Christmas in America
Today, when many people think of Christmas, some of their fondest images come directly from the popularity of the holiday that grew throughout the 1800s and into the 1900s. For example, Clement Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (or “Twas the Night Before Christmas”) appeared in 1822, while Francis P. Church’s “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Clause” was published in 1897.
Images of Santa Clause were also popping up with regularity, including Thomas Nast’s interpretations in Harper’s magazine from 1863 through the 1890s, and the famous Coca-Cola Santa images between 1930 and 1964. It’s largely from these illusions that we get our present-day image of Santa as either bearded and cloaked, or bearded, red-suited, and jolly.
Today, the Christmas season in the United States starts unofficially with Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, an even watched by millions of Americans both in person and on television. It begin in New York City in 1924, welcoming Santa Claus onto Macy’s balcony, although he’s been ending his parades at Herald Square ever since. Balloons made their appearance in 1927, and continue to become more colorful and elaborate.
More officially, the White House leads the country in celebrating Christmas, with its annual lighting of the National Christmas Tree and the beginning of the Christmas Pageant of Peace in Washington, D.C. Both serve to brighten the nation’s capital and , indeed, the nation.
The overwhelming sentiment of the American Christmas matched its Victorian English counterpart in its emphasis on family, peace, and goodwill. The excesses of medieval times were left behind, replaced instead by a sense of charity toward those less fortunate and a coming together of family and friends. Today, it can be argued that the American celebration of Christmas that grew gradually stronger through the nineteenth century had done much to influence celebrations around the world.
(Jeffery, Yvonne, “The Everything Family Christmas Book”)
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is one of the most popular songs of all time. The character was created by Robert L. May in 1939 in a free, giveaway poem for Montgomery Ward customers. The story was turned into music and lyrics in 1949 by Johnny Marks and was sung originally by Gene Autry.