The first Christmas cards were commissioned by Sir Henry Cole and illustrated by John Callcott Horsley in London on the 1st of May 1843. The central picture showed three generations of a family raising a toast to the card’s recipient: on either side were scenes of charity, with food and clothing being given to the poor.
In the 1600’s the Puritans made it illegal to mention St. Nicolas’ name. People were not allowed to exchange gifts, light a candle, or sing Christmas carols. From 1659 to 1681 in Boston anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings.
The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas.
The name Santa Claus evolved from the Dutch nickname Sinter Klaas, a shortened form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas). Santa is also known as Kris Kringle and Father Christmas.
Krampus a beast-like creature from the folklore of Alpine countries thought to punish children during the Christmas season who had misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards well-behaved ones with gifts. Krampus is said to capture particularly naughty children and drag them off into the black forest.
Poinsettia plants are named after Joel R. Poinsett, an American minister to Mexico, who brought the red-and-green plant from Mexico to America in 1828.
The first states to make Christmas a legal holiday were Alabama in 1836, Louisiana and Arkansas in 1838.
The first president to decorate the white house Christmas tree in the United States was Franklin Pierce.
Germany made the first artificial Christmas trees. They were made of goose feathers and dyed green.
Electric Christmas tree lights were first used in 1895. The idea for using electric Christmas lights came from an American, Ralph E. Morris. The new lights proved much safer than the traditional candles.
One of the main reasons we have the custom of giving and receiving presents at Christmas, is to remind us of the presents given to Jesus by the Wise Men: Frankincense, Gold and Myrrh.
Rudolph the red nosed reindeer is the creation of Robert L. May , a copywriter at the Montgomery Ward department store who wrote a Christmas-themed story in 1939 to help bring holiday traffic into his store. May told the story of Rudolph, a young reindeer who was teased by the other deer because of his glowing red nose who later saves the day by leading Santa’s sleigh.
May’s friend, Johnny Marks wrote the song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in 1949. The song was recorded by Gene Autry and became his all-time best seller. Next to White Christmas it is the most popular song of all time.
One custom at Christmas-time was to place a sprig of mistletoe above a door frame or hang it from the ceiling of a dwelling. Anyone who lingered under the mistletoe could be given a kiss.
In 1931, the Coca Cola Corporation contracted the Swedish commercial artist Haddon Sundblom to create a coke-drinking Santa. Sundblom modeled his Santa on his friend Lou Prentice, chosen for his cheerful, chubby face. Santa’s fur-trimmed suit was designed as a bright, Coca Cola red and the current image of Santa in a red and white suit was born.