Christmas was known for its brawls and drunkenness until the 1830s. Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison made an interracial anti-slavery movement in Massachusetts. A group of women who already were denied the right to vote, knew that it was important to also fight for the freedom of the enslaved. These Massachusetts women started creating Christmas bazaars in order to sell items that may have been donated while spreading the message of what slaves endured and why they deserved their freedom.
These abolitionist women were looked down upon and were thought of as being promiscuous simply because those high in power were upset with them and wanted to paint them in a bad light. Any male who supported them would be known as “Aunt Nancy men,” which was their way of calling someone a homosexual. This did not deter the women (and many of their male supporters) one bit, so much so that if there were riots against men abolitionists speaking out against slavery, they would form circles to protect the speaker.
In time, these abolitionist women started to use these bazaars as a platform to speak up for slave women and what they endured through their brutal beatings and rapes. It began to stir up major points that it was wrong to also beat their own children when they did wrong. Mothers were implored to restrain from all violence towards others.
Thus came in a new version of Christmas: rewards for well behaved children. They’d give presents when their children did what was right rather than giving beatings when they did what was wrong. Then they used it as a platform towards showing a generous spirit and love to those enslaved and to give them gifts.
These bazaars received such high remarks as time went on, that they used evergreen shrubbery as symbols for their movement, eventually turning it into an evergreen tree, due to a sponsor of the bazaars named Charles Follen, who came from Germany, where the tree was celebrated (it was not yet popularized or used in the US until after this). British author Harriet Martineau had met Charles Follen and dubbed the Evergreen tree as a “flag of freedom.”
Christmas fairs and bazaars became quite loved by northerners. These women worked hard as a band of white and black sisters who did not back up in the fight against slavery. After the Civil War, the group turned towards women suffrage movements.
We can keep these abolitionists in mind whenever we have our Justice Rocks event in order to spread awareness against modern-day slavery and help support businesses that are working towards fair labor and treatment of those vulnerable to enslavement.