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Christmas 1945: The Greatest Celebration in American History Hardcover – November 1, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 220 pages
  • Publisher: History Publishing Company, LLC; 1 edition (November 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933909455
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933909455
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #289,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Some of the most memorable Christmas presents come in small, unadorned packages. They grow in meaning as you look more deeply into them, and draw the mind into unanticipated offshoots and byways.

This is certainly the case with Christmas 1945, a deceptively thin but meaty volume by Matthew Litt (History Publishing Company)

It is as the subtitle says, "The story of the greatest celebration in American history." Its focus on the surface is the first Christmas after the end of World War II when nylon stockings were still scarce but the spirit of the holidays was not. Lights were on in the nation's largest cities for the first time--in many ways: lights of hope, with the realization that troops were finally coming home from Europe and Asia, and that war plants would soon be making tin toys for Santa's stockings again.

So why should anyone today want to read Christmas 1945, unless they have a nostalgic feeling for the time or love wars and their histories? The book offers much more than that, and focusing on one series of events rather than attempting to do another comprehensive overall view of a decade is an excellent idea.

The book is a launching point for contrasts, then and now, big city and small town. One remembers the lack of a reception the small-town boy received when he sat alone in a little cafe in southeast Kansas after returning from service in Vietnam in the 1960s without the honor of a parade. What a difference compared to the reception given in small towns and large when troops returned from World War II to a grateful nation, as told by Litt's simple eloquence.

What a contrast also with the previous Christmas. In 1944, the Allies thought they had the war nearly won when the last days of turmoil broke out in a wooded, mountainous region of Germany. The Battle of the Bulge was to be the last major conflict of a war winding down, a Christmas conflict which would lead in a few months to the surrender of the Nazis and the Japanese. If Christmas 1944 was a frightening reminder that the war was not really over yet, Christmas 1945 was a collective prayer, a nationwide sigh of relief.

Litt, 32, the talented but unassuming author, is a New Jersey lawyer with a degree in politics. His book, purposely, is not a ponderous pretender, claiming to look into all events surrounding the war. But his finely-honed and trimmed approach is a way through the use of footnotes and documentation to find more if you wish. Read the book as a snapshot of hope in a time gone by, or as a view of how people today might learn from the past as they measure their response to returning servicemen and women...with policy questions, perhaps, but gratitude for service.

Part of the book's charm and impact is in its human interest approach--employing every-day people in service or out, while keeping the use of military or historical documents or tales of strategy to a minimum. Another plus is in the use of newspapers of the time, small and large, to tell the tale of the returning combatants or to editorialize about the spirit of Christmas in 1945. Sources include the Lincoln Journal (NE), the Oakland Tribune (CA), the Athens Messenger (OH) and the Big Spring Herald (TX).

A big and busy Camp Crowder in Neosho, MO is mentioned, as is Independence, MO, the home of Harry Truman, who succeeded the embattled wartime president and commander-in-chief Franklin Delano Roosevelt. President Truman, Litt writes, insisted upon braving a storm to fly home to Missouri from the White House for his first postwar Christmas dinner.

The fact that Litt found digging through old newspaper clippings about Christmas 1945 more interesting than his dealing as an attorney with white-collar insurance fraud has given us a highly readable, unpretentious, often personal, local and touching story that is a --Bookvues.com, Alan Caruba, Nov. 29,2010

From the Back Cover

"Matthew Litt brings us a refreshing memory of how very special Christmas was in 1945, and how wonderful we who experienced it felt as we realized what "Peace on Earth actually meant.'"
- Mike McCormack, WWII Veteran, five term U.S. Congressman.

"The Christmas of 1945 was one to remember and celebrate, as this volume so poignantly points out."
- William F. Winter, Esq. WWII Veteran, former Mississippi Governor

"Matthew Litt captures so well the exuberance, joy, and sharing of that special season, which can never again be repeated, but can be remembered as a highlight of our lives."
-Angus Lorenzon, child POW, author A Lovely Little War."

"Christmas 1945 reminds me of the Christmas magic that was always in my childhood."
-Ann Blyth, actress, singer, Academy Award nominee

"Christmas 1945 is a present for all of us who remember that wonderful time, and a sound investment for those who wish to know about it."
-John Downes, financial author,Barron's Dictionary of Financial and Investment Terms."


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By mariwinn on November 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
by Jack L. Kennedy

Some of the most memorable Christmas presents come in small, unadorned packages. They grow in meaning as you look more deeply into them, and draw the mind into unanticipated offshoots and byways.

This is certainly the case with Christmas 1945, a deceptively thin but meaty volume by Matthew Litt (History Publishing Company)

It is as the subtitle says, "The story of the greatest celebration in American history." Its focus on the surface is the first Christmas after the end of World War II when nylon stockings were still scarce but the spirit of the holidays was not. Lights were on in the nation's largest cities for the first time--in many ways: lights of hope, with the realization that troops were finally coming home from Europe and Asia, and that war plants would soon be making tin toys for Santa's stockings again.

So why should anyone today want to read Christmas 1945, unless they have a nostalgic feeling for the time or love wars and their histories? The book offers much more than that, and focusing on one series of events rather than attempting to do another comprehensive overall view of a decade is an excellent idea.

The book is a launching point for contrasts, then and now, big city and small town. One remembers the lack of a reception the small-town boy received when he sat alone in a little cafe in southeast Kansas after returning from service in Vietnam in the 1960s without the honor of a parade. What a difference compared to the reception given in small towns and large when troops returned from World War II to a grateful nation, as told by Litt's simple eloquence.

What a contrast also with the previous Christmas.
Read more ›
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Sherry on November 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book reminds us what the spirit of Christmas is all about; and that it never dies, even after years of hardship and war. "Christmas 1945" is so uplifting, you read it with a smile. It's great to read after an exhausting day of shopping! If you were around during that era or were born long after, this book can be an inspiring read, year after year.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Rick on November 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
While growing up my grandparents told me stories about this time period. Their stories were brought to life by this book and so many fond memories of my grandparents rushed back as I read Christmas 1945.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By lindapanzo on October 26, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an interesting look at wartime Christmases as well as the first postwar holiday. Beyond talking about what was going on here in the U.S., the author took a look at the military's desperate effort to get servicemen and women home in time for the holidays and what happened when that wasn't possible. (Many got back to the U.S. but not quite home.)

A look at the first postwar Christmas in Europe is also included, as well as an examination of America's generous spirit. Somewhat oddly, there's also a chapter on Christmas 1945 in American jails.

If you're really interested in reading about Christmas studies or World War 2, you would probably enjoy this book, too.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Patricia A. Sullivan on March 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are very few pictures in this book. I was dismayed when I first got it but I gamely started reading and discovered that the author created pictures with his words. I felt transported back in time to my folks' ages and that Christmas long ago. What a cohesive society we became! It seemed as if everyone had a kindness to share or verbalize. I loved one story that took place in Colorado at a train station involving a town and a train load of sailors heading to their destinations. I won't spoil the story because it is mighty fun to read. We also stop in and visit Harry Truman in Missouri and cover the west coast pretty comprehensively. I would buy this book again and give it to someone to read to just feel good. I felt optimistic about life after this book. Enjoy! Makes a good weekend of reading. I gave it four stars due to the lack of pictures but I feel guilty doing so.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Siddal on February 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Litt tells such neat stories in this book, and it is a wonderful look back at what America was in the middle of the last century. Some of the facts about Christmas in Europe are very bleak, but they give us so much reason to be grateful for what we have today. It is an enjoyable read that brings heartwarming surprises about what Christmas-keepers are capable of.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Charfish on January 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was written by an Ithaca College friend of mine, which is why I picked it up. I enjoyed reading it, as I was not aware of how big a celebration Christmas was in 1945 after WW II. It was interesting hearing accounts of what life was like back then and how people pulled together to provide the best Christmas they could possibly have through rationing and little means for the men and women who fought in the war. He touches upon how Christmas was like in the White House, in small towns, cities, Europe, people who were still in active duty, jails and even what the holidays were like for people of the Jewish faith. I enjoyed reading about the little things that made the holiday so special - the fact that they could use Christmas lights for the first time in 4 years (because of rationing electricity), the most coveted gift was women's nylons, and the actual letters from children to Santa who just wanted a real doll or train set along with their dad/uncle/family friend to come home safely. Makes you appreciate the small things. :)
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