Boom! Traditional Christmas Cannon Fired in St. Michaels

Volunteers in authentic uniforms of the Maryland Militia during the War of 1812 will fire a cannon like the one shown here on Saturday along the Miles River.

It’s a Christmas tradition you probably don’t practice with your family each year: the firing of the “Christmas Cannon.”

But this weekend, the early 19th-century tradition is coming back with a brand new program at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum along the St. Michaels waterfront.

Interpretive volunteers, dressed as members of the Maryland Militia during the War of 1812, will demonstrate the loading and firing of a reproduction, 6-pounder iron field artillery piece.

The Fort McHenry Guard and the Chesapeake Independent Blues will hold the program from noon to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, December 8. Chesapeake Independent Blues’ Mark Dubin explains that the practice of firing a cannon after Christmas Mass became a religious custom in Quebec by the mid-18th century, after it was brought to the Americas by European immigrants.

“St. Michaels acquired two artillery barrels by August of 1813 as compensation for an unwelcomed prank played on the Town earlier that year by resident Jacob Gibson. In keeping with the American custom of the firing of guns for holidays, it is probable that the militia of St. Michaels would have fired the Town’s artillery for notable occasions such as the 4th of July, New Year’s Day, and Christmas, beginning as early as 1814.”

The Christmas cannon-firing program is free for Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum members, or included with general museum admission for non-members. For more information, go to the “Friends of Maryland’s War of 1812” Facebook page, visit, or call 410-745-2916.

-Meg Walburn Viviano