Aside from liberty, holidays generally provided the most enjoyment to sailors of the New Steel Navy. Celebrations on board ship were festive, elaborate affairs. Ships were decorated, sumptuous feasts prepared, and musical performances and games were held. At right, the Thanksgiving feast on board the cruiser USS Charleston can be seen, in 1893.
Traditional holidays were celebrated with great fanfare: New Year's Eve, Washington's Birthday, the Fourth of July, and Thanksgiving. Christmas was of course one of the most festive occasions. This 1904 photo of engineers on board the cruiser USS Baltimore, stationed off China, gives a sense of what Christmas was like. The sailors have decorated the ship with sprigs of evergreen, and other hanging ornaments. A fine meal is spread out before them.
A Rowdy Wardroom Toast
Like every other part of life at sea, holiday celebrations were mostly segregated. Officers and enlisted sailors enjoyed their meals separately, as seen in this sketch of a Christmas toast in the wardroom of the battleship USS Kansas during the cruise of the Great White Fleet. The officers wear formal attire, and are standing on their chairs, around an elaborately set table.
Food at sea was of varying quantity and quality. Holidays were a chance to feast on delicious, long desired foods. This Christmas menu from the USS Oregon features such delicacies as oyster soup, ham, turkey, candied sweet potatoes, and fruit salad.