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Library on Topic: Christmas in the United States of America
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The way Christmas is celebrated in the United States of America in the current time has its roots in ancient Rome. Although historically there were many winter and December holidays and pagan celebrations, the December 25th date comes from when the Romans celebrated a festival called the Saturnalia (during which people feasted and exchanged gifts) that celebrated the Sun. It was also the birthday of the Indo-European deity Mithra, a god of light and loyalty. Once the emperor Constantine made Christianity the major religion of the Roman Empire in 336 A.D. the celebration switched to celebrate the Son of God. However, many still felt Epiphany or Three Kings Day on January 6th was a more appropriate date, however by the 9th century the 25th of December was widely accepted as the day when most Christians celebrated the birth of Christ.
In the United States of America (USA), Christmas is both a religious and secular holiday. In England and then in the British Colonies in the 17th century celebrating Christmas was looked down upon in Boston, MA for example it was outlawed from 1659-1681 and then once the USA was no longer under British rule Christmas in the USA fell out of favor. In some parts of the USA, Louisiana for example celebrated Twelfth Night, which starts with Christmas Day and ends with Epiphany and it was more populated by wild parties and masquerade balls often what those in the U.S. equate with Mardi Gras. It was not until the 19th when author Washington Irving wrote his 1819 work “The Sketchbook of Geffrey Crayon, gent., that the holiday that we now see started to take shape.
After several states, starting with Louisiana in 1837 started to make Christmas a holiday, U.S. President Ulysses Grant made Christmas a federal holiday in 1870. It is thought that in part it was to help heal the nation after the Civil War. Many of the holiday traditions that are trappings of a U.S. Christmas were brought to the USA via immigrants. The Christmas Tree is a German tradition with the first U.S. Christmas tree lot opening in the U.S. in New York in 1851. Christmas cards are from England with the first one debuting with an envelope in 1915. Poinsettia made its way from Mexico to the U.S. in 1828. No article on Christmas in the USA would be complete without a mention of Santa Claus, who is based on a Turkish born Saint Nicholas, in the Catholic tradition the patron saint of children.
Early Learning (0-4)
- Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus by Chris Plehal; pictures by James Bernardin
- In 1897 New York City, a young girl who knows that Santa Claus exists sets out to prove her case to unbelievers by writing a letter to the editor of the New York Sun.
- Smudge and the book of mistakes: a Christmas story by Gloria Whelan; illustrated by Stephen Costanza
- In Ireland in the Middle Ages, young Brother Cuthbert, known for making mistakes and giving up easily, is chosen through a miscommunication to serve as scribe for an illuminated manuscript of the Nativity story, through which the Abbot hopes to make the monastery famous.
- Christmas by Brenda Haugen; illustrated by Todd Ouren
- Briefly discusses the history and customs connected to the celebration of Christmas.
- Carter's Christmas by Lisa Bullard; illustrated by Katie Saunders
- A narrative about Carter and his grandmother, examines the history behind Christmas and how it's celebrated.
School Age (5-8)
- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens; illustrated by Brett Helquist; abridged by Josh Greenhut
- A miser learns the true meaning of Christmas when three ghostly visitors review his past and foretell his future.
- The Nutcracker in Harlem by T.E. McMorrow; illustrated by James Ransome
- In Harlem in the 1920s, in the middle of a family Christmas party, Marie receives a nutcracker from her Uncle Cab, which leads to a marvelous dream in this resetting of E.T.A. Hoffmann's familiar tale. Includes historical notes.
- Early Christmas by Bobbie Kalman
- Briefly traces the development of Christmas traditions in America, and describes Christmas weddings, holiday preparations, Santa Claus, and Christmas trees
- O Christmas Tree: Its history and holiday traditions by Jacqueline Farmer; Illustrated by Joanne Friar
- Explores the history and traditions of the Christmas tree, from its ancient origins to its first tree lights and decorations, and includes information about how these special evergreens are grown
- Christmas in the big house, Christmas in the Quarters by Patricia C. McKissack and Fredrick McKissack; illustrated by John Thompson
- Describes the customs, recipes, poems, and songs used to celebrate Christmas in the big plantation houses and in the slave quarters just before the Civil War.
- Christmas in America in the 1700's and 1800's.
- Customs and traditions of the Christmas holidays as celebrated in America in the 1700's and 1800's. Includes crafts, recipes, and carols
- A Pioneer Christmas: Celebrating in the backwoods in 1841 by Barbara Greenwood; illustrated by Heather Collins
- A tale about a pioneering Canadian family who, having prepared a feast for Christmas, awaits the safe arrival of relatives from far away on a very snowy day provides a framework for information on period holiday celebrations, with songs, crafts, games, and activities.
- Texas Christmas: as celebrated under six flags by Elizabeth Dearing Morgan
- Describes some of the different ways that Christmas has been celebrated by various groups in Texas from the early sixteenth century to the present.
- Christmas: its origin, celebration and significance as related in prose and verse edited by Robert Haven Schauffler
- A Christmas Carol [graphic novel]: the night that changed the life of Eliza Scrooge adapted and illustrated by Rod Espinosa
- The miserly Eliza Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of the past, present, and future on one fateful Christmas Eve
- Let it snow: three holiday romances by John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle
- In three intertwining short stories, several high school couples experience the trials and tribulations along with the joys of romance during a Christmas Eve snowstorm in a small town.
- Christmas: a biography by Judith Flanders
- Christmas is all things to all people: a religious festival, a family celebration, a period of eating and drinking. In [this book], Flanders casts a sharp eye on myths, legends, and history, ... moving from the origins of the holiday in the Roman empire, through Christmas trees in central Europe, to what might be the first appearance of Santa Claus
- Christmas in the crosshairs: two thousand years of denouncing and defending the world's most celebrated holiday by Gerry Bowler
- Presents a history of Christmas, discussing the ongoing war on the most celebrated holiday
- Dickens' Christmas: a Victorian celebration by Simon Callow
- An anthology of Christmas writings by Charles Dickens features the complete text of "A Christmas Carol," complemented by period illustrations and excerpts from other writings.
- Christmas: a candid history by Bruce David Forbes
- An enlightening, entertaining perspective on how the annual Yuletide celebration got to be what it is today.
- Christmas Curiosities: odd, dark, and forgotten Christmas by John Grossman
- An assortment of antique postcards, greeting cards, advertising giveaways, and other ephemera from the Victorian and Edwardian eras reveals the darker side of Christmas past, a holiday marked by dissipation, drunkenness, and other misbehavior.