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‘To Absent Friends’ – Lisburn at Christmas during World War One.

Christmas is a time when separation from loved ones is most keenly felt. The separation from one’s family in times past was often eased by the giving and receiving of Christmas cards. This was especially true in times of conflict, when one family member was serving overseas. This week’s Virtual Museum post looks at two World War One era Christmas cards, showing how a Christmas message to those on the front line reminded them of those who were waiting at home.

Our first collection item is a card from 1915. Depicting ‘Christmas 1915’, the card displays an angel showing a soldier his home far away in a town covered in snow. Cards such as these, with religious pictures and upbeat verses were often used to keep the spirits of soldiers up during dark and challenging times. Cards were initially banned by the Government, who cited reasons of security for doing so. However, it was soon realised that they were a morale booster for the troops and for those back at home.

Christmas 1915 (ILC&LM Collection)

The importance of sending cards to family on the frontline was highlighted by the Lisburn Standard in 1914, the first Christmas of the war. Advertising cards from local publisher Victor McMurray, the Standard exclaimed ‘Don’t let the War prevent you from sending Christmas greetings to your friends both and home and in the trenches’. Telling readers that cards would be appreciated this year, more than ever, the paper also implored its readers not to buy Christmas cards made in Germany!

Christmas 1916 (ILC&LM Collection).

The second item in the collection is from the following year, Christmas 1916. Perhaps this year more than the previous Christmases telling a loved one they were missed was important. The heavy local losses suffered throughout the year, in particular by 36th Division at the Battle of the Somme, hit home very hard. This card depicts a soldier on his knees in prayer in front of a vision of Jesus and the angels, with the soldier’s family in prayer at church just beyond. Reading ‘The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent from one another’. The inscription on this card reads to ‘our absent friend’ from ‘members of the Cathedral, Lisburn’.  

Happy Christmas from all at Lisburn Museum. 

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