The celebration of Christmas in America follows an interesting journey.
In the 1600s, Puritans weren’t allowed to exchange gifts, light a candle or sing Christmas carols.
Many traditions observed today trace their roots to pre-Christian winter festivals. According to Celtic legend, mistletoe brings good luck, heals wounds and wards off evil spirits. The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe began in the Victorian era. Dutch immigrants during the 17th century brought with them the legend of Sinter Klaas. In 1773, Santa first appeared in the media as St. A Claus. Congress proclaimed Christmas a federal holiday in 1870.
The character of Santa Claus is based on St. Nicholas, a legendary Christian bishop who provided for the poor and needy. He also loved children and enjoyed giving gifts to them secretly. During the early 1800s, Washington Irving included Saint Nicolas in a book about New York. Clement Moore is believed to have written the poem that became known by the title “The Night Before Christmas.”
F.W. Woolworth first brought glass ornaments to the mass market in the United States when he imported them from a small German supplier. Candy canes have a long history dating back centuries in Germany, where they were reportedly given to young children to keep them quiet through the Christmas nativity service. The tradition of sending Christmas cards began in the 1800s, along with the introduction of Santa Claus in stores.
By 1890, the Salvation Army had begun the practice of sending individuals dressed in Santa suits into the streets of New York City to solicit donations to pay for holiday meals for the needy.
By the early 1900s, Santa’s image had been standardized to portray a bearded, overweight man dressed in a red suit with white trim. Coca Cola included Santa images in its Christmas advertisements. While working for Montgomery Ward, Robert May wrote a poem about Rudolph, the ninth reindeer. About 10 years later, Johnny Marks wrote the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” which Gene Autry made famous.
Some people believe commercialism blurs the true meaning of Christmas. The word Christmas comes from Christ mass, a Christian commemoration of the birth of Christ.
Still, the beautiful decorations, Christmas cards and trees, delicious foods, fireplace stockings, gift ideas and wrapping, holiday concerts, Nativity scenes, parades and many other products and traditions associated with the season survived because consumers made them successful. Thanks to the free market economy, consumers have choices.
This brief examination of the celebration of Christmas demonstrates how the free market has promoted and provided the Christmas and winter seasonal traditions we enjoy. Christmas remains a sacred religious holiday for many, but worldwide commercial and cultural industries have developed around the holiday.
Enjoy the season. Merry Christmas.