Here it comes: the big daddy of holidays, the jingle bell juggernaut, the elf-crafted extravaganza. Can we get a drumroll from those ten drummers drumming? It’s Christmas! Christmas reigns supreme in the holiday world; it’s not merely a holiday but its own genre of movies and music, its own flavor of cookies, really its own little universe which emerges the very second Thanksgiving is over. The volume of Christmas icons is nothing short of astounding; from reindeer to Red Rider bee-bee guns, snowmen to Jimmy Stewart movies, Charles Dickens to Charlie Brown, there’s a veritable army of season’s greeters armed to the teeth with mistletoe and eggnog. But even outside of the official Christmas canon of spokespeople, there’s a mountain of merriment generated simply by everyday people. Christmas parties, Christmas-specific decorations, carols, Christmas cards, poems for Christmas, and of course Christmas recipes are all part of the mix. And while Christmas has its roots in Christianity, it is celebrated by both the most dedicated believers and people outside the religion who nonetheless feel the need for a few tidings of comfort and joy. And while we all enjoy the latest round of Christmas songs and TV shows that come out every year, it’s always important to remember your friends with well thought out Christmas cards.
Christmas has a rich and well-studied two thousand year history. It is ostensibly the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the hero of Christian beliefs who naturally should be entitled to his own holiday. But there’s a catch: some modern historians have challenged the idea that Jesus was actually born on December 25, and that instead the day was chosen to coincide with the Roman solstice festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti. As their theory goes, Christmas gained popularity and eventually replaced the Roman celebration, since after all Dies Natalis Solis Invicti is a much harder name to remember. But the position of most theologians today is that no matter what day Jesus was born on, the holiday of Christmas exists to honor that birth. As the holiday progressed, modern traditions began to emerge. The holiday was celebrated as a feast in the Middle Ages, and despite attempts to thwart its celebration by Puritan rule in England, the holiday reemerged in the 17th century. It was during this time that the character of “Father Christmas” emerged, who would go on to influence the American “Santa Claus”, though for whatever reason the Americans decided to give him a name which was a strange mixture of Spanish and Dutch. The tradition of giving gifts, already popular before but suppressed by the Puritans, exploded in popularity afterward.
One of the more important traditions during Christmas time is the sending of Christmas cards. The tradition is a bit newer than some of the other Christmas customs, since after all the Roman Empire didn’t have a very good postal service. It began in the 1840s with the first industrially printed cards in honor of Christmas. The trend took off and spread to the United States in 1875, where the cards have been popular ever since. Christmas cards are commonly viewed as a way to keep in touch with friends far and wide. For families, Christmas cards often turn out as a detailed summary of the events of the year, sometimes even coming with an index and footnotes. But there are Christmas cards of every shape and size, with enough variety to fit every yuletide character. For the goofball, there are any number of funny Christmas cards with cheesy tag lines; for example: How many reindeer does it take to screw in a light bulb? Doesn’t matter, they use their noses for light! For the upstanding professional, there are business Christmas cards, which can be especially important if you accidentally drink a bit too much eggnog at the company Christmas party. For those who don’t know what to write in Christmas Cards, some come elegantly decorated but with blank inside. There are also patriotic Christmas cards, religious or specifically Christian Christmas cards, and cards with customized photos for Christmas. But no matter what kind of card you send, don’t forget how important it is to let loose with a little holiday cheer every year. Hey, if Santa can visit every house in the world, it shouldn’t be any trouble for you to send a few cards to your best friends and family.