You may think it strange for me to be writing about taking down our Christmas decorations. Here it is the latter part of April and that is just what I’m doing. Soon after Christmas we traveled to Florida, so we simplified the project and left most of our decorations up in the attic, bringing only some of them downstairs.
But when we returned from the south, there it was, the Christmas wreath still on the door, the tree still looking as it did when we left, the manger figures still on the fireplace, with the huge pine cone wreath on the wall, above. This wasn’t my idea, no, it was my husband’s, and now, trying to avoid the task of removing the decorations at this late date, he has suggested adding flags for Memorial Day, and leaving it that way for Flag Day, some artificial flowers to denote summer and…. you’ve got the idea.
So who finally packed everything away? I did! Since there was no big hurry to get it done, I found myself enjoying many of the special tree ornaments, and the memories they brought to mind. The old, celluloid ostrich, with a young rider atop it, belonged to my
husband’s grandparents. I tucked the ones back into the special box marked,”1974.” Those our daughter had made. A ball marked with the year 2000, came from friends, now deceased. I was so impressed that they would send out, many of these, imprinted with the name, “Jesus.” That was their way of expressing the real meaning of Christmas. I’ve always loved the “bird in a nest” ornaments, they truly belong in the Christmas tree. There were several, shaped like accordions, one is an organ grinder, these representing my husband’s interests. Dear to my heart are the ornaments with grandchildren photographs. One of the last ones to be put away was the likeness of Uncle Sam, marked with the year 2001. There was nothing significant about the year, except when we purchased it, but I’ve always like this emblem representing our country. I remember, as a child, seeing Uncle Sam in pictures and posters, especially the one used for recruiting men into the armed forces which reads: “I Want You.” This was during World War II. If ever I were to begin a collection, it would probably be Uncle Sam memorabilia. But I’ve chosen not to be a collector of anything because that would mean that there would be two of us in one house, two is just too many.
I thought I knew all about Uncle Sam until I began to research the subject. This personification of the U. S. government came into use, not during World War II, but during
the War of 1812. Although many figures, like Uncle Sam, are symbolic, this one’s origin is an actual man. Samuel Wilson, settled in Troy, New York. His firm, E. & S. Wilson, supplied meats to the Army. The boxes of supplies were stamped with the initials U.S. meaning the United States, but because Sam was often called Uncle Sam. Soldiers thought the initials were his. He became famous as the person feeding the army and eventually he became a national icon. We’re all familiar with the Uncle Sam figure. I’m especially fond of it because its popular use marked a time when people loved the country for which it stood and expressed their loyalty and love of it.
There were other personifications representing our country. One of these was
“BrotherJonathan.” Because he was popular during the Civil War, his appearance in political cartoons, often resembled that of the beloved Abraham Lincoln. During this period Uncle Sam aged and acquired a beard. It was easy to confuse these two and use them interchangeably but Brother Jonathan was the country itself while Uncle Sam was the government and its power.
To confuse matters even further, during the 19th century, “Columbia,” was visualized as a goddess-like female personification of the United States. She was sometimes called “Lady Columbia” or “Miss Columbia.” Her image was never fixed, but she was most often presented as a woman wearing classically draped garments decorated with the stars and stripes and wearing a
cap of liberty. Statues of “Columbia” may still be found in parts of the United States, but she has largely been replaced by another statue, “Lady Liberty,” our country’s statue of liberty. Uncle Sam eventually replaced Brother Jonathan.
It’s rather amazing that because we delayed putting our Christmas decorations away, it led to research revealing interesting history about our nation. I want to say “beloved” nation, for which we are all proud, many giving their lives for it, but sadly our country seems to be losing it national identity and with it seems to be the loss of respect and honor for it. I wonder what your opinions are on this subject? At the bottom of Shirl and You there is a place where you may type your thoughts. I hope you’ll do that.