Honey Springs adds another dimension to Christmas

Santa Claus (Chris Gierut) lists to Zachary Lynn, 4, detail his Christmas list at last year's Honey Springs Christmas Event. Gierut is dressed in a costume that Santa would've worn during the Civil War even though Christmas was not an official federal holiday until 1870. Zachary is the son of Adam Lynn, the director of the Honey Springs Battlefield and Visitor Center. The visitor center will host its second event at 3-5 p.m. Saturday.

CHECOTAH — One can think of many things connected with Christmas. Certainly, the Civil War isn't one of them.

But the Honey Springs Battlefield in Checotah hopes to change that thinking this week.

The battlefield and visitor center, located east of U.S. 69 between Oktaha and Rentiesville, will host its Christmas event for a second year on Saturday. The event will be 3 to 5 p.m.

"I think it's really neat to have a Christmas event surrounded by the history of the Civil War," said Adam Lynn, battlefield director. "Christmas wasn't officially a federal holiday until 1870 when President (Ulysses S.) Grant designated it an official holiday in attempt to unite a still-fractured country."

The event drew 150 to 200 people last year, Lynn said.

To connect the holiday and the Civil War, a Santa in a Civil War costume, which includes red and white striped pants, blue suit and cap and black shoes, along with reenactors in uniform will be at the event this week.

"The Santa costume is made by Martha Ray. She's from Pawnee and well-known for Santa costumes," Lynn said. "The Civil War Santa looks like a flag. It's taken from a drawing of the period. This is a chance for people to remember in a way that's a little bit different. It's a different way to celebrate Christmas that is also fun.

"I don't know of anywhere in Oklahoma one could go to a Civil War battlefield and visitors center and see people dressed as Civil War soldiers, learn about the Civil War, the culture and have fun."

The Battle of Honey Springs, fought on July 17, 1863, took place about two weeks after battles in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and Vicksburg, Mississippi. It was the largest engagement among 107 fought in Indian Territory, or what is now Oklahoma, Lynn said.

Lynn said visitors to the event will also get to see the progress being made inside the visitor's center as permanent exhibits are continually being added. 

"This is also another way to give back to the community," he said. "Any visitor can come out and see we're well on our way to being completed. We've had all kinds of support from the Oklahoma Historical Society, Friends of the Honey Springs Battlefield, the City of Checotah, City of Muskogee and volunteers to make this a reality.

"It's very important to understand this (event) is a different way to honor those who fought for our freedom and here at Honey Springs. We're trying to keep those memories alive. It adds another dimension to Christmas one wouldn't normally think about."

If you go

WHAT: Honey Springs Christmas.

WHEN: 3-5 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Honey Springs Battlefield in Checotah, east of U.S. 69 between Oktaha and Rentiesville.

INFORMATION: (918) 473-5572.

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