How Did Slaves Celebrate Christmas?

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I hope your holiday is filled with scrumptious foods and good fellowship with friends and family. I will be cooking Christmas dinner tomorrow. I can smell the pumpkin pie I popped in the oven baking as I compose this blog. Yummm.

How did slaves celebrate Christmas? How they celebrated depended on whether they worked in the fields or in the plantation’s ” Big House.” House slaves spent many hours before Christmas preparing food and decorating for the plantation owner’s holiday parties. Their own celebrating had to wait until they finished their work. Field slaves, however, received a full week off at Christmas, and often referred to this vacation as “Big Times.” Relatives on neighboring plantations were allowed to visit if their owners wrote them a pass. Belligerent slaves were not allowed this privilege. Christmas was usually the only time a slave saw his family, if he or she was fortunate enough to live near family members.

What did slaves eat for Christmas dinner? During the year, a field slave received a weekly ration of fat back and cornmeal. After a long day in the tobacco fields, a slave would mix his cornmeal with water to make ash cakes, so called because the raw dough was patted into cakes and placed in the hot fire ashes to cook. There was never enough to eat. Slaves were always hungry. So Christmas dinner, which might be a chicken provided by the Big House, was a welcome change.

How did slaves celebrate? They enjoyed singing and dancing. Masters often provided the men with liquor to keep them contented. Some slaves preferred to earn money during their time off if their masters allowed.

We often hear how commercial Christmas has become, or how little we celebrate Jesus. But looking back at a slave Christmas makes me thankful for what we have now. How do you celebrate Christmas? Let me know.


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