Christmas at Beacon Hill

Christmas at Beacon Hill

A 1929 newspaper article from Boston tells the story of a boy named Alfred Shurtleff, who in 1893 began a tradition in his Boston neighborhood that reads a lot like the spirited Christmas enthusiasts of our day who festively decorate their homes with lights each season. What did Alfred do? On a snowy Christmas Eve Alfred lit a single candle and put it in the bedroom window of his home in the Beacon Hill area of Boston. Nobody seemed to mind, though Alfred was sure that a neighbor or at least an adult somewhere would ask him what he wasRead more

History of the Christmas Countdown

History of the Christmas Countdown

The anticipation of Christmas is considered by many one of the great joys of the season. These days there are websites and social media groups dedicated to counting down days to Christmas and cable television channels have adopted a countdown to Christmas as a way to get all their new holiday content shown during the course of a season. Counting down to Christmas is a time-honored tradition. It is older than you might suppose. Some draw it back to advent calendars crafted by mid-19th centuries German carpenters who constructed delicately decorated wooden calendars that featured a treat for each day’sRead more

Christmas with Lewis & Clark

Christmas with Lewis & Clark

The Lewis and Clark Corp of Discovery expedition was commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson in 1803 to explore the lands acquired through the Louisiana Purchase. It began in St. Louis and traveled over the continental divide to the Pacific Ocean, gathering information and introducing the world to the wonders of the American West. Over roughly three years the Corps of Discovery saw things no American previously had and the recorded all kinds of new wildlife and plant life that led to decades of study back in the civilized world of the American East coast. It also opened the door toRead more

Christmas Trains

Christmas Trains

For more than a century trains were the center piece of mass transportation. This time in culture also saw the rise of the industrial revolution and, as well, the media-driven mass popularity of the secular Christmas. The real connection of trains to Christmas was born of the fact that going over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house for the holidays was best accomplished by trains and it happened every Christmas. In fact, more people moved by train in November and December over the course of those 100 years than by any other method. If you wanted toRead more

History of Christmas Villages

History of Christmas Villages

As far as Christmas goes, the city of Palm Springs, California is far removed from being a Christmas village. But for Dennis Lloyd his annual return for winter time in Palm Springs signals the beginning of Christmas. He just can’t wait to get there right after Halloween each year. In a large bedroom in the Lloyd home Dennis has painstakingly constructed a shimmering Christmas village made of porcelain buildings, molded Styrofoam mountains, and thousands of miniature details, from trees to light poles to roadways, some handcrafted by Dennis himself. Dennis is 88 years old this Christmas and he sees noRead more

Christmas at Sea

Christmas at Sea

When thinking of Christmas at sea one immediately turns to the traditional carol “I Saw Three Ships”. The song, repeatedly made popular by interpretations in modern recording ranging from Sting to Amy Grant to traditional orchestras, is a happy tune dating back to the 17th century. But for all of its age and history, nobody really knows who wrote it or even what it entirely means. The lyrics have confounded historians for centuries and it is believed the song’s connection to Christmas is merely a sailor’s song of hope. After all, the song talks of three ships sailing into BethlehemRead more

History of Christmas Catalogs

History of Christmas Catalogs

The industrial revolution brought an explosion of new products in mass quantities to market. The ability of mass media – in the form of print, radio or telegram – to get the word out about such products influenced buyers around the world. The advent of catalog shopping, which utilized all those emerging trends and technologies, brought the marketplace to the consumer, just as the Internet does today. It comes as no surprise that the pioneer of catalog merchants was likely Benjamin Franklin, who like Amazon today, first sold books by mail back in 1744. But it wasn’t until the post-CivilRead more

Abraham’s Impact on the History of Christmas

Abraham’s Impact on the History of Christmas

Modern historians usually work backwards in uncovering the origins of Christmas. For example, historians tell us that the modern Christmas tree grew from use of evergreens by English royalty in the 1830s and 40s, who picked it up from Germans who celebrated with trees for a couple of hundred years after St. Boniface first used the tree as a symbol of eternal life through Jesus Christ, which was a fable crafted by the Church in order to adopt the ancient pagan practice of decorating with evergreens indoors during the season of Yule. This is usually as far back as mostRead more

The Christmas Candy Bomber

The Christmas Candy Bomber

The epilogue to World War II was the massive effort made to recover war-torn Europe. For months and even years following the war times were lean as millions scrambled to recover lives. U.S. President Harry Truman led a massive effort – dubbed The Marshall Plan – to bring relief to the starving, homeless and unemployed in Europe. Part of that effort was the Berlin Airlift of 1948, a round-the-clock operation of landing planes with relief supplies in Berlin. This is where the story of the Christmas Candy Bomber begins. Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen, of Provo, Utah, piloted a C-54 aircraft,Read more

History of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

History of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

John D. Rockefeller, Jr. grew up with Christmas firmly a part of his family’s culture. An 1885 school essay speaks of Christmas being celebrated with family and sleigh rides. But Christmas was never on his mind years later as he envisioned the “city within a city” that would become Rockefeller Center. In 1928, about a year before the famed market crash of October 1929, Rockefeller leased land in the heart of New York City intending to build a showcase development that would have the Metropolitan Opera as its centerpiece. But with the market crash the Opera backed out and RockefellerRead more