The Christmas season offers many opportunities to take part in holiday traditions which carry a great deal of meaning for many Americans. Each year, Americans from around the country gather in our Nation’s Capital to celebrate the season at two prominent holiday events at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. The lighting of the United States Capitol Christmas tree is an annual custom that symbolizes the national importance of the Christmas season. This popular holiday tradition originated on Christmas Eve 1913, when a 40-foot Christmas tree was placed on the East Front of the Capitol. It included the words: “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men.”
The importance of Christmas in our history has been apparent since the early days of the American Revolution. On the night of December 25, 1776, General George Washington and his army crossed the icy Delaware River into New Jersey, in a prelude to a surprise attack against troops allied with the British at the battle of Trenton. The subsequent American victory was a huge morale boost for the Continental Army and the American public, and a pivotal turning point in the war for Independence. One year later, after a string of defeats by the British, Washington and his army retreated into their winter quarters at Valley Forge, a week before Christmas.
Later, in an effort to reunite a nation still healing from the wounds of the Civil War, President Andrew Johnson unconditionally pardoned “every person who directly or indirectly” fought for the Confederacy on Christmas Day 1868. Through the years, American families have traditionally observed Christmas in their homes and places of worship. In 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant officially declared December 25th a national holiday.
We are fortunate to live in a country where our freedoms and rights are firmly established and protected. The responsibility of protecting these rights and for keeping our Nation strong falls upon the men and women who serve in our armed forces. Many service members spend holidays away from friends and loved ones.
There are a number of organizations that provide citizens with an outlet to express their appreciation and support to those who bravely defend the United States overseas. One of these organizations, Operation Show Our Love, was founded by Chris and Cindy St. John of Brookville, Ohio. Operation Show Our Love brings a touch of home to the men and women of our military by collecting items such as DVDs, magazines, snacks, chewing gum, toothpaste, and other everyday necessities, and ships them to troops around the world. The organization has shipped 4,001 care packages and over 111,506 pounds of goods to servicemembers in 28 countries and at sea. To learn more about Operation Show Our Love, please visit their website at: www.operationshowourlove.org or contact Cindy Millikin St. John at CindyMillikin@gmail.com.
As you gather with family and friends this holiday season, please take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas aside from the crowded shopping malls and exchanging of gifts. Remember in your prayers this holiday season our brave troops who are deployed around the world and unable to spend this holiday with their families, as well as those who are less fortunate here at home. On behalf of my wife and our two daughters, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season.