Top Trends For 2021 Christmas Decor

santas chair

It is never too early to start planning your Christmas decorations for the upcoming season. Perhaps, you feel like every year you put out the same inflatable Santa Claus or outdoor nativity set and want to change up your routine. Christmas decor trends are the perfect place for anyone to draw inspiration. From color to proportion, the trends of the year can help guide you to decorate in a way that elevates your space while still conveying an overall sense of holiday cheer. 

Warm And Bright Color Schemes 

A true staple for the holiday season, the warm and bright color palette encompasses off whites, metallics, and warm-toned lighting. This trend is perfect for anyone who craves a comfortable space to relax in during the holiday season. To achieve this look, try adding candles to your space and decorating with differently proportioned greenery. A great addition includes wrapping gold-toned lights around any stairwell or exposed beams in your home. When decorating the tree, it’s best to stay in the neutral color palette, while basing your ornament assortment off of white or gold-toned lights. 

Nutcrackers

A classic holiday decor piece, nutcrackers have been around for ages. This year we will see a resurgence of the trend with a fun twist mostly nodding to color. In addition to the traditional red, blue, and green color palette we will begin to see other whimsical colors accented within their design. Consider experimenting with the proportion of the nutcracker as you are decorating. An assortment of oversized and miniature nutcrackers would offer great variety and interest within your space. 

out door nutcracker

 Natural Undertones

With sustainability as a megatrend in most industries, it serves as no shock that it will translate into this year’s Christmas decor. Think decorating for the holidays with an overall tie back to nature. A great way to achieve this trend would be incorporating lots of real greenery. In addition to your Christmas tree, consider adding bouquets of branches and other types of leafy greenery. Experimenting with oversized wreaths could add a great dimension to your space. If going for a more Earth-toned color palette, dried floral assortments would offer a nice contrast to the green, while staying with the overall natural energy. For those looking to decorate with more color, adding bouquets containing colorful flowers is always a great idea. Poinsettias are a holiday classic, however, trying a bouquet with other exciting colors might help elevate your decor this season.

Farmhouse

Over the past few years, farmhouse interior design has been hugely popular. Due to its ability to match a majority of neutral home aesthetics, the farmhouse holiday decor trend is here to stay. Achieve this look by incorporating plaids, rustic elements, and an overall warm color scheme. Keeping plaids to reds, neutrals, blacks, and greens try experimenting with plaids of different sizes. While a neutral color palette is common in the farmhouse aesthetic, a great place for a pop of color could be your tree decor. Try saturated red berries or oversized ornaments of your choice color to mix it up or better match your space. Adding rustic elements such as pine cones, dried bouquets, and branches or wreaths adds dimension and a great contrast to the overall neutral aesthetic. 

Bringing Back the Old

The Covid 19 pandemic has brought out a feeling of nostalgia in the majority of us. We can expect to see this feeling translated into holiday decor through the use of vintage, maybe even heirloom Christmas decor pieces. Consider pulling out the aged Christmas ornaments or outdoor nativity set instead of investing in new decor. While decorating, picture your space with an overall aged, rustic, and nostalgic energy. Bring a comfortable and cozy spirit back to your space by stringing warm-toned lights around the tree and assorting candles around the room.

Christmas Traditions of Ireland

Christmas traditions around the world differ, however, the values that people celebrate during the holidays remain true everywhere: Family, faith, and spreading cheer. Centered around these ideals, Irish Christmas traditions are no exception. Whether it be gathering as a community to sing carols or decorating a Christmas tree with the family, every Irish holiday tradition is meant to bring light and love into the lives of others. 

Christmas Markets 

Christmas markets are one of the most well-known aspects of the Irish holiday season. With some of the largest and most notable happening in Galway, Dublin, and Belfast, every Christmas Market in Ireland is packed with cheer and community. A staple at most Christmas markets is taking a ride in Santa’s sleigh. The ambiance is always welcoming and cozy at an Irish Christmas market. Picture warm fairy lights,  caroling, and great food. These markets are known for gift giving, mulled wine, and live music and dancing. The Irish Christmas market is the epitome of merry and bright.

The Wren Boy Procession

During the Wren Boy Procession, Christmas Carolers parade from house to house singing and raising money for charity. In Ireland, the wren is considered “King of all birds.” In Irish mythology, the life of the wren is linked to the life of Jesus. Wren day normally begins with a group hunting a fake wren and mounting it on a pole. This is followed by the town celebrating the life of the wren through song and dance. Those who participate are referred to as Wren Boys. Each year, the Wren Boys dress in old clothing, which they layer under a straw outer layer. The participants march around the town spreading cheer through carols and camaraderie. 

The Feast of the Epiphany 

The Feast of the Epiphany or Three Kings Day is often celebrated after the Twelve Days of Christmas on January sixth. The Feast is used to honor the day that the Three Kings followed the Christmas star to baby Jesus. These kings were said to have brought Jesus many precious and meaningful gifts. The Feast of the Epiphany is an ancient Christian tradition. This tradition is often used to signify the end of the Christmas holiday and bring everyone together once more to commemorate the story of Jesus and the three kings. 

Meeting Santa Clause

Santa is said to reside in the Mourne Mountains of Northern Ireland. This is said to be where Santa rests in-between Christmases to recuperate. Today, families can visit him at his cottage and enjoy plenty of attractions. Children are able to meet Santa and even pose for a photo with him and his elves in Santa’s sleigh. Families can follow a trail to see Santa’s full herd of reindeer and even hear a ranger speak on the history of the park. The attraction then continues in a town located outside of the Mourne Mountains called Downpatrick. Here, families can see the spirits of Christmas’s past, present, and future overrun the iconic St. Patrick’s square. 

 

The Twelve Pubs

An adult spin on the Twelve Days of Christmas, the Twelve Pubs is a drinking game used to celebrate the year as it comes to an end. While it is not necessary to abide by set rules during your pub crawl, most parties do in order to keep the night interesting. Oftentimes when participating in the Twelve Pubs, participants must wear a Christmas sweater or dress as Santa and his elves. Some of the more comical rules include pub crawl, left-handed, and no names. Pub crawl instructs a participant to deliver a round of drinks to the group on their hands and knees. Left-handed forces participants to drink an entire pint with their left hand. Lastly, the no-names rule dictates that no participant can be referred to by their name in that pub. 

The History of the Christmas Reindeer

During Christmas time we’re surrounded by the tale of Santa and his trusted reindeer.  Stories such as, “T’was the Night Before Christmas,” and others like it have embedded Santa and his reindeer into Christmas culture. Often, children have memorized the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” by the time they’re five. We have fostered a Christmas culture heavily reliant on the concept of the Christmas reindeer, however, few know the reindeer’s true history. 

Reindeer Origins

Reindeer are native to Northern Europe and Asia. Reindeer who live in North America are referred to as caribou. The Sami (of Northern Scandinavia) and Nenet (of Russia’s arctic) are both indigenous groups who rely heavily on reindeer for a food source. Today, ten percent of the Sami population still herds reindeer. The majority of the reindeer population resides in Kautokeino and Karasjok Norway. Still today, it is a common practice for the Samis to herd the reindeer to the mountains for the cold winters.

Reindeer First Come to America

In the mid-1800s an indigenous group of people called the Inuit inhabited Northern Canada, Greenland, and Alaska. The members of this group were starving due to the commercial hunting of their main food source, whales. A missionary named Sheldon Jackson decided the solution was to transport reindeer to Alaska from Norway. In 1898, the United States government-funded the transfer of six hundred reindeer and over one hundred trained herders to the Alaskan shores.

Reindeer Enter the World of Christmas Marketing 

Carl Lomen is credited with marketing reindeer for the sale of their fur and meat. His goal was to make reindeer meat a staple among the American household. Lomen’s efforts to promote reindeer hit their peak when he partnered with the department store Macy’s. In 1926, Macy’s held a parade led by a Santa on a sleigh being pulled by reindeer. This stunt sparked a national passion for Santa and his reindeer which translated into more parades of this nature and an influx of marketing opportunities.


Reindeer First Appear in Christmas Culture

In 1821, the tale of reindeer guiding Santa on his sleigh first appeared in children’s literature. This anonymously published poem titled  “Old Santeclaus With Much Delight,” tells of Santa being pulled by a singular reindeer. The line reads, “His reindeer drives this frosty night.” The poem also includes eight illustrations, one famously depicting an image of Santa taking off behind his one reindeer.

One Reindeer Becomes Eight

In 1823, only two years after the aforementioned “ Old Santeclaus With Much Delight” was published, the famous poem titled “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” by Clement C Moore took off in popularity. Better known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” this story is credited with first telling the tale of Santa being pulled on his sleigh by eight reindeer. Soon after its publishing, the story became widely popular and the eight reindeer model was nationally recognized and adored.

The Short-Lived Ten Reindeer 

In 1902, a piece of literature named “ The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus,” written by L Frank Baum was released. This story included a list of the names of Santa’s reindeer, all differing from those used in “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Baum listed ten reindeer names that rhymed in unison. These names included Flossie and Glossie, Racer and Pacer, and Ready and steady. “The names used in “Twas the Night Before Christmas” had already grown into extensive popularity that at this point, no alternative reindeer names would be accepted by the general public. 

The Late Rudolph 

We all know the story of Rudolph, the socially rejected reindeer who ended up saving Christmas by guiding Santa with his glowing red nose. In 1939, Robert L May first released this story for a promotion by the Montgomery Ward store chain. These books were handed out in their stores during Christmas time. This story became a Christmas classic and soon Rudolph was accepted as Santa’s ninth reindeer. 

 

Christmas Means Decorating

christmas

The Christmas season is upon us and, ho ho ho, it’s time for decorating.  The main event for many of us is a Christmas tree, which can be real, meaning it was once alive, or artificial.  There are a variety of options for real trees.  And within each class of tree, there are choices as well.  Fir trees, for example, include: Balsam, Fraser, Canaan and Douglas to name a few.   Some real tree enthusiasts remain steadfastly loyal to Spruce or Pine.  Because a tree purchased from a lot may shed its needles before the New Year, some people cut down their tree.  Today, many tree farms allow you to roam around the selection of trees in the Fall and label your tree for cutting in December.  This eliminates all those freezing ventures, stomping through deep snow, trying to select just the right one.  Most of us who’ve cut down our own tree have not experienced an adventure equal to that of the Griswald family.

Artificial Trees – From Feathers to Foil

Alas, in my family, we’ve gone to what some may consider the dark side and now have an artificial tree.  It’s prelit which eliminates all that tension around stringing the lights. Artificial trees have been around since the 19th century, with Germany developing this new concept in the 1800’s.  The German’s used green-dyed goose feathers and attached them to wire branches, which wrapped around a central dowel rod that served as a trunk.  The poor geese were now unadorned.

Eventually, the feather trees gave way to ones made from brush bristles.  The Addis Brush Company used their toilet brush machinery to construct the trees that were then dyed green.  And then, in 1958, aluminum trees were manufactured in Chicago.  I have a clear memory of my mother-in-law’s white tree perched atop a card table with a rotating light shining on it, changing it from red to green to blue.

christmas decore

Ornaments and Tinsel

In addition to lighting, there is a plethora of ways to decorate a Christmas tree.  Some prefer themed trees using only one color.  Other trees may have a variety of shaped and colored ornaments, but still maintaining a theme such as Nutcrackers. My Christmas tree has many Santa’s from my collection and ornaments my children and grandchildren have made.  One Little Lucy ornament is quite old, as I made it when I was a child.   Notice I did not say how old.

A popular decorative item adorning Christmas trees is tinsel, which has been augmenting Christmas trees as early as the 16th century.  It was used to enhance the flickering of candle flames, which were the original tree lights.  Candles on a resin-rich tree were, of course, dangerous.  To make this custom as safe as possible, branches above the candle had to be carefully trimmed back.  In addition, the candles were usually mounted on holders that had a metal dish to catch any hot wax as it dripped.

No Tinsel For Me

My Christmas tree does not contain tinsel.  And this is mostly because of my distressing childhood memories regarding placing tinsel on our Christmas tree.  Tinsel placement was a tedious and painstaking process supervised by my father.  We were all required to do our part, carefully lining up the tinsel on the tree one strand at a time.  As a child, I could sit and read for hours, but hours spreading tinsel on the tree?  No thank you.  When I got older, I realized that if I asked to do the back of the tree, I could get away with less precise tinsel placing.  That didn’t last long as my father liked to inspect all sides of the tree.  And when he saw that my technique did not meet his standards, I was relegated back to the front.

christmas tree folk tale

Spiders To The Rescue

There’s a Ukrainian folk tale explaining the origin of tinsel, spun over and over again, from family to family in Europe.  It’s called The Spider and the Christmas Tree , and as is the case with most folk tales, there’s a couple of versions.  But they all involve a poor, down-on-her-luck widow with children and a plain Christmas tree with no decorations.  While they sleep, spiders come to the rescue, spinning webs that sparkle in the morning light.  This story is so popular that natives of Ukraine decorate their modern Christmas trees with spider webs, believing they represent good fortune.

The tale of the Christmas Spider is similar to many magical stories about Christmas traditions.  We can create our own magic with personal choices of beautiful Christmas decorations that bring us joy year after year.

Don’t Let the Coronavirus Steal Christmas

outdoor nativity

This Christmas season, the Coronavirus could be a metaphor for the cantankerous protagonist in Dr. Suess’s book How The Grinch Stole Christmas.  The Grinch is an unhappy creature with a heart “two sizes too small” wanting to ensure that everyone feels as lonely as he, which isn’t too far from reality right now. The Coronavirus is an insidious virus made up of spike proteins that act like grappling hooks, ensuring practically everyone who comes in contact with it gets sick. Yikes!  Well we know what to do about the virus, but what about feeling woeful about Christmas?  Maybe Dr. Suess’s book can give us direction.

The Grinch’s Plan Didn’t Go As Expected

In Dr. Suess’s book, Cindy Lou Who is concerned for her mother and twin infant brothers.  She thinks her mother is overworked.  Does that sound like a familiar theme right now?  She hatches a scheme to capture Santa Claus, so she can speak to him personally and convince him to give her mother a happy and joyful Christmas.  She instead mistakenly captures the Grinch, disguised as Santa, on his way to steal Christmas from Whoville.  Cindy Lou almost enlarges his grinchy heart and stops his dastardly plan, because of her generous spirit.  But he proceeds to steal Christmas from all the Who’s in Whoville.

When Christmas morning arrives and there are no festive decorations or presents, at first the Who’s are quite dismayed.  But then they begin singing the Christmas Song which has a lot of the non-words that Dr. Suess is so famous for, and a magical sentence that makes everything okay:  Christmas day will always be just as long as we have we.  And there’s our first line of defense against the possible loss of Christmas spirit.  We have we.

We Can Hold Onto The Christmas Spirit

By focusing on the “we,” Christmas is within our grasp.  In the story, Cindy Lou feels empathy for the Grinch and invites him to her home for Christmas dinner.  Surrounded by a loving family, he confesses that it wasn’t Christmas he hated so much as feeling alone and neglected.  One little act of kindness begins to enlarge the Grinch’s heart.

We’re not going to demonstrate empathy toward the Coronavirus and invite it into our home.  In fact, we’re doing the exact opposite.  But we can invite Christmas into our lives with empathy for ourselves and others that are feeling alone and neglected during the holiday season.  There’s a good amount of psychological evidence that when we extend kindness and compassion to others, we enlarge our hearts.

 santas chair

Decorate!  Decorate! Decorate!

We all have our Grinch moments, but we can dispel them with action that brings us joy.  This Christmas will not likely be the same old, same old holiday.  For Christmas 2020, we may need to change things up.  Instead of pulling back, maybe go all out with holiday decorations inside and out.  Outdoor decorations, like giant snowmen or Santa and his sleigh will instill a festive spirit for our neighbors and people passing by our homes.  The Journal of Environmental Psychology suggests that decorating the outside of our homes, may give our neighbors a lift and indicate to them that we’re friendly residents.

It’s likely that we’re going to connect with loved ones via Zoom or some other video platform, and for that, we can set the stage with a variety of charming and magical decorations inside the house.  So, in addition to seeing the faces of those we love and cherish, they can derive pleasure from what they see as our background.  Psychologists posit that when we’re feeling anxious, calling up happy childhood memories can lift our spirits, and Christmas decorations can evoke those positive feelings.

The Grinchy Coronavirus may have stolen some of our Christmas traditions, but it cannot steal our Christmas spirit!  We can hold on to that by filling our homes inside and out with heartwarming decorations.

Why Do We Visit Santa?

Santa chair

A Guide to Christmas Traditions Around the World

Christmas traditions are a funny concept. We are taught from the moment that we celebrate our first holiday season to participate in countless amusing, yet outlandish customs. Even odder is the fact that it rarely  dawns on us to question our participation. Speaking for myself, I never second guessed sitting on Santa’s lap and sharing my cherished wish list or posing for a photo with the elves in a Santa chair. It’s inevitable that country to country holiday customs differ drastically, however one thing is for certain: The origins of these traditions can get lost in translation.

America and Sitting on Santa’s Knee

When asked about the holiday season in America a list of immediately forms in my head:

  • Red and Green
  • Baking cookies
  • Gingerbread houses
  • Visiting Santa

However, by far the most notable holiday tradition in America is the annual trip that kids take to visit their local Santa, climb into the Santa chair, and confide in him their prized wish lists.

The story of Santa Claus was derived, centuries ago, from a monk who’s name was St. Nicholas. This monk became known for his generosity and piety as he traveled around the world spreading not only wealth and love, but also the name St. Nicholas. It wasn’t until the end of the 18th century that the story of St. Nicholas began spreading in American culture. In 1809, Washington Irving referenced the then Sinter Klaas (Dutch origin) in one of his books as the “Patron Saint of New York.” Soon after, the  popularity of St. Nicholas skyrocketed and by the late 1840s kids were asking to visit Santa during Christmas. In 1924, the Santa craze had hit peak popularity as people would gather from everywhere to meet the Macy’s Day Parade Santa.

Germany and Christmas Trees

The Christmas tree is one of the most widely recognizable holiday emblems. Annually, families gather evergreens to house their gifts for one another. The decorating of the tree for many families is highly anticipated and we have Germany to thank for this tradition.

Decorating evergreen trees originated in Strasburg, Germany during the 17th century. The custom of decorating trees was a German tradition used to celebrate the winter solstice for decades prior to the concept of the Christmas tree. In the late 1800’s the Christmas tree came into popularity and could now be seen all over Germany. The Christmas tree was embedded in English and American holiday tradition by the 19th century.
yule log

Norway and the Yule Log

The Yule Log is a tradition which originated in Norway. First used to signify the returning of the sun after the winter solstice. The term “Yule” was derived from the Norse word “Hweol” meaning wheel. They viewed the sun as a wheel which circulated the Earth. Today, the burning of the Yule log embodies the Christmas spirit for families around the world. The Yule log feeds many fireplaces for the twelve days of Christmas to bring good luck for the year to come.

Carolers in the Snow
Carolers in the Snow

England and Christmas Carols

Carolers are a sign of joy and light in countless cultures during the holidays. Once called “Waits” because they only sang on Christmas Eve, carolers go from house to house singing Christmas songs to their neighbors in a hope to circulate holiday cheer. This form of celebration originated in England.

Millenniums ago, carols were used in Europe to celebrate the Winter solstice.  The earliest carol was written in 1410 and titled, “I Saw Three Ships.” Briefly once the Puritans came into power in England, Christmas caroling was ordered to stop. This made the trend grow in popularity as people retaliated by singing them in secret. During the Victorian Period, caroling was once again accepted and used to signify the beginning of the Christmas celebrations in England.

 

How Did the Snowman Connect to Christmas?

outdoor snowmen

Both the “Christmas” tree and sometimes life size snowmen originated in pagan cultures.  Snowman documentation dates as far back as the Middle Ages.  Before that, we can only assume that in the dark times of winter, humans were creating art with anything available, including snow.  According to Bob Eckstein, author of The History of the Snowman, the snowman’s earliest known representation is in the 1380 Book of Hours in the Koninkijke Bibliotheek in The Hague, Netherlands.

Connection to Christmas is coming.

History of Snowmen
Snowman with charred backside in Book of Hours

In 1845, Mary Dillwyn took the first photograph of a snowman, shortly after Francis Ronalds invented the first successful device for continuous recording, otherwise known as a camera.  Not that Frosty is aware that he’s the subject of one of the first photographs ever taken.  For decades after that, variations of snowmen materialized in books, magazines, songs and films.

Connection to Christmas is coming.

the first snowman
Mary Dillwyn/National Museum of Wales

 

Snowman Suffers Unrequited Love

Hans Christian Andersen wrote a fairy tale about an outdoor snowman,  who wishes he could be indoors as he’s fallen in love with a stove.  It isn’t difficult to see the irony in that love story, which begins with a snowman standing in the garden of a manor house watching the sun set and the moon rise. His sole companion is a watchdog who lives in a doghouse nearby.

life size snowmen
A snowman receives romantic advice from dog in Hans Christian Andersen’s “Stories for the Household” (1880s) – Internet Archive Book Images

The dog reminisces about happier days when he slept under the stove inside the house. The snowman can see the stove through a window and believes it is female.  He pines for her and longs to be in the room with the stove, but the dog warns him he would melt.  There’s much more to the story if you care to read it.  

Connection to Christmas is coming.

life size snowman
North Wind Picture Archives

Don’t Count on Snowmen to Protect You

Snowmen, unbeknownst to them, played a part in one of the bloodiest events in early American history; the Schenectady Massacre of 1690. At the time, Fort Schenectady was a remote Dutch settlement under constant threat of attack.  A blizzard descended on the fort, and the gates were frozen open.  The freezing soldiers left a pair of snowmen as substitute “guards” to protect the fort when they left for shelter.  They were not aware of a looming threat.  A contingent of French-Canadian soldiers and Native Americans attacked and, unfazed by the stoic but inefficient snowmen, killed 60 inhabitants. This was well before the modern day Frosty, who we all know can come to life.  Connection to Christmas is coming.

Snowwomen Rise Up

Residents of Bethel, Maine celebrated feminism on a much grander scale than did the Dutch in the snow representation of their queen.  Ignoring the traditional genderless snowman, they constructing Olympia, who stood 122 feet tall and much larger than the average outside snowman .  Olympia was considered the world’s largest snowperson, until Austria won the title in 2008.  Bethel’s amazing snowwoman had eyelashes made of skis, lips made of car tires, a 100-foot-long scarf, and a six-foot-long snowflake pendant. Imagine if she came to life!

Connection to Christmas is here.

snowman
Dutch Queen Wilhelmina and Princess Juliana as snowwomen in the Netherlands (1939) – Creation of the Snowman

Snowwomen Rise Up

Residents of Bethel, Maine celebrated feminism on a much grander scale than did the Dutch in the snow representation of their queen.  Ignoring the traditional genderless snowman, they constructing Olympia, who stood 122 feet tall and much larger than the average outside snowman .  Olympia was considered the world’s largest snowperson, until Austria won the title in 2008.  Bethel’s amazing snowwoman had eyelashes made of skis, lips made of car tires, a 100-foot-long scarf, and a six-foot-long snowflake pendant. Imagine if she came to life!  Connection to Christmas is here.

the worlds tallest snowman
The Worlds Tallest Snowman

It’s Here! Snowmen and Christmas

The recognizable version of a snowman, three balls of snow stacked upon each other, with stovepipe hat, a button nose and two eyes made out of coal, came to life in the Christmas Season during the Victorian era.  Prince Albert, not the kind in a can, incorporated some of Eastern Europe’s traditions into England’s.  Santa Claus and the snowman became omnipresent icons for Boxing Day and the holiday season.

Now, in the yards of homes all over the world, life size snowmen are included in Christmas decorations.  Snowmen are also found on Christmas cards and some people collect them to use as interior holiday decoration.  There are also notable snowmen like Olaf and the Abominable Snowman, but there’s one that was made famous in both song and film – Frosty the Snowman.

Christmas decoration snowman

The Christmas animated television special about Frosty the Snowman debuted in 1969. Narrated by Jimmy Durante, the film involves a magic hat that transforms Frosty the Snowman into a living being. Without ruining the whole plot, eventually Frosty and the town children wind up at the North Pole.  When Frosty eventually melts, Santa Claus explains that Frosty is made out of special Christmas snow. Frosty then comes back to life and everyone has a Merry Christmas.

The television special is based on the song, Frosty the Snowman, written in 1950 by Walter “Jack” Rollins and Steve Nelson. They wrote it for Gene Autry, after Autry had such a huge hit with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer the previous year.  However, unlike Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman is not necessarily a Christmas song. Nothing about Christmas is mentioned in the song’s lyrics at all. It’s just a generic wintertime song.

It was when Frosty producers decided to make the song into a Christmas special that Christmas came into the story, by changing the final line of the song.  The original song ends with, “But he waved goodbye, saying, don’t you cry. I’ll be back again someday,” as evidenced here.  On the television special, the last line is, “But he waved goodbye, saying, don’t you cry. I’ll be back on Christmas day.”  Adding a bit more marketing magic to Christmas.

A Brief History of Christmas Carols

Santa Claus with Jingle Bells carol sheet music

There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should like to have given him something.

— Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol


Of all the Christian holidays, Christmas must be the most sociable. Since at least Victorian times (and certainly before) it has been a season for family and friends to spend time together and engage in joyful group activities. And one of the most joyful of those activities is the making of music and the singing of holiday songs by outdoor Christmas carolers.

Imagine Christmastime without music or carols. It just wouldn’t be the same. And yet, ironically, in the very earliest years of Christianity there was no Christmastime to speak of, much less music to celebrate it. Easter—commemorating the miraculous resurrection of the crucified Jesus—was the main holiday of devout Christians. The birth of Jesus, by comparison, seemed an unimportant affair and simply was not celebrated.

In the fourth century, however, church officials decided to proclaim the birth of Jesus as a holiday. The history behind that proclamation illustrates the genius of Roman Catholicism for incorporating secular, pagan traditions into its religious rituals. One of those is the tradition of caroling.

Carol sheet music, The First Noël
The First Nowell from an 1879 book by Henry Ramsden Bramley
(Source)

Continue reading “A Brief History of Christmas Carols”

Before He Was Santa, Was He Sinterklaas?

santa sleigh

Dutch Influences in the Story of Santa

It is believed that Santa is a derivative of the Dutch name for Saint Nicholas, which is Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas was described as a serious-looking older man with a long white beard, who wears a red cape, rides a white horse and carries a large red book filled with names of children who have been naughty or nice. Sinterklaas was said to travel with an apprentice called Piet.

Before the Book of Naughty and Nice

Santa’s helpers either listened at the chimney or on rooftops. Then Santa’s helper would report back to Santa the goings on in the homes. With this information Santa would decide who was worthy of a reward. In some stories, it was his helper Piet, in other stories it was two ravens named Huginn and Muninn, who listened on Santa’s behalf. When the focus shifted to children is unknown, but it is possible that when the fable of Santa was Christianized, it may have been in that time. Eventually, instead of Santa’s helpers listening for Santa, it was inferred that Santa, simply knew if a child was naughty or nice and Santa kept track of it in his large red book. Continue reading “Before He Was Santa, Was He Sinterklaas?”

Art of the Nativity

Duomo of Florence Italy at night

Guest Blog by Frank Weaver


The long, dark, cold nights of December are immeasurably warmed and brightened by the Christmas decorations that mark the holiday season: colored lights, tree ornaments, elaborate wreaths—and not least of all, the indoor and outdoor Nativity scenes that homeowners, churches, and municipalities display to remind us of the meaning of that season. But what inspired this tradition?

On a recent trip to Italy I wanted, of course, to immerse myself in the natural, cultural, artistic, and day-to-day charms of that country, especially in the vicinity of Florence. But I also made a particular point of seeking out the origins of the Nativity Scene tradition within the unrivaled collections of art found throughout that country.

The Nativity in Florence and Milan

I did not have to search hard.

Continue reading “Art of the Nativity”