History of Christmas in America. Founding Fathers ignored it

Mollybdamned American Atheist 2008/12/02 20:10:27
If Congress was in session 12/25/1789 why do they need a long break now?
Christmas has only been a Federal Holiday since 1870 wow
So it was the Dutch that started the gift giving at Christmas
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Christmas history in America

In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas. By popular demand, Charles II was restored to the throne and, with him, came the return of the popular holiday.

The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. By contrast, in the Jamestown settlement, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all and passed without incident.

After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America’s new constitution. Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.

Washington Irving reinvents Christmas
It wasn’t until the 19th century that Americans began to embrace Christmas. Americans re-invented Christmas, and changed it from a raucous carnival holiday into a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia. But what about the 1800s peaked American interest in the holiday?

The early 19th century was a period of class conflict and turmoil. During this time, unemployment was high and gang rioting by the disenchanted classes often occurred during the Christmas season. In 1828, the New York city council instituted the city’s first police force in response to a Christmas riot. This catalyzed certain members of the upper classes to begin to change the way Christmas was celebrated in America.
In 1819, best-selling author Washington Irving wrote The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, gent., a series of stories about the celebration of Christmas in an English manor house. The sketches feature a squire who invited the peasants into his home for the holiday. In contrast to the problems faced in American society, the two groups mingled effortlessly. In Irving’s mind, Christmas should be a peaceful, warm-hearted holiday bringing groups together across lines of wealth or social status.

Irving’s fictitious celebrants enjoyed “ancient customs,” including the crowning of a Lord of Misrule. Irving’s book, however, was not based on any holiday celebration he had attended—in fact, many historians say that Irving’s account actually “invented” tradition by implying that it described the true customs of the season.

Before the Civil War
The North and South were divided on the issue of Christmas, as well as on the question of slavery. Many Northerners saw sin in the celebration of Christmas; to these people the celebration of Thanksgiving was more appropriate. But in the South, Christmas was an important part of the social season. Not surprisingly, the first three states to make Christmas a legal holiday were in the South: Alabama in 1836, Louisiana and Arkansas in 1838.

In the years after the Civil War, Christmas traditions spread across the country. Children's books played an important role in spreading the customs of celebrating Christmas, especially the tradition of trimmed trees and gifts delivered by Santa Claus. Sunday school classes encouraged the celebration of Christmas. Women's magazines were also very important in suggesting ways to decorate for the holidays, as well as how to make these decorations.

By the last quarter of the nineteenth century, America eagerly decorated trees, caroled, baked, and shopped for the Christmas season. Since that time, materialism, media, advertising, and mass marketing has made Christmas what it is today. The traditions that we enjoy at Christmas today were invented by blending together customs from many different countries into what is considered by many to be our national holiday.
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  • Peggy 2008/12/05 13:01:21
    All of the above
    Enjoyed reading this. Thanks.
  • Jincks013 the Liberal Veteran 2008/12/03 11:57:29
    Interesting History, Christmas has gone through a lot of changes
    Jincks013  the Liberal Veteran
    The custom of gift giving dates back tens of thousands of years in midwinter festivals noted by many peoples and amazingly none of them revolved around the abrahamic beliefs! Imagine that!

    I liked the history of the holiday as it pertains to our country though. I do have to wonder why it was ok for congress to work the week of xmas in 1789 but not in 2008?
  • mtqueen3 2008/12/02 23:50:07
    Interesting History, Christmas has gone through a lot of changes
  • Mollybd... mtqueen3 2008/12/03 00:03:05
    Mollybdamned American Atheist
    HI mtqueen, I have learned doing genealogy that the history that we were taught might not be what actually happened. So, it's fun to look into. Thanks :)
  • Tonio31~E Pluribus Unum~ 2008/12/02 23:26:34
    Interesting History, Christmas has gone through a lot of changes
    Tonio31~E Pluribus Unum~
    Thanks for sharing
  • Mollybd... Tonio31... 2008/12/02 23:42:31
    Mollybdamned American Atheist
    Hey there, you betcha now let's party. :)
  • BronxBob 2008/12/02 20:21:34
    Christmas has only been a Federal Holiday since 1870 wow
    It's a great secular holiday which neither Christians nor their detractors should mess with!

    christmas federal holiday 1870 wow secular holiday christians detractors mess
  • Mollybd... BronxBob 2008/12/02 20:32:34
    Mollybdamned American Atheist
    HI Bronx, LOLOL I prefer Solstice.

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