In 1943, the war was two years old; however, across the U.S., many homes were torn apart as fathers, brothers, uncles, and sweethearts and friends were drafted. For the duration, homes would be empty of loved ones during the holidays. To boost morale, Bing Crosby’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” became the favorite Christmas song for the duration of the war. And for a handful of families who lived in Lincoln, Illinois, during World War Two, Bing’s song kept the home fires burning within the hearts of the small town of Lincoln’s wives and children.
Logan County, Lincoln, Illinois, Citizen Soldiers in WWII.
In January 1944, a handful of men (“fathers and non-fathers,” Lincoln Illinois’ newspaper The Lincoln Courier put it) volunteered or were drafted. This group was the first citizen draft group to leave Lincoln and serve their country. Three men volunteered and seven fathers enlisted that bitter January, including Jim Adams, my main character Laurie’s father, from my WWII novel-in-progress.
Some of these men would experience landing on the beaches of Normandy in June 1944, or trudge through the harrowing Battle of the Bulge in Winter 1944.
While the men spent Christmas on the war front, the families celebrated a quiet Christmas on the home front, and even though there weren’t many presents under the tinsel tree, ration stamps had been saved up to purchase sweets and extra food for the holiday season.
Decorating for Christmas involved the idea of simplicity, mostly out of necessity because it gave families something to do together. Children would write Christmas cards to make Dad feel like part of the festivities. Mom and kids would send Dad large care packages, filled with cards, candies (M&Ms), cookies, pictures, and other treats.
Here are a few facts about the holidays on the home front during WWII:
- Because all the men were off to war, there was no manpower to cut down the lush Christmas trees, and there was not room on the railroad cars to ship them to tree farms. Did that stop anyone from getting a tree? No. Americans rushed to buy American-made Visca artificial trees for seventy-five cents.
- As if there wasn’t enough snow outside, Americans brought the snow inside. They mixed a box of Lux soap powder with two cups of water and brushed the concoction on the branches of their tree to give it a snow-covered appeal.
- As soon as the war began, many Americans threw their German blown-glass ornaments and exotic Japanese ornaments in the trash. Soon, Corning Glass Company in New York produced Christmas tree balls using machines designed to produce light bulbs. Thus, came the Shiny Brite ornaments and other ornaments.
- However, if Americans could not purchase new ornaments, the made do with what they had by making their own ornaments out of non-priority war items, such as paper, string, pine cones, or nuts. The shortage of materials—like aluminum and tin—used to produce ornaments led many people to make their own ornaments at home.
- Electric bubble lights were created during the 1940s and are still popular.
- July 1945, the film “Christmas in Connecticut” was released, and the song “Let It Snow” hit the charts.