What the celebrations looked like in the 1918 Spanish flu

2020 was difficult and COVID-19 may have officially turned Grinch and stole Christmas this year.

This, however, is not the first Christmas that humans spend alone. It is not even the first in recent history. In December 1918, preparations for the first war-free Christmas in four years took place in the midst of the worst pandemic since the Black Death.

The 1918-19 flu, very similar COVID-19, came in waves. The deadliest began in the fall, peaked in late November and continued for the first few weeks of December. It has affected hundreds of millions and killed tens of millions around the world.

By 1918, World War I had just ended and many soldiers were returning home for the holidays to see family. Aside from WHO and the CDC, local municipalities have implemented varying restrictions across America, essentially disrupting the holiday season.

In the December 21, 1918 issue of the Ohio State Journal, the state health commissioner cautioned people to “beware of mistletoe,” recommending a “kiss-free vacation” for flu fighters. He also warned against attending parties or gatherings, given the risk of bringing home infections to the family.

“You will show your love for dad and mother, brother, sister and the rest of them better this year by staying at your home instead of paying for annual Christmas visits, holding family reunions and general celebrations,” the commissioner said. time. “It goes against everything we love to do not celebrate the holiday season … And yet we don’t have to. It saddens me to say it.”

On Christmas Eve, the Nebraska State Board of Health classified the Spanish flu as a “quarantinable disease,” according to the December 24, 1918 issue of the Omaha Daily Bee. In Omaha, at least 500 homes were quarantined and none of the people living in a home where there was even a single case of the flu were allowed out “until four days after the fever subsided,” he reports. Fox News.

In the Influenza Encyclopedia – a project curated by historian Howard Markel and produced by the University of Michigan Center for the History of Medicine – documents news coverage of that full Christmas pandemic.

One, in particular, could have been inserted into 2020 with the dates and illness replaced, and it would sound exactly the same: “Several patriotic and charitable organizations, which were supposed to have Christmas entertainments, find it necessary to postpone them due to the flu. If there is a definite change in conditions it may be possible to hold them later. Many private parties have been scheduled.… The balls scheduled for Christmas week at the Town club are as follows: Mr. and Mrs. William Sawyer will entertain for their daughter , Miss Polly, on Christmas Eve; Mr. and Mrs. Albert Elser will entertain for their daughter, Miss Elizabeth, Thursday evening “, from Milwaukee Sentinel, December 22, 1918.

Even some churches, just like in 2020, had closed their doors to effectively force the quarantine, he reports New York Times. Many families also celebrated Christmas with empty chairs at the table.

In the end, it may have been more than a century since the last pandemic that stole Christmas, but this isn’t the first to stop and the Christmas cheer is limited to close family members only.