How Christmas has Changed in the last 100 Year

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christmas early 1900

We’ve been celebrating Christmas literally for thousands of years. However, over time the way we celebrate it has changed drastically. The most evident changes have come in the last century.

Early 1900s

In the early 20th century, folks decorated their trees with fruits, berries, and nuts. Strings of popcorn served as garland.

Since electricity was so new, most families used candles to light their trees. In order to decorate for the holiday they needed to be innovative so they made fake snow out of cotton balls.

They also made Christmas cards from scratch using materials they could find around the house.

On Christmas Eve children hung their stockings and in the morning found them filled with fruits and nuts the next morning. For entertainment, families stood around the piano and sang carols and played indoor parlor games such as charades.


By the 1930s, the economic hardship of the time showed through in how Christmas was celebrated. People were beginning to decorate their trees with objects such as bells, balls, and tinsel.

By the end of the decade, some stores were selling commercial ornaments similar to what we have today, however they were rare, as they were imported from Europe.

The current image of Santa of a jolly old man in a red suit was begun, as was the legend of Rudolph. The tradition of leaving cookies out for Santa began to take root. Its original intent was to be a lesson about sharing for children.


After World War II Christmas traditions had a resurgence after being dormant during the war.

Christmas trees were being decorated and displayed again. People spent hours lovingly handwriting notes into purchased Christmas cards.

To participate in the festive cheer of the holiday, families went out caroling and played records within the home.

Since families were no longer feeling the pressures of the war, Christmas present shopping began to take root during this time and baking Christmas cookies and other confections was quite popular.

By the 1960s, people were favoring aluminum Christmas trees over live ones, which symbolized a new beginning and a movement to modern times.

1970s and 1980s

In the ’70s and ’80s came an onslaught of television Christmas specials.

These programs came in the form of variety shows that highlighted singing and dancing to holiday songs performed by many big-name talents of the day including Bing Crosby and Perry Como and cartoons that brought to life age-old characters such as Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph.

The plot lines of the cartoons were simple but meaningful and always taught a lesson about the real meaning of Christmas. These shows ran almost constantly between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

Their sole intent was to put everyone in the holiday spirit, and it always worked.


The Christmas traditions of today fit in with the hustle and bustle of our society.

Many radio stations play Christmas music 24 hours a day every day between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Television stations revolve their program around the holiday as well. Many stations dedicate the entire month of December to Christmas programming in an effort to allow everyone a chance to see these programs regardless of their busy schedules.

Busy parents get lent a helping hand from the “Elf on the Shelf”, who reports back to Santa about good little girls and boys.

Despite how Christmas traditions have changed in the last 100 years, one thing has remained constant: family and friends come together to celebrate the true meaning behind this joyous time of year.

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