Celebrate history at the Peace Arch this Christmas Eve

By Steve Guntli

The community is gathering at Peace Arch State Park to celebrate the anniversary of the park’s namesake monument with a ceremony on Christmas Eve.

The Peace Arch was built to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in 1814. The treaty effectively ended the War of 1812, and in doing so established a lasting peace between Canada, Great Britain and the United States. In 1914, the Peace Arch monument was commissioned to commemorate the centennial of the signing, but the dedication was delayed by the onset of World War I. The monument was eventually completed in 1921.

To celebrate the bicentennial of the Treaty of Ghent, the United States Canada Peace Anniversary Association (USPCAA) will host the Peace Bicentennial Celebration open house from 3 to 7 p.m. at Peace Arch State Park’s American Kitchen.

Christina Alexander of the USPCAA is organizing the event, along with a group of about 15 to 20 dedicated volunteers.

“It’s been a big blessing to have encountered several different families that have chosen to spend their holiday in an activity that celebrates the whole community,” Alexander said.

The goal is to create a sort of living history of the area. Volunteers in period costumes will perform in historical vignettes, representing 1814, 1914 and modern day.

“We’ll have some people doing readings from each era,” Alexander said. “There are a lot of war journals from those times, and a lot of poetry.”

One of the vignettes will celebrate the famed Christmas Truce of 1914, in which German and British soldiers along the Western Front held a ceasefire for Christmas. Some platoons went so far as to exchange gifts with the enemy soldiers.

Alexander has borrowed exhibits and artifacts from Fort Langley, the Lynden Pioneer Museum and the Canadian Consulate in Seattle to provide an accurate history of the time periods represented.

“We’re trying to make history fun,” Alexander said. “It’s a way to engage people and personalize it for them. We want people to enjoy their history.”

In addition to the vignettes, the celebration will feature live musical accompaniment and homemade snacks. Additionally, Alexander said the Peace Arch will be lit up with LED lights for the holidays. She and her volunteers are still looking for additional LED lights to string up along the long hedges at the base of the monument. Anyone with spare lights can contact Alexander at christina@peacharchpark.org.

The evening will conclude with a candle lighting ceremony. Attendees will be invited to light more than 200 candles in the spirit of remembrance and peace. Volunteer coordinator Laura Vogee said the candle lighting service will celebrate the monument as well as the holiday season.

“There’s a lot of talk this time of year about peace on earth,” she said. “The Peace Arch is a very real example that lasting peace is possible.”

The open house will begin at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, December 24. A Washington State Discover Pass is required for parking. For more information, visit peacearchpark.org.

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