A New England Christmas described by one of its own

Cardinal PrintWe all hear the name Harriet Beecher Stowe and immediately think of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, her ground-breaking novel about American slavery. But she wrote more than that.

In her 1850 book, The First Christmas in New England, Stowe includes a character who complains that the true meaning of Christmas is lost in a shopping spree. While the celebration of Christmas wasn’t yet customary in some regions in the U.S., in 1856, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow noticed that, “the old puritan feeling prevents it from being a cheerful, hearty holiday; though every year makes it more so.” By 1860, fourteen states including several from New England had adopted Christmas as a legal holiday. In 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant formally declared Christmas a United States Federal holiday, and signed it into law.

Stowe was born Harriet Elisabeth Beecher in Litchfield, Connecticut on June 14, 1811. She was the middle daughter of three born to outspoken religious leader, Lyman Beecher, and a deeply religious woman, Roxana Foote. Harriet’s mother died when Harriet was only four years old.

Harriet enrolled in the seminary (girls’ school) run by her sister Catharine, where she received a traditionally “male” education in the classics, including study of languages and mathematics. Her deeply religious upbringing in such a transitory time inspired a book that can still resonate with people.

You can read The First Christmas in New England here.

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