Christmas in the U.S.A

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History of Christmas in America

   - Protesting and fake nostalgia

Santa Claus!

   - Different backgrounds

   - The debate of Santa's location

The Tradition-soup

Gifts and the environment - reflections





We all love Christmas. It’s a fact that about everyone, everywhere, at all ages, gets exited when the time ticks around the end of December. Not only is Christmas a family-packed, and cozy holiday, but it is also an enchantment for the stores. Christmas is basically celebrating birth of the Christians’ most important figure, Jesus. The word Christmas came from “Christ’s mass”, which means “the ones who followed Christ.” Originally, our beloved holiday was a celebration of that earth had rotated once around the sun, or a new year, in short. But whatever, that’s what we have new-years eve for. :D


Honestly, I have no idea why I chose this topic. It seemed like a good idea at first, but now I am not sure if it was that clever to write about something I don’t know anything about... So to quote our dear Petter Solberg: “But-but, it’s not only-only!”


I find economy and weird traditions exiting though, so that may be the reason… :-)


History of Christmas in America

In western culture, Christmas is by far the most popular holiday, for the people, and for the stores. But even wondered why our beloved holiday is like it is today?


The pilgrims witch came to America around 1650 where ultra orthodox in their Christianity, as a result, they had forbidden Christmas from the time they arrived, and it would stay like that for a very long time. If you where caught exchanging gifts, singing Christmas songs, or even lighting a candle, you were sued for five shillings.




After the American Revolution the English traditions fell out of flavor. The Americans had their own country now, so they didn’t care of what the British told about traditions. Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26. 1870.


At that time Christmas was a raucous carnival-holiday, but later on in the 19th, the Americans (once again being ready for a change :D) changed it into a more family-centered celebration of peace and quiet. But what had got them into Christmas in the first place? Was it a camouflaged celebration of their heritage, or was it simply because they was bored and wanted to celebrate something?


(Americans has almost in all ages had the urge to celebrate or protest something. Even though it haven’t been a lot to celebrate or protest. Therefore, the Americans often pick on tiny trifles. However, if they had not been doing that, the trifles would probably evolve into great problems… That may be the reason for America being such a successful country. :D)       


Back to history. What I am now going to write (and you hopefully are going to read) may have caused the sudden radical choice of celebrating Christmas:


Protesting and fake nostalgia

In Early in the 19th, it was a period of class conflict and turmoil, and classes disenchanted by their treatment were often rioting in the Christmas holidays, when they were not working. This was actually one of the (not so important…) reasons the northern – and southern Americans split up, as well as the debate of slavery. Thanksgiving was more centered to the Northerners, but in south, Christmas was an important holiday.


After some time with continuing rioting in New York, the police settled the groups down with big forces. They used violence, and many people suffered great wounds. The jails were overloaded with angry rebels. This made many people react of the way that Christmas was “celebrated”. They’ve had enough. Christmas should be a holiday of peace, nostalgia, family and cohesion, not fighting for disenchantments, they said. If the people were making conflicts and disagreed with each other rights, it could be solved in a more peaceful way, if possible without involvement by the police. In this way, the American way of celebrating Christmas changed radically.


Santa Claus!

But what about Santa Claus?! His history is rather hard to explain (and understand), but also pretty interesting.


Santa was, referring to the famous writer Washington Irving, born in the US in 1760. He was named after the Dutch name for st. Nicholas, Sintaklaas, and the tales about him were brung with the Dutch immigrants, arriving at the coasts of the US in the beginning of the 17th century.


It wasn’t before Irving put him in a novel he wrote in 1809; he became popular among the citizen. In the book, he was known as St. Nicolas (also mentioned as “Santa Claus”). He was a pipe smoking, wagon-riding fatty, bringing presents to children, but he did not wear his red suit, and he neither lived on the North Pole.


In 1863 the illustrator Thomas Nast created images of Santa, to be used in the “Harper’s Magazine”. Here, his stereotypical red suit was on, he smoked pipe, and his usually boring sleigh was pimped up and pulled by reindeer.


Different Backgrounds

Santa, as we know him, is a combination of many different legends and mythological figures, such as, Black Peter, Babushka, and Bishop Nicolas:


Black peter was a companion of st. Nicholas. Seen as a chimneysweeper; he was a counterpart of Santa’s elves. Black Peter descends into the chimneys, but instead of rewarding the good children, he punishes the bad by filling their shoes with turnips, stones or coal. There are at least two similarities by him, and the Santa we know today. One of them is climbing down chimneys, and the other one to punish bad kids with coal. Not in their shoes, of course, but by giving coal instead of presents.


Babushka was a kind grandmother, visited by the three wise men on their journey to see Jesus on Christmas day. Babushka offered her guests sleep, warmth and hospitality. When the sun was setting, and twilight were sneaking into every window on the continent, the three wise men asked her if she would like to come with them to give presents to the baby. Babushka declined because of the bad weather. The next morning, the three wise men had left early and were leaving Babushkas house in her sleep. When she woke up, she looked out of the window, noticing that the weather had settled. This made her think about what the three wise men had had said, and after a while, she changed her mind. She hurried packing her best gifts, and went after the three wanderers. Much snow had fallen in the night, so she couldn’t see their footsteps. Therefore she went around giving presents to all children in the world, hoping that one of them was the baby Jesus.


The Basis for the “western” Santa is probably bishop Nicolas of Smyrna, in what is now Turkey. He lived about 4000. Yrs b/c, and he was very loving, generous and caring, despites his huge load of money. He enjoyed tossing gifts of all sorts into poor children’s homes, which is a striking similarity to the Santa we know. Later on, when the temple knights invaded Turkey, and other countries in the Middle East, they heard about Bishop Nicolas. They soon Christianized him, turning him into the patron saint of children and seafarers.


The tales about Bishop Nicolas, or st. Nicholas spread through the world. In Germany, he was named Weinachtsmann, in England he was named Farther Christmas, and, (as I have already written), when the Dutch immigrants reached the US, he started being referred to as “Santa Claus”, or just “Santa”.


The debate of Santa’s location

Naturally, children were wondering about where he lived when he was not riding around, tossing gifts into every house in the (Christian?) world. This turned out as a dilemma for the adults. Since they did not want to insult their kids, making them fight with each other for the sake of Santa’s home, they came up with an official location, the North Pole. Here Santa had his workshop, droven by Santa himself. Since nobody really had settled on the North Pole, it was a perfect place for Santa to hide from the rest of the world.


But could the adults agree? The answer was a bashing “no”. In 1927, the Finnish public radio host Markus Rautio, revealed the secret of Santa’s workshop being located in Korvatunturi, in Finnish Lapland. His excuse was that there were no reindeer on the North Pole; so therefore, he had to live in Finland. Santa Lived in a fell, formed as a rabbits’ ears, but in fact Markus meant that these were Santa’s ears, which he used for listening if the children were good or bad. His workshop was also droven by elves, which has their own history in Scandinavia.


In America, the “debate” finally settled with that Santa lived on the North Pole, accompanied with elves, and in Finland they stated what Markus had told, that he was living in the “Ear-Fell”.


The Tradition-Soup

Actually, the Christmas traditions of the US, is a huge mixture of traditions of other countries. Americans have their trees from Germany, the carols from England and Australia, the elves from Scandinavia, the reindeer from Switzerland, the parades from Latin-America, and last but not least Santa and his gifts, which practically comes from everywhere. Media and coca cola later pimped the American Christmas up until it became something unique. You cannot disagree with me when I say that you can tell easily if a Christmas show, or commercial, is made in the US. Yet each region has its own way of celebrating, some more radical than the others. I have made a list, showing the most radical, weird and traditional traditions, simply because I think that being radical is cooler than being conservative. J


Pennsylvania – the Moravians build a landscape beneath the Christmas tree, representing the same state as a potential Santa was “ravaging”.


Alaska – A pole with a star is brung around in the streets. It is usually carried by children, followed by other children trying to capture it. Just like a plain ol’ tag-game


California – Santa arrives sweeping in on a surfboard decorated with Christmas stash. (No comments)


Washington – The president lights a huge Christmas tree standing in front of the White House. This happening is often broadcasted live on Christmas eve.


Gifts and the environment - reflections

The gifts are for many people the peak of Christmas celebrations, and if the government says that gifts will not be allowed, many will probably exclaim that their Christmas will be totally ruined. Because almost nobody cares about family, trees, food, (snow), etc. Ask yourself what the first question you get by a child, which has come home from Christmas holiday is. It is probably about what you’ve got, and what you wished for. For many people, this is not a problem, the kids must be allowed to have fun, and I agree with that, almost.


When you get a new bike, a new pair of skis, or whatever in Christmas calendars every day of December month, something is really wrong. I know this has to do with adults spoiling their kids, but I think that they think that Christmas is a really good excuse for filling their kids’ rooms with so many presents that they in theory could swim in them. They use Christmas as an excuse for making their children less capable of managing their lives in the future. They use Christmas as an excuse for chopping down trees in the rainforests for paper, for buying tons of toys that has been produced by children in china, and that has been sent by flight from huge factories using fossil fuel. If that weren’t enough, the gifts will probably end up on enormous garbage heaps in Africa, or floating around in the Pacific Ocean, killing loads of fish.


Isn’t it a pretty ironical thing that Thomas Nast, who drew the first drawings of Santa, also drew Americans’ dear old man Uncle Sam? Followed by Coca-Cola, which has been caught stealing native Africans’ drinking water? I can imagine Santa, wearing an Uncle Sam hat, preaching about buying lots of shit to prove that we love our family. (See the front page)


In the end, I think Christmas is a great holiday. Family and friends come together eating good meals and singing Christmas songs. It’s a fact that friends and family love each other, so I think that an overload of gifts is unnecessary for proving it. However, I think it would be a great idea to hold Christmas in your heart, and try to keep it there for the rest of the year. The morale is, as always: do to others, as you want done to you. (And don’t do drugs).



Whoa, that was a massive amount of text! I do not think I have ever written such a long text in English, probably in Norwegian though, but that’s probably my mother tongue stepping into the picture. As always, completing a task like this has robbed me for about 24 hours of my life, but nevertheless improved my vocabulary, and my general knowledge of everything about nothing. (Yes, what I have written about is particularly nonsense)


(I must say that I sometimes have lost control of myself while being on the Internet, suddenly being aware of that I am playing a relatively stupid game on Facebook. Not on school of course, which makes me even more of a nerd than I already am, but in my clammy, messy and vacuumed room at home.)




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