to fold.'”
Phillips Brooks returned to Massachusetts in September of 1866 and wrote the carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem“:
“O little town of Bethlehem!
Yet in thy dark streets shineth,
“Go, Tell It on the Mountain” is one of the most popular Negro Spirituals.
It was first published in 1865 in a collection complied by John Wesley Work, Jr.
It was recorded by notable singers, including Mahalia Jackson, who once stated:
“I sing God’s music because it makes me feel free… It gives me hope. With the blues, when you finish, you still have the blues.”
“Go, tell it on the mountain,
While shepherds kept their watching
Go, tell it on the mountain,
The shepherds feared and trembled,
Go, tell it on the mountain,
Down in a lowly manger
In 1865, William Chatterton Dix wrote the Christmas carol, “What Child Is This“:
What child is this, who, laid to rest
This, this is Christ the King,
Why lies he in such mean estate
So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Raise, raise the song on high,
In 1885, “Away in a Manger” was published in a Lutheran Sunday school book. It was edited in 1892 by Charles H. Gabriel and set to music in 1895 by William J. Kirkpatrick:
Away in a manger,
The cattle are lowing
Be near me, Lord Jesus,
In 1829, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Joel R. Poinsett.
He brought back a plant called “Flower of the Holy Night” (Flores de Nochebuena) which supposedly sprang up as a poor boy knelt to worship Jesus.
Joel Poinsett planted it in South Carolina where it began to be called “Poinsettia.”
In 1856, President Franklin Pierce put up the first Christmas Tree in the White House.
In 1862, Thomas Nast, illustrator for Harper’s Weekly Magazine known for the “Republican elephant” and “Democrat mule,”included a “North Pole” sign behind an illustration of St. Nicholas visiting Union troops.
It was meant as a political jab at the South to imply St. Nicholas was associated with the North.
Prior to this, St. Nicholas came from heaven, the celestial city, the New Jerusalem.
In 1862, President and Mrs. Lincoln visited soldiers in Washington, D.C., hospitals on Christmas Day.
On December 26, 1864, Lincoln gave a Christmas reception at the White House.
On Christmas Day, 1868, President Andrew Johnson proclaimed full pardon and amnesty for all who had participated in secession, without reserve or exception.
Beginning with Alabama in 1836, all 50 States came to recognize Christmas Day as a legal holiday.
In 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant signed a Bill making Christmas Day a Federal Holiday.
In 1893, Christmas Day was recognized as an official holiday in the U.S. States and Territories.