A local newspaper summed up the holiday season in Columbus and central Ohio in 1918 well when it noted, almost in passing, in a long article describing local events:
"It was a happy Christmas in Columbus."
As well it should be. The holiday season always is a time in which hope and happiness make their best efforts to triumph over the coming of winter.
But in this year, the people of central Ohio had more than a few reasons to feel better. The most cruel and deadly war in human history was over. It was no accident that an entire generation of people around the world would call this conflict the Great War. It remained as such until a larger and even more deadly war came along a little more than 20 years later.
But that was all in a future that few in 1918 could imagine.
For now, the war was over and "the boys" were coming home. The great training and mobilization camps were beginning to wind down their operations and large numbers of American soldiers were gathering at European ports. Most of the American Expeditionary Force would not be home by Christmas.
But there still were a lot of soldiers in Columbus on Christmas Day. Some were wounded men who had come home to recover. Others were men in training who would not see the combat they had been trained to undertake. Still others were men who had completed their duty and now were being welcomed home by the happy residents of central Ohio.
And there were more of those residents, as well.
As the United States prepared to go to war in 1917 and 1918, most American industries converted from peacetime to wartime production, and with local, state and federal financial support, many new factories and facilities were constructed. All this activity was accompanied by longer hours and higher wages.
Attracted by the lure of this expansion, many people left their homes in rural and small-town America and came to the city. The African-American population of Columbus doubled between 1917 and 1920.
How did all these people celebrate the first Christmas at peace since the outbreak of what would come to be called World War I? Perhaps, not surprisingly, they celebrated in much the same way they had the previous couple of years.
An important part of recent local holidays had been singing. In an era when many people get their music electronically, it may be forgotten that back then, those who wished to hear people singing had to go to where the singers were.
Choirs singing in churches, as well as local groups singing for the troops and the public, were extraordinarily well-received after the outbreak of war. In time, these efforts led to larger and larger groups of people singing together in what came to be organized as "community sings."
Perhaps one of the largest of these events in the recent history of the city took place on Christmas Eve 1918, when 500 girls -- members of the Patriotic League -- gathered near Broad and High streets and sang for a large group of people gathered nearby. It was a cold night, with a sharp wind and a fine mist in the air trying to become snow but not quite succeeding.
Unfazed by the weather, the girls sang long and well and then split into smaller groups. Boarding open-bed freight trucks, they set off to sing carols in every neighborhood near the downtown, cheered on in their travels by soldiers and civilians alike.
On Christmas Day, the major theaters in town were open and delighted to see who was arriving at the box office. In the face of the deadliest influenza epidemic in history, Columbus officials had banned children from attendance at local theaters, parks and other facilities. Local schools had closed, as well.
But the epidemic seemed to have ended. Children were permitted once again to be out and about. And since children are what much of this holiday is about, out they came.
They were hungry, too. The menu from the State Restaurant at 13 1/2 E. State St. reveals what they might have eaten:
"Michigan Celery, Ripe Olives, Mock Turtle Au Madeira, Broiled Jumbo Whitefish maitre de hotel, Roasted Vermont Turkey, Oyster Dressing, Cranberry Sauce, Candied Yams, Cauliflower Polonaise, Head Lettuce-Orange Salad, Ice Cream, English Plum Pudding-Brandy Sauce, Hot Mince Pie, Coffee."
The menu notes the restaurant provided music from 5:30 to 7 p.m. -- and all at just $1.50 a plate.
It was a nice place for a nice time in a world at peace.
Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.