YOUNGSTOWN - The holiday season offers a community the chance to gather with friends and family while reflecting on the past.
In keeping with this tradition of marking important eras in the American experience, the Arms Family Museum in Youngstown is offering visitors an opportunity to go back 150 years to Christmastime during the Civil War.
The museum is hosting a "Memories of Christmas Past" presentation profiling the era of the 1860s, as well as displaying artifacts from the period along the halls and walls of the three-level stone building.
Greg and Mary Birskovich of Youngstown view a Christmas exhibit on Saturday at the Arms Family Museum in Youngstown. The museum is hosting the “Memories of Christmas Past,” which focuses on the Civil War era. Photo by Ashley Newman
Traci Manning, curator of education for the museum, was the speaker during Saturday's presentation, which had about 50 people in attendance. She will hold two more presentations at 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. today.
"We do have the traveling exhibit from the Ohio Historical Society on display, as well as some of our own stuff," Manning said. "We just wanted a way for folks to be able to go even further back than 50 years ago."
Highlights of Manning's lecture include familiar traditions, such as the Christmas tree, which became popular in the 1840s. Also, poems and books like "A Visit From St. Nicholas ('Twas the Night Before Christmas)" written by Clement C. Moore in 1822 and Charles Dickens' 1843 classic, "A Christmas Carol,'' were celebrated during the Civil War.
When you go
WHAT: ''Memories of Christmas Past,'' Christmastime during the Civil War
WHERE: Arms Family Museum, 648 Wick Ave., Youngstown
WHEN: Museum hours, 1 to 5 p.m. today; presentations, 2 and 3:30 p.m.
ADMISSION: $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, $4 for children, and free for 3 and younger
"Those things were there in December of 1862," Manning said. "These are traditions that not only Civil War soldiers had grown up with, but things that we've grown up with 150 years later."
Chuck Beltz of Boardman braved Saturday's snowfall to attend the presentation.
"Listening to a little bit of the history about what they did at Christmastime during the war in incredibly interesting to me," Beltz said. "It's important to know where you came from. I find great interest in going back and seeing how things were before me."
Greg Birskovich of Youngstown left impressed by the artifacts and design of the exhibits.
"It is very beautiful and it is obviously due to the hard work of the fine folks here. The older you get, the more meaningful the past events are to you," Birskovich said. "You sit back and reflect periodically. Youngstown has an awful lot to be proud of in their past and even in their future and today."
Some of the exhibits include Soldiers' Aid Society notes and boxes housed in rooms designed to the Civil War era. The Soldiers' Aid Society was a private organization providing Northern soldiers with the supplies they needed to carry on the war.
"It was a way civilians were trying to make Christmas better for the folks who were on the battlefront," Manning said of the organization. "We also have some examples of original clothing and even a little boy's costume from the Civil War era."
Manning points to other similarities between the 1860s and today.
"I think just this Christmas alone, we had so much to look back on with the recent tragedies. How do we sit around our holiday table and celebrate given what happened in Connecticut just a couple of weeks ago and even on Christmas Eve with the two firefighters who were killed in upstate New York?" Manning said.
"We wanted to make the connection that there was kind of the same thing during the Civil War. Was that next knock on the door going to be someone telling you that your loved one had passed away?
''We are trying to link the past to the present, not only with the traditions they were celebrating, but also some of the more difficult things. We also have to remember we are fighting wars today, too," she said.