It’s a joyous time of year. Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hannukah or New Year’s, we hope this season finds you surrounded by friends, family, good cheer, and mistletoe!
Although the traditions we hold dear at this time of year seem timeless, the caroling and merrymaking are actually a fairly modern creation. Though Americans were celebrating Christmas in the early 1800s, Christmas as we recognize it today really became a tradition following the Civil War – the quickly established holiday traditions helped heal the nation after a tumultuous conflict. Immigrants assisted Americans as we adopted many overseas customs as our own.
We adopted the American version of Santa Claus from other cultures. Historians trace the origins of Santa Claus to St. Nicholas, a monk who lived in 280 A.D. near modern-day Turkey. This monk gave away his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the sick and the poor. Americans adopted the name “Santa Claus” from Dutch immigrants, who honored the anniversary of St. Nicholas’ death. The Dutch called him, “Sinter Klaus.” We adopted the Christmas tree tradition from German immigrants.
Of course, business played an important role in crafting what have become beloved parts of our holiday celebrations. As using evergreen trees as a Christmas centerpiece became more common, the decoration of the trees became a cottage industry. Where trees were once decorated lightly with nuts, strings of popcorn, fruit and candy, fashion magazines and crafty ladies raised the standards for tree decoration. Old style decorations gave way to sophisticated and fashionable décor of sparkly baubles, angels, and glittery stars. Tree decoration was big business in the 1870s, and it remains so today!
Gifts, cards joined decorations as a major part of the American holiday tradition. Today, Christmas gift-giving is the single most important sector of our consumer economy. Of course, today’s holiday season typically includes ample gift-giving and quality time spent with family, too.
In the upcoming days and in the New Year, we wish you the gift and tradition of family, friends, and the warmth of a joyous holiday season – happy holidays, merry Christmas, and the happiest New Year.