How did American slaves celebrate Christmas? Though many belonged to wealthy families, they themselves were poor and shared only a small fraction of the families’ lavish festivities. Many slaveowners granted their slaves a day or more of rest at Christmas time. Some also provided them with gifts of food, including nice cuts of meat, which was rarely eaten during the rest of the year. Some owners also allowed their slaves to visit relatives who lived in different places. Slaves enjoyed these simple pleasures, activities that many slaveowners took for granted the year round.
On average, many slaveowners gave their slaves about three days off during the holidays; some slaves received an ample amount of relaxation time for Christmas, others received fewer days ago, if any at all. On some plantations, slaves were authorized to select a yule log to burn in the main fireplace of the manor house. Since the slaves’ holiday lasted as long as the log burned, naturally, they tried to pick what appeared to be a slow-burning log. This way, the Christmas holiday could possibly be extended until January.