Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For nearly two millennia Christmas has been observed by traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Popular customs include the decorating of the Christmas tree, exchanging gifts, attending church, and spending time with your friends and family and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive (History.Com/Christmas).
In the early 17th century religious reform had swept over England and changed the way Christmas was celebrated from earlier beliefs. In 1645 a leader named Oliver Cromwell had tried to rid England of decadence. As a part of their efforts they eliminated the celebrating of Christmas in England. With a popular vote Charles the II returned to the throne bringing the Christmas holiday with him, allowing Christmas to spread (History.Com/ American).
Christmas began in America whenever the pilgrims, English separatists who came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result of these beliefs, Christmas was not a holiday in early American culture. From 1659 to 1681, Christmas was banned in the city of Boston. Anyone expressing their Christmas spirit was fined up to 5 shillings (equal to 33.35 U.S. dollars). By contrast, in Jamestown, Captain John Smith said Christmas was to be enjoyed and passed on without incident. (History.Com/ American)
After the American Revolution (1775-1783) most English customs fell out of favor including Christmas. Our national government’s first Christmas under the new Constitution was spent in session on December 25, 1789. Christmas wasn’t actually declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870 by President Ulysses S Grant. At first Christmas only employees of Washington D.C. were allowed off; it wasn’t until 1885 that Christmas time was extended to all federal employees. However, Christmas was not truly embraced by most Americans. Americans reinvented the Christmas holiday, and changed it from a raucous holiday to a day of peace and nostalgia. (History.com/ America)
Washington Irving re-invents Christmas
In 1819, best-selling author Washington Irving wrote The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, a series of stories telling about the celebration of the Christmas in an English manor house. The sketches tell about a squire who invited the peasants into his house for the holiday. In contrast to the American society, the two groups mingled effortlessly. In Irving’s mind, Christmas should be a peaceful, warmhearted holiday bringing groups together across the lines of...