During the first week of December 1914 throughout Newfoundland and Labrador the conversation in many households was about preparing a ‘Christmas Box’ for the Newfoundland boys who had signed up to fight for King and Country.
If the ‘Christmas Box’ was to reach ‘the boys’ with the Newfoundland Regiment that were stationed in England, it would have to be ready by December 10.
The tradition of the ‘Christmas Box’ is well established in Newfoundland, as early as 1819 the Anglican clergyman Rev Lewis Amadeus in his book ‘A History of the Island of Newfoundland’ observed:
“ [The Christmas boxes are] presents, not in coin. . . but in eatables, from a turkey or a quarter of veal or mutton, or a piece of beef just killed for the occasion, down to a nicely smoked salmon.”
In 1914 a number of St John’s businesses were promoting the notion of sending Christmas Boxes (Hampers) to the young men who had signed up for the war effort. Universal Agencies located at 137 Water Street encouraged family and friends of the Ist Newfoundland Regiment to send the boys “their Xmas Dinner.
Universal Agencies advertised:
“We have just received word from our London connections that should the friends of any of our Volunteers on Salisbury Plain wish to send them Christmas Hampers they will undertake to supply Hampers containing such things as Turkey, Ham, Sausages, Pudding, Mincemeats, Fruit and Confectionary … “
Universal Agencies also advertised that they would offer three different size of hampers, $5.50, $11.00 and $16.50
Families were also told that the ’Christmas Box’ would be incomplete without a package of cigarettes.
“And don’t forget that after a good dinner your boy will appreciate a box of the famous De. Reszke Cigarettes at $1.50.”
In order to make the price of sending a ‘Christmas Box’ cost effective the “ Newfoundland Government removed all duties on smokes going direct to our Soldiers on Salisbury Plains and our Sailors on the Ocean.”
The Christmas Hampers may have been addressed for Pond Camp on the Salisbury Plain where the tented camp was established in October 1914 for the Regiment but by December the Regiment was moved to Fort George, Inverness located in the Highlands of Scotland. The Newfoundland Regiment celebrated its first Christmas away from home with a Regimental dinner and with visits to the many homes of the Scottish people who showed in many ways their appreciation for these young soldiers.
Recommended Archival Collection: http://www.rnr.therooms.ca/part3_database.asp
Recommended Exhibit: The First World War had a profound impact on Newfoundland and Labrador. It involved thousands of our people in world-changing events overseas and dramatically altered life at home. Our “Great War” happened in the trenches and on the ocean, in the legislature and in the shops, by firesides and bedsides. This exhibition shares the thoughts, hopes, fears, and sacrifices of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who experienced those tumultuous years – through their treasured mementoes, their writings and their memories. – – See more at: https://www.therooms.ca/exhibits/always/beaumont-hamel-and-the-trail-of-the-caribou#sthash.HNEnynnP.dpuf