What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Christmas?
Is it the birth of Jesus Christ, Santa Claus, or Christmas tree?
Christmas is one the most beloved holiday in the world, by both children and adults. It is the time that brings joy in people's lives regardless of age.
The spirit of Christmas lives in each of us and urges us to bring joy by giving without expecting something in return.
The Christmas holiday changed over the years, and besides the religious meaning, it started being commercialized. Now, Christmas means more than the birth of Jesus Christ for people. It's about presents, lots of shopping and money spending. But, no matter how the holiday changed over the years, Christmas is the time people get together.
Today we celebrate Christmas differently than people did at the beginning of the 19th Century. Values, mentalities, and behaviors have changed. These are some of the elements and the story behind them that define Christmas today.
Santa Claus' image, as we know it today, was created by Coca-Cola in 1931
Santa Claus was not invented by Coca-Cola. The company just changed its image through advertising.
Before 1931, Santa Claus had a lot of looks with different meanings behind them around the world. There was a green-dressed Santa, an elf, a tall gaunt man, and even a scary one.
In 1931, Coca-Cola, with the help of the Haddon Sundblom illustrator, created the Santa as we know him today and advertised it. In the paintings, Santa Claus was presented as a nice, happy, old man, dressed in a red costume, with a white beard, rosy smiling cheeks, twinkling eyes, and laughter lines.
Haddon Sundblom created Santa Claus' image inspired by an 1822 poem by Clement Clark Moore called “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (“Twas the Night Before Christmas”).
Rudolf was created in the USA by the Montgomery Ward department store in 1939
Montgomery Ward has been buying and giving away coloring books for Christmas every year. In 1939 they decided to create their own, to save some money.
In 1939, the Montgomery Ward department store told one of their copywriters, Robert L. May, to create a Christmas story for the store, for shoppers as a promotional gimmick. In the book was presented Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
In the first year of publication, 2.4 million copies of Rudolph’s story were distributed by Montgomery Ward.
Robert L. May's brother-in-law, a songwriter named Johnny Marks, made a song based on the story, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. The song was recorded by Gene Autry in 1949.
The first Christmas tree
Decorating the Christmas tree is one of the most beloved Christmas traditions. From time immemorial, people have chosen the most beautiful tree and paid homage to it by decorating it with the most beautiful ornaments they had in the house.
The decorating of the Christmas tree tradition originates from the half of the last millennium from the Germanic tribes, the Dacians.
The Dacians were one of the firsts to have a similar tradition, but it had a completely different meaning back then. They performed a ritual that consisted in cutting a tree and at someone's wedding or death. The tree represented the union between divinity and nature.
The Christmas tree, decorated with fruits, flowers, polished walnuts, candles, and ribbons symbolizes the tree of life, the tree of fertilizer, auspicious.
Research has found a connection between the first documented Christmas trees in Alsace around 1600 and pre-Christian traditions.
"The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmas time." - Encyclopædia Britannica
During the Roman mid-winter festival of Saturnalia, houses were decorated with wreaths of evergreen plants.
The Vikings and Saxons also worshiped trees in pre-Christian winter rites.
Modern Christmas trees originated during the Renaissance period in early modern Germany. The origin of the Christmas tree is associated with the Protestant Christian reformer Martin Luther. He is believed to be the first to put lighted candles to an evergreen tree in the 16th-Century.
The earliest known dated representation of a Christmas tree is on the keystone sculpture of a private home in Turckheim, Alsace, made in 1576 (back then it was part of Germany, today is in France).
The Christmas tree symbolizes the Holy Trinity by its triangular shape, and the ornaments signify knowledge and wealth, representing the sacred tree in the Garden of Eden, where the apples-fruits of knowledge were found.
According to tradition, the Christmas tree is decorated on Christmas Eve, on December 24th. The Christmas tree has an angel or a star on top, representing the angels or the star of Bethlehem.
Letters to Santa Claus
Santa Claus' main post office is located in Tähtikuja, Finland, Arctic Circle. Every year, almost 2 million postcards are sent from Santa Claus' main post office. In December, Santa Claus receives almost 30.000 letters a day. Until now, almost 20 million letters from 200 countries were sent to Santa Claus.
In the past, children used to receive messages from Santa Claus.
In the first half of the 19th Century, Santa Claus didn't have the image he has today. He was portrayed as a strict old man who was teaching children how to behave well. Some parents used to write letters from Santa Claus to their children about the things they did wrong during the year to educate them.
Today, Christmas also is celebrated by offering gifts to loved ones.
In 2020, during the holiday season, online sales increased by a much higher margin compared to previous years, because of the pandemic.
In 2021, consumers in the United States are expected to spend approximately $886 on Christmas gifts on average. This is more than what Americans were thinking of spending on presents in the past 20 years.
One of the most bought toys is Lego. Lego has been in children's lives from all around the world for more than 50 years. During the Christmas season, almost 28 Lego sets are sold each second.