In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula about nine miles east of Munising, is home to America’s Christmas Lighthouse and yes, believe it or not, it is a real lighthouse.
The name of the tiny community of Christmas, Michigan, all started back in 1938. At that time a man from Munising built a small roadside factory to make holiday items that were also sold from his location. Although the roadside factory is long gone, the name Christmas, Michigan stuck with this unincorporated community of about 400 people in Au Train Township in Alger County.
The first lighthouses built here were a set of range lights that were first lit on August 15, 1868, way before the time when the area became known as Christmas. The official name of the lights was the Grand Island Range Lights. They were built to guide ships through the channel west of Grand Island.
The rear lighthouse was located in a cupola atop the keeper’s house and the front light was on a wooden tower.
By the early 1900’s the lighthouse had deteriorated so badly that they were demolished. The new rear light was first lit in 1914. The top 32 feet of the lighthouse is actually part of the discontinued Vidal Shoals Lighthouse that once stood on the St. Mary’s River near the Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and was moved here to this location.
In 1968 the front range light at this location was demolished in favor of one of those, what I would call, ugly, tubular steel structures. It is officially named Grand Island Harbor Front Range Light. But the 1914 rear light, known today as the Christmas Light, still stands.
Over time the lights here have been referred to as the Bay Furnace Lights, after the Bay Furnace Company that once operated here. While that might be kind of a neat name for people with an interest in furnace history, it would not suit Santa; since he is used to the cold. And, I’m sure that Mr. and Mrs. Claus, prefer the name that the lighthouse became known as, since that first holiday roadside shop was built here in 1938.
There are several businesses in Christmas, Michigan; and all have the Christmas theme and there is a big image of Santa and Mrs. Claus in the community.
Christmas, Michigan, acquired its first post office in 1966 and was the site of the First Day of Issue Christmas postage stamps in that year. The post office was popular for many years with people mailing their Christmas cards there to have the Christmas, Michigan, postal cancellation put on their holiday envelopes.
Unfortunately, the post office in Christmas Michigan is no longer there. However, the Postmaster in Munising, MI 49862, will be happy to postmark your Christmas cards with the Christmas, Michigan cancellation. Simply mail your cards to him, already addressed and affixed with the proper postage and a note requesting the Christmas cancellation postmark and they will be mailed for you.
We’ve heard from the Elves, that Santa stops at the Christmas Lighthouse for a short break on Christmas Eve and enjoys a warm cup of cocoa that is ready and waiting for him thanks to the efforts of a ranger from the Hiawatha National Forest, which now manages the lighthouse.
Although the post office may be closed and gone, the Christmas Lighthouse, in Christmas, Michigan, is there and will be beaming its light again this Christmas Eve. And, if, by chance, or on purpose, you’re there that night, you might be lucky enough to hear the deep-hearted laugh of a jolly old man with a white beard.
This story appeared in the
December 2007 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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