[ExI] Why is xmas 'the holiday season' in America??

PJ Manney pjmanney at gmail.com
Sun Dec 16 20:29:38 UTC 2007

On Dec 16, 2007 10:56 AM, Technotranscendence <neptune at superlink.net> wrote:
> On Sunday, December 16, 2007 1:48 PM Damien Broderick
> thespike at satx.rr.com wrote:
> > ben wrote:
> > > > Can someone tell me why Americans refer to christmas as the
> 'holiday
> > > > season'?
> >
> > Well, let's see, could it be because these days are (duh) heavy-duty
> > "holy days" for several key religions?
> You're forgetting the secular "holiday" of New Years and the national
> holiday of Thanksgiving.  Of course, the latter has a religious tinge.
> I also think in America today, despite the religious revivalism, most
> people think of "holiday" as a day off work.  I don't see many of my
> neighbors whipping themselves or going to church everytime there's a
> holiday.  :)

We Yanks didn't always celebrate Christmas.  The Puritans outlawed
Christmas in Britain, believing Christmas was a Roman Catholic conceit
and our own Puritans fined and jailed those who celebrated any
"popish" rituals or exhibited "the Christmas spirit."  Even after the
1660 Restoration in Britain, the colonies still didn't do Christmas.
It was a work day, like any other.

The US didn't get into Christmas as a holiday until the non-UK
European immigrants brought their traditions, especially the German
immigrants (decorated pine trees, etc.).  The Dutch immigrants before
them had Sinter Klaas, the gift giver, a derivation of Saint Nicholas.
 But the Dutch were almost completely located in the colony of New
York (previously New Amsterdam) and were a minority (although a
powerful, rich and culturally influential one) soon after the British
claimed it for themselves.  In 1809, the writer Washington Irving, a
New Yorker of British and Dutch descent and America's first celebrity
fiction author, made up a mishmash of Dutch, English and German
traditions and wrote about them as true, nostalgic traditions in
stories.  They captured American's imaginations.  Clearly, some people
were having wholesome fun when the weather turned cold and many
Americans didn't want to be left out!

It was the Southern states in the 1830's that first embraced Christmas
as a legal holiday.  But the South had always celebrated Christmas
more than the North, because the North had a greater Puritan
influence.  But by the mid-19th C., the traditions had gotten a firm
hold throughout the country.

My favorite historical Xmas story is how the image of Santa Claus, who
supposedly was a symbol of a predominantly Southern holiday, is
depicted instead with the Northern Army as a bizarrely effective piece
of psychological warfare.  In 1863, Abraham Lincoln asked the German
born illustrator Thomas Nast, the first illustrator to capture what we
think of as Santa Claus, to create it.  Lincoln called the politicized
Santa "the best recruiting sergeant the North ever had" (Shades of the
present Jesus-is-my-asskicking-warrior US military ethos...)
Lincoln also called Nast, the country's first real political
cartoonist, the best recruiting sargeant as well.

BTW, it was Nast who depicted Santa's home at the North Pole "so no
nation can claim him as their own" in the 1890 edition of Thomas
Nast's "Christmas Drawings for the Human Race".  How wonderfully


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