The History of Christmas In America

Posted on: December 24th, 2019 | By Cliff Keith | Blog, Holidays | No Comments

The History of Christmas In America

I want to wish each and every one of you the best of this Holiday Season.  Merry Christmas. This is the season when human beings treat each other with kindness, understanding, and respect. The spirit of Christmas warms my heart, and I hope it does yours too. Enjoy! The History of Christmas In America                          

Starting in the 1600’s                

The History of Christmas In America

1600’s: The Puritans trying to be different from their Old Country made it illegal to mention St. Nicholas’s. In fact, is was illegal to do any of the old habits such as, exchanging of gifts, light a candle, or sing Christmas carols.

17th century: Dutch immigrants brought with them the legend of Sinterklaas.

1773: Santa first appeared in the media as St. A Claus.

Christmas Presents

1804: The New York Historical Society was founded with St. Nicholas as its patron saint. Its members engaged in the Dutch practice of gift-giving at Christmas.

1809: Washington Irving, writing under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker, included Saint Nicolas in his book “A History of New York.” Nicolas is described as riding into town on a horse.

1812: Irving, revised his book to include Nicolas riding over the trees in a wagon.

1821: William Gilley printed a poem about “Santeclaus” who was dressed in fur and drove a sleigh drawn by a single reindeer.

1822: Dentist Clement Clarke Moore is believed by many to have written a poem “An Account of a Visit from Saint Nicolas”.  This poem is also known as “The Night before Christmas”. Santa was portrayed as an elf with a miniature sleigh equipped with eight reindeer.

The Reindeer’s are named in the poem as Blitzem, Comet, Cupid, Dancer, Dasher, Donder, Prancer, and Vixen. Others attribute the poem to a contemporary, Henry Livingston, Jr.

The start of Santa

1841: J.W. Parkinson, a Philadelphia merchant, hired a man to dress up in a “Kris Kringle” outfit and climb the chimney of his store.

1863: Illustrator Thomas Nast created images of Santa for the Christmas editions of Harper’s Magazine. These continued through the 1890’s.

1860s: President Abraham Lincoln asked Nast to create a drawing of Santa with some Union soldiers. This image of Santa supporting the enemy had a demoralizing influence on the Confederate army — an early example of psychological warfare.

1897: Francis P Church, Editor of the New York Sun, wrote an editorial in response to a letter from an eight year-old girl, Virginia O’Hanlon. She had written the paper asking whether there really was a Santa Claus. It has become known as the “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” letter

After the 1900’s

1920’s: The image of Santa had been standardized to portray a bearded, overweight, jolly man dressed in a red suit with white trim.

1931: Haddon Sundblom, illustrator for The Coca-Cola ™ company drew a series of Santa images. These images were used again and again in many Coke’s Christmas advertisements exclusively until 1964. The company holds the trademark for the Coca-Cola Santa design. Christmas ads including Santa continue to the present day.

1939 Copywriter Robert L. May of the Montgomery Ward Company created a poem titled Rudolph, the ninth reindeer. He created an ostracized reindeer with a shiny red nose who became a hero one foggy Christmas eve. Santa was part-way through Christmas  presents deliveries when he couldn’t see in front of him because of the foggy skies. Santa decided to add Rudolph to the front of his team of reindeer to help illuminate the path with his red nose. Rudolph saved Christmas for the whole world.

1949 famous song

1949: Johnny Marks wrote the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. It was a song about Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer who was relocated to the North Pole where he was initially rejected by the other reindeer who wouldn’t allow Rudolph to play any of their reindeer games. Gene Autry was the first person to recorded this all time best seller. Next to “White Christmas” it is the most popular song of all time.

1993: An urban folk tale began to circulate about a Japanese department store displaying a life-sized Santa Claus being crucified on a cross. It never happened.

1997: Artist Robert Cenedella drew a painting of a crucified Santa Claus. First showed up in a window of the New York’s Art Students League and received intense criticism from some religious groups. His drawing because a cause for a protest. He was trying to show how Santa Claus had replaced Jesus Christ.


References: Barbara G. Walker, “The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets.” Harper & Row, (1983) Pages 725 to 726. “St. Nicholas of Myra,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, at: “Father Frost,” at: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” at: “The Claus that Refreshes,” at: “Rudolph,” at: “R Cendella Gallery – Theme: Commentary,” at “St. Nicholas of Bari (Fourth Century),” Catholic Information Network, at:

The History of Christmas In America

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