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How 25 Christmas Traditions Got Their Start

December 17, 2019 in History

By Lesley Kennedy

Learn why we decorate trees, swap cookies and hide pickles and elves, among other traditions.

From its Puritan roots to complaints of rampant commercialism (“What is it you want?” Charlie Brown asks Lucy in A Charlie Brown Christmas. “Real Estate.”), Christmas in America has been filled with traditions, old and new.

According to a . Today’s wreaths, which come in all varieties, from flowers and fruit to glass balls and ribbon to artificial and themed, are most often seen as a secular winter tradition.

A Christmas card from the 1800s.

Christmas Cards – The first official Christmas card debuted in 1843 England with the simple message, “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.” The idea of a mailed winter holiday greeting gradually caught on in both Britain and the U.S., with the Kansas City-based Hall Brothers (now Hallmark) creating a folded card sold with an envelope in 1915. Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, more than 1.6 billion holiday cards are sold annually.


“It’s a Wonderful Life” debuted in 1946.

It’s a Wonderful LifeFrank Capra’s classic Christmas film debuted in 1946, with Jimmy Stewart playing George Bailey, a suicidal man who is shown what life would be like without him by an angel. But before becoming an annual TV-viewing tradition, the movie was a bit of a flop at the box office when it premiered, although it did receive five Oscar nominations (but no wins). A lapsed copyright in the 1970s allowed TV stations to air the movie for free. It has aired exclusively on NBC and USA since 1994.

Christmas Light Technology (TV-PG; 1:53)

Christmas LightsThomas Edison may be famous for the light bulb, but it was his partner and friend, Edward Hibberd Johnson, who had the bright idea of stringing bulbs around a Christmas tree in New York in 1882. By 1914, the lights were being mass produced and now some 150 million sets of lights are sold in the U.S. each year.


Santa has helped stores sell since at least 1890.

Department Store Santa - Lining up at the mall to snap a photo of the kids on Santa’s lap may seem like a modern Christmas tradition, but it dates back to 1890, when James Edgar of Brockton, Massachusetts had a Santa suit made for him and dressed …read more

Source: HISTORY