“The Splendid Entertainment:” Christmas Eve in Jackson, Mississippi, 1861

I have just returned from a wonderful Christmas Eve meal with friends and family, which inspired me to find out how Mississippians were celebrating the first yuletide of the Civil War. While reading The Weekly Mississippian, I found the answer I was seeking in the December 18, 1861, edition of the Jackson newspaper:

CHRISTMAS EVE ENTERTAINMENT – We are gratified to learn that it is in contemplation to give


an entertainment at concert hall on Christmas Eve, the proceeds of which will be appropriated to charitable purposes. It is said that there is to be a Christmas Tree, and that adults and children will receive tickets with numbers at the door which will entitle them to corresponding numbers which are to be attached to a multitude of prizes on the tree. When the arrangements shall have been fully completed our readers shall be notified.

Curious as to what took place at this Christmas Eve party, I looked through later editions of the newspaper, and was rewarded with the following articles from The Daily Mississippian that were published in the December 25, 1861, issue of The Weekly Mississippian.

On December 19, 1861, the Mississippian gave the following update on the party:

THE CHRISTMAS TREE – The Christmas Tree is being rapidly supplied with prizes by donations from the ladies and gentlemen of Jackson and vicinity, and still there is room remaining for a few more. But few persons have an adequate conception of the vast amount of both valuable prizes and toys for the juveniles the branches of the Christmas Tree is capable of containing. It is thought by those who have a right to know from the knowledge of its construction, that it will display several hundred prizes of great beauty and value, and it is but reasonable to suppose that our entire population will desire to witness this great attraction.

The next day, December 20, the Mississippian carried the following endorsement of the party:

CHRISTMAS EVE – Donations for the Tree will be received at Concert Hall on Saturday from 9 till 5 o’clock. Tickets of admission bearing numbers for the prizes will be sold at the same hours on Monday and Tuesday. This is the first Christmas under the Confederate Government, and the object being patriotic, let there be a crowded house.

On December 24, the Mississippian had one final plug for the Christmas Eve bash:

Christmas Entertainment

We would call attention to the splendid entertainment gotten up by the ladies of Jackson, to come off at the Concert Hall on Christmas Eve.

The Christmas Tree, loaded with its rich gifts, for Christmas presents, will be a sight well worth seeing. Each person buying a ticket of admission will be entitled to a prize, corresponding to the number on the ticket. Tickets only fifty cents, half tickets for children, twenty-five cents, all of which will draw a prize.

Snap 2016-12-24 at 20.49.30.png
“The Christmas Tree” by Winslow Homer, Harper’s Weekly, December 25, 1858.

A raffle will also take place during the evening, for a richly embroidered Vest, and a most beautifully embroidered Child’s dress, both presented to the Ladies Aid Society by Mrs. Angelo Miazza. The proceeds of the entertainment raffle &c., for the benefit of our brave volunteers.

Good music has been engaged for the occasion, and we anticipate the most delightful entertainment of the season. Doors open at 6 o’clock. Tickets to be had at the Post Office during the day, and at the door at night.

In many ways, Christmas Eve 1861 was the last good yule holiday for Southerners. The war was still in its infancy, casualties were few, and hopes were high that the conflict would soon be over. Such sentiments were much harder to believe in the Christmas’ that followed.

To all of my readers, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


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