Here is a little bit about the history of Christmas traditions in America, from Christmas trees to greeting cards, that we all know and love today.
- The first American Christmas tree can be credited to a Hessian soldier by the name of Henrick Roddmore, who was captured at the Battle of Bennington in 1776. He then went to work on the farm of Samuel Denslow in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, where for the next 14 years he put up and decorated Christmas trees in the Denslow family home.
- The first Christmas tree retail lot was established in 1851 by a Pennsylvanian named Mark Carr, who hauled tow ox sleds loaded with Christmas trees from the Catskill Mountains to the sidewalks of New York City.
- The first president to set up a Christmas tree in the White House was Franklin Pierce, and the first president to establish the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the White House lawn was Calvin Coolidge.
- In 1882, the first tree lights were sold in New York City.
Martha’s Great Cake
Although not the first Christmas cake, this is a recipe from our first First Lady, Martha Washington. These are the exact words in which it was written for celebrating what she called “a true Virginia Christmas” at Mount Vernon:
- “Take 40 eggs and divide the whites from the yolks and beat them to a froth, start to work four pounds of butter to cream and put the whites of eggs to it a spoon full at a time till it is well worked. Then put four pounds of sugar finely powdered to it in the same way, then put in the yolks of eggs, and five pounds of flower, and five pounds of fruit. Two hours will bake it. Add to it half an ounce of mace, one nutmeg, half a pint of wine, and some French brandy.”
- The first American to print and sell Christmas cards was Louis Prang of Roxbury, Massachusetts, who began publishing cards in 1875.
- President Dwight D. Eisenhower is given credit for sending the first “official” Christmas card from the White House. An art print also became the standard Christmas gift for the president’s staff, a practice continued to this day.
Here comes Santa Claus…
- The first department store Santa was James Edgar, who, during Christmas seasons beginning in 1890, would wander about his store (the Boston Store) in Brockton, Massachusetts, dressed as Santa Claus, talking to the children of customers.
Other Christmas Customs
Ever wondered how the custom of giving Christmas gifts originated?
- The ancient Romans gave each other gifts on the calends (first day) of January, and the practice spread throughout the Roman Empire.
- Eventually, Christians moved the custom to December 25, although many Christians still give gifts on January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, commemorating the manifestation of Jesus’ divine nature to the Magi.
As many mince pies as you taste at Christmas, so many happy months will you have.