by Paul R.
July 30, 2007
Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's The Deal? - (Part 6 - VI)
December 16, 2008 08:12 AM EST (Updated: December 18, 2008 10:10 AM EST)
views: 210 | comments: 10
CHRISTMAS BECOMES AMERICANIZED! AND SANTA CLAUS IS BORN!
(Okay so I'm posting this one up a wee bit early, but I finished it and was so excited that I couldn't wait to share it with you all.)
Another Essay in my Winter Holiday Series of essays. Take a look at past entries here:
Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 1 - I)
Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? - YULE -(Part 2 - II )
Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 3 - III)
The Feast Of The Nativity and The Birth Of Jesus. - Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's the deal? (Part 4 - IV)
Christmas: Yule, Saturnalia, Winter Solstice; What's The Deal? - NO CHRISTMAS FOR YOU! - (Part 5 - V)
Also, don't forget to check out these articles of intrest:
Santa Claus! Who is he? Where did he come From? (A Brief History)
And; Open Letter To The People Who Presume There Is A "War" On Christmas.....
The Early nineteenth century in America was a very rough time, Unemployment was at an all time high during the early part of the 1800s. There was tensions between the States about slavery that ultimately lead to the Civil War. The States even saw Christmas in a different light. In the Northern States NorthernerÂ’s saw sin in the celebrations of Christmas and thought that Thanksgiving was a more appropriate holiday. Meanwhile those in the Southern States saw Christmas as an important part of the Social structure and seasonal festivals, itÂ’s not surprising that Christmas was made a recognized holiday in several of these southern states long before it was made a federal holiday in the 1870s.
However, lets back track about thirty or forty years or so to around 1819 and a man named Washington Irving. Washington Irving wrote several short stories which was featured in his book Â“The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon.Â” In the book Irving wrote 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 stories depicted harmonious warm-hearted holiday traditions he claimed to have observed in England. Although some argue that Irving invented the traditions he describes, they were widely imitated by his American readers.
IrvingÂ’s publications were a huge boost in revitalizing the image of Christmas in America. Also, a key part of making Christmas more enjoyable in America and at the same time introduced a widely popular Christmas time figure that has reached icon status and is still honored today Â– is a poem titled Â“Twas The Night before ChristmasÂ” -- that was written by a Episcopal minister, Clement Clarke Moore in 1822. The Poem was originally titled Â“An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas.Â” Santa Claus was a figure that pre-dated the 1822 poem and the history and origin of The Santa Claus is deserving of an essay all on its own. However, Clement Moore is responsible for making the imagery associated with this figure as popular as it is today, also, without MooreÂ’s poem Santa probably would not have became so popular.
MooreÂ’s poem also helped to popularize Christmas Eve Â– Santa Claus waiting for the children to get to sleep the now-familiar idea of a Santa Claus who flew from house to house on Christmas Eve Â– in "a miniature sleigh" led by eight flying reindeer, whom he also named Â– leaving presents for deserving children. "An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas," created a new and immediately popular American icon. In 1881, political cartoonist Thomas Nast drew on Moore's poem to create the first likeness that matches our modern image of Santa Claus. His cartoon, which appeared in Harper's Weekly, depicted Santa as a rotund, cheerful man with a full, white beard, holding a sack laden with toys for lucky children. It is Nast who gave Santa his bright red suit trimmed with white fur, North Pole workshop, elves, and his wife, Mrs. Claus. But again, this is a topic deserving of its own Essay.
While Christmas in America was transforming, across the pond in jolly OleÂ’ England, people were helping Christmas transform as well. On December 19th 1843 a novel was published that would soon propel the Author into the history books and revitalize his career. The Novel was called Â“A Christmas CarolÂ” the author? You guessed it, none other than Charles Dickens. Dickens story emphasized the importance of charity and good will towards all humankind. This struck a powerful chord in the United States and England and showed members of Victorian society the benefits of celebrating the holiday.
The family was also becoming less disciplined and more sensitive to the emotional needs of children during the early 1800s. Christmas provided families with a day when they could lavish attention-and gifts-on their children without appearing to "spoil" them.
As Americans and Europeans began to embrace Christmas as a perfect family holiday (thanks to people like Irving, Moore, and Dickens), old customs were unearthed. People looked toward recent immigrants and Catholic and Episcopalian churches to see how the day should be celebrated. By the last quarter of the nineteenth century, America eagerly decorated trees, caroled, baked, sent holiday cards, gave gifts and shopped for the Christmas season.
Although most families quickly bought into the idea that they were celebrating Christmas how it had been done for centuries, Americans had really re-invented a holiday ( that was pieced together customs from many different countries) to fill the cultural needs of a growing nation. Over the last 165 years materialism, media, advertising, and mass marketing has made Christmas what it is today.
Sources: History Channel - History of Christmas - Irving Reinvents Christmas.
History Channel - History Of Christmas - Evolution of Santa "Twas The Night Before Christmas"
History Of Christmas *dot* Com.
Wikipedia - Christmas.
Wikipedia - Charles Dickens
History Channel - History of Christmas - A Christmas Carol and Charles Dickens
Wikipedia - Christmas Carol
Thanks for reading, take a look at the past articles in the series, and possibly look forward to a last article in which we discuss how a modern day Family may choose to observe Christmas and how modern Neo-Pagans may conduct a Yule/Winter Solstice celebration/ritual.