Moffat County residents gather around a Christmas tree set up on the corner of Yampa Avenue and Victory Way during a community Christmas celebration Dec. 24, 1917. At the time, community holiday celebrations were more popular than smaller, church-based events.

Photo courtesy of the Museum of Northwest Colorado

Moffat County residents gather around a Christmas tree set up on the corner of Yampa Avenue and Victory Way during a community Christmas celebration Dec. 24, 1917. At the time, community holiday celebrations were more popular than smaller, church-based events.

A wartime Christmas

Moffat County residents made Christmas memorable for soldiers, community in 1917

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— December 1917.

The world was at war, and young men and women from across the nation were serving in the military or in medical units, leaving friends and family behind.

Northwest Colorado was no exception when it came to losing residents to the war.

Christmas was different that year for Moffat County residents as they rationed their supplies and waited for their loved ones fighting abroad to come home.

Still, they found ways to make the holidays memorable, both for those in uniform and for themselves.

The Christmas season began that year with an American Red Cross fundraiser.

The event included an auction, a dance and various "carnival attractions," The Craig Empire reported. Ultimately, the fair benefited Moffat County soldiers temporarily stationed in Camp Kearny, Calif.

Earlier that year, local women had made sweaters for these soldiers and sent them to Camp Kearny.

But there was a problem.

The camp had miscounted, and as a result, 18 soldiers were without sweaters.

The Moffat County Red Cross chapter responded, organizing an auction that would raise funds to purchase additional sweater supplies.

"It will be up to the men to contribute, for all will admit that the women are doing their share," The Craig Empire reported.

And contribute, they did.

The Craig Empire announced it would donate 500 custom-made letterheads and matching envelopes to the fundraiser.

A soliciting committee gathered donation pledges for the auction. One resident, staying a step ahead of the game, donated a lamb before the committee could begin its campaign.

Locals were urged to help shoulder their portion of the war burden.

"In these strenuous times, when nations are fighting for their very existence and for humanity, all must resolve to go the limit," newspaper staff wrote. "Let us contribute something worthwhile to this Red Cross fair, then go back to the sale and buy it back if it appears to be going too cheap."

While Moffat County residents provided for their troops serving abroad, they also found means to celebrate Christmas on the home front.

Craig hosted its first community Christmas celebration that year. The event was scheduled the day before Christmas so community members could finish their shopping and attend the celebration in one trip.

Community Christmas celebrations were in vogue that year and were portrayed as a "powerful factor in the elimination of factionalism and petty jealousies," The Craig Empire reported.

In contrast to the small, church-based celebrations of previous years, "The modern plan is for all to join together in a celebration in which no denominationalism figures, the participants realizing only the importance of the day and dwelling for a time at least under the banner of the brotherhood of man," the newspaper reported.

In the spirit of the season, the celebration wasn't limited to Craig residents. Everyone within a 40-mile radius of Craig was invited to attend.

Entertainment included local musical performances and a speech from Santa Claus.

War rationing made traditional Christmas foods scarce. Still, candy, nuts and fruit and popcorn were provided for both children and adults.

A large Christmas tree, set up at the corner of Victory Way and Yampa Avenue, sat at the celebration's center.

"It is not likely that the tree will be laden with anything very elaborate in the way of gifts, but it is certain that there will be a mighty good Christmas treat for every girl and boy who gets within sound of Santa's voice that afternoon," The Craig Empire reported.

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