Joy in Sadness, Harpers Ferry's Civil War Christmas
West Virginia Public Radio
By LIZ MCCORMICK
DEC 23, 2015
Reenactors preparing goods to sell. LIZ MCCORMICK / WEST VIRGINIA PUBLIC BROADCASTING
Every year, dozens of people in Harpers Ferry go back in time. In the shops and at the national park, it's 1864 all over again. It's fun for locals and visitors to see how people in Victorian-era West Virginia celebrated Christmas. But it's also a reminder of how bittersweet it can be for people to try to find a bit of good cheer in the midst of a long and terrible war.
King’s colleague, Melinda Day, is out of her ranger uniform for this occasion. She's wearing a light green plaid dress, and her hair is pulled back in a low bun sort of like former First Lady, Mary Todd Lincoln.
“Because this is a historical park and because we do have a rich Civil War history, we focus on the idea that Christmas and war coexist," Day said, "almost any visitor that walks into this park understands that someplace in this world, American service people are putting their lives on the line even though it may be Christmas, and when a visitor steps into this park for a Civil War Christmas, that’s the same story and relevance that resonates with them in modern times.”
Day says Harper’s Ferry was a strategic site in the war - it switched hands 14 times! And in late 1864, things were changing.
“The war’s coming to an end, and everybody feels that, and you can feel joy while you’re feeling pain. I think anybody that’s been through something like that could nod their head and say, yes I understand that, you can actually experience joy when you also experience pain,” she noted.
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