“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” Holiday Related Records in the National Register of Historic Places

Today’s post is by John LeGloahec, Archivist in the Electronic Records Division at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring records from the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and National Historic Landmarks Program Records, 2013 – 2017 (National Archives ID 20812721), a series within Record Group 79: Records of the National Park Service.

With Thanksgiving behind us and December in full swing many Americans are in the holiday spirit with their thoughts on Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. We look forward to a new year and think about what we want to accomplish and resolve to change our ways.

11/23/1982 President Reagan during the presentation of the Thanksgiving Turkey from the President and Executive Vice President of the National Turkey Federation William Prestage and Lew Walts in the Rose Garden. (National Archives Identifier 6919293).

In November the President celebrates the Thanksgiving holiday with the pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey, as President Ronald Reagan is seen doing above. Thanksgiving isn’t complete without the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which wraps up in front of the R. H. Macy and Company Store, (National Archives ID 75315902), AKA Macy’s in Herald Square in New York City. Balloons, like Smokey the Bear depicted below, bands, and floats are a tradition for the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the arrival of Santa Claus marks the official beginning of the Christmas holiday season.

Public Relations – New York (National Archives Identifier 7003064).  “Large balloon version of Smokey Bear made for the 1968 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The height is 58’ and the shovel is 40’ long.”

With all of the social distancing that we are doing this year, we can avoid incidents similar to the one that took place at the Brown Palace Hotel (National Archives ID 84125996) in Denver, Colorado in 1901, where, “acts of great generousity [sic] and great tragedy have, taken place within the Palace. A Thanksgiving dinner for 1500 needy children was hosted by Simon Guggenheim in 1901. Two men were shot to death when they chanced to meet in the downstairs bar and quarreled over a third man’s wife.”

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah took place this year from December 10 through December 18. If you’d like to visit an NRHP property to get in the festival mood, you can visit the Kingsway Jewish Center (National Archives ID 75318425) in Brooklyn, New York. “The Kingsway Jewish Center is located at 2810 Nostrand Avenue . . . with secondary facades on both Nostrand and East 29th, in the Midwood neighborhood of the borough of Brooklyn in New York City . . . Located south of the Kingsway Jewish Center complex, along Nostrand Avenue, is a city-owned playground – the Pfc. Thomas Norton Memorial Playground — which was originally built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and acquired by NYC Parks in 1940 . . . The Kingsway Jewish Center consists of a complex of internally connected buildings serving different functions including the main synagogue block (1951) fronting Kings Highway; school block (1957) behind the synagogue, along Nostrand Avenue; and a catering hall wing (ca. 1957) at the corner of East 29th Street and Kings Highway. Much of the complex was built to the designs of architects Martyn Weston and Herman Sohn. The synagogue is particularly notable for a series of 18 windows designed by prominent Abstract Expressionist artist Adolph Gottlieb.”

12/15/1987 President Reagan Meeting with the Friends of Lubavitch, Abraham Shemtov, Moshe Herson, Shlomo Cunin, Samuel Raichik, Moshe Feller, Israel Shmotkin, Yoseph Groner, Sholom Wineberg, Abraham Korf, and Zelig Rivkinto to Receive a Menorah in the Oval Office (National Archives Identifier 6728689).

There are numerous Jewish synagogues and community centers, like the Kingsway Jewish Center, found in the records of the National Register.

If you are looking for NRHP records regarding the African American experience to complement the Kwanzaa holiday, celebrated this year from December 26 through January 1, 2021, you can explore this listing which includes many churches and other sites of historical interest

Decorating a Christmas Tree (National Archives Identifier 138926743).

If you like to decorate your home you can visit Christmas Tree Lane (National Archives ID 123859027) in Altadena, California, “a six block long hilly street in Altadena that is lined on both sides with 135 Deodar Cedar trees and stone lined gutters . . . Christmas Tree Lane is significant as the most prominently recognized landscape feature in Altadena. The six block double row of one hundred year old Deodar Cedar trees have been an important part of the history of the community since first being planted in 1885 by Altadena’s founders, Frederick J. and John P. Woodbury, as part of their ranch . . . A Christmas Tree lighting ceremony was started in 1920 as a community project and has become a major event for Altadena and the surrounding San Gabriel Valley region attracting hundreds of thousands of people from throughout Southern California and beyond for over sixty years.”

Photograph of J. S. Mason Inspecting a Norway Pine Christmas Tree Cut from a 10 Year Old Plantation on the Laona District (National Archives Identifier 2130123).

Maybe you want to celebrate your holiday with some history, if so, head on down to the Old Barracks (National Archives ID 135814989) in Trenton, New Jersey, one of the “finest specimen[s] of colonial barracks in the United States. It was one of the five barracks erected in New Jersey during the French and Indian War and is the only one left. At different times during the Revolution, American soldiers, English soldiers and Hessian mercenaries were quartered in the barracks, Hessian troops were quartered here during the Christmas night campaign of December 25-26, 1776 when Gen. Washington crossed the Delaware and surprised the Trenton garrison.” You can also stroll over to the Trenton Battle Monument (National Archives ID 135815047) “a triumphal column of granite 150 feet high . . . The column is surmounted by a small round pavilion which gives access to the platform. The pavilion is surmounted by an acanthus leaf pedestal, with a statue of George Washington, right arm outstretched . . . The column rests upon a heavy plinth which in turn rests upon a high, 2 state, pedestal. The upper stage is of ashlar with gauge molding on top, ogee molding at the bottom and bronze cast plaques on 3 sides . . . The plaques depict Washington crossing the Delaware, the opening of the Battle of Trenton, and the surrender of the Hessians. The fourth side has a memorial inscription. The lower stage of the pedestal is a heavily rusticated block with a central entrance door flanked by a pair of bronze statues of continental soldiers.”

Revolutionary War re-enactor Ronald Rinaldi, portraying George Washington, walks to waiting boats before they attempt to cross the Delaware River as part of a re-enactment of Washington’s historic crossing of the river Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2007, at Washington Crossing, Pa. A strong current kept the re-enactors from making the crossing. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke). (National Archives Identifier 7718017).

Maybe you will want to just snuggle up next to the fire with a book and enjoy the holiday season with your family and friends.

First Lady Michelle Obama Reads “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” at the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, Dec. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza). (National Archives Identifier 157650110).

However you celebrate, be safe, be happy, enjoy the holiday season, and we will see you in the New Year!

“Let’s spend Christmas and New Year’s this way! And not in a hospital!” (National Archives Identifier 514885).

Click on any of the hyperlinked National Archives ID numbers above to open the fully digitized records in the National Archives Catalog. The digitized files of the NRHP are detailed and include additional documents, photographs, architectural drawings, and maps.

Have you enjoyed this series? To see even more you can view John LeGloahec discuss these records below in a Know Your Records’ Presentation from NARA’s YouTube Channel.