Antiquarian Society Exhibitions

Christmas Through
the Years


Origins of Celebrating Christmas

In seventeenth-century New England, the Puritans did not celebrate Christmas because the Bible did not prescribe special religious feasts. Other early settlers, however, did not adhere to the Puritans' doctrine. By 1700, there were controversies between Puritans, Baptists, Presbyterians, and Quakers on one side and members of Germans sects, the Church of England, the Dutch Reformed, Lutheran, and Catholic churches on the other. Opposition against celebrating the birth of Christ as a secular festival continued into the nineteenth century. One effort that eventually decreased the opposition to Christmas was the introduction of the religious observance of Christmas into Sunday Schools. A Sermon preac'd ...
Scougal, Henry, 1650-1678. "A sermon preach'd on the 25th of December, being the nativity of our Saviour ..." Boston, N.E. : [s.n.], 1737.
View AAS cataloging record for this sermon

Sheet music
Cover of music score, Christmas Schottisch, composed by George L. Walker, designed by George F. Bensell, ca. 1855.
By the nineteenth century, Christmas became a time of gathering friends and family together. Some books, periodicals, and sheet music are illustrated with depictions of this congenial aspect of Christmas.

Ill. from Godey's Lady's Book
Illustration from Godey's Lady's Book, December 1850.

Sending Christmas greeting cards also became a more common part of the tradition throughout the century, especially as mail service and printing methods improved. Christmas card
Christmas card, n.d.

Christmas card
Christmas card, ca. 1862.
Christmas card
Christmas card, ca. 1885.


Origins of
Celebrating Christmas Evolution of
Santa Claus Twas the Night Before
Christmas Santa's
Reindeer The Traditional
Christmas Tree


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Last updated December 18, 2000

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