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Holiday Greetings

vicchristmastradToday I participated in two holiday traditions, a Christmas gathering for the Blue Water Shutterbugs Camera Club and the writing of my annual Christmas letter, which I do in lieu of a card.  The writing of Christmas greetings and handling out of Christmas gifts are two areas where I recently learned the history of the tradition.

In the early 1850’s the first American made Christmas card was distributed by H. Pease, a printer and variety store owner in Albany, New York.  Louis Prang, a German immigrant and printer perfected color printing and introduced a new colorful Christmas card in 1874.  Within five years the sales were over 5 million.  Popularity grew and Americans began sending cards instead of writing Christmas letters or making personal visits.  Cards held their popularity until the 21st Century.  The increased use of the internet led to a 60% decrease in the sale of Christmas cards in the past decade.  In 1958 the average U.S. family mailed 100 Christmas cards.  In 2001 that figure was down to an average of 28 cards per family sent and received.    I know I have dropped my card sending down from about 75 to 30, and the number I receive has also substantially declined.

About eight years ago I went back to what I recently learned was the original tradition.  Instead of purchasing and mailing Christmas Cards, I created a Christmas Newsletter that gave all the information on my family newspaper style.  I use articles and columns to lay out my newsletter for easy reading.  The first year I did this I received many positive responses.  Friends and family enjoyed getting this newsworthy mailing rather than a purchased card with just a signature inside.  Today I wrote and have printed my 2018 Christmas newsletter.

The Christmas party I attended today included a white elephant gift exchange, which is a bit different since it involves the giving of a used item from your home that is no longer of use to you but may be of use to someone else.  They are given wrapped, but do not have the giver’s name attached.  This provides a festive yet inexpensive way to enjoy the act of giving and receiving gifts.

Gift giving was not always part of Christmas tradition.  The act of giving gifts increased from the 1820’s through the 1850’s, when shopkeepers re-shaped the holiday tradition.  Prior to that time people gave unwrapped gifts.  Then Americans began wrapping the gifts they gave, as a gift hidden in paper heightened the excitement and designated it as a gift.  As this grew in popularity gifts from stores, factories and homes of laborers were wrapped in paper that advertised the material status of the giver.  The more grand stores used distinctive colored paper and adorned them with tinsel cords and bright ribbon.

Gift giving became a symbol of materialism, as it signified family ties and the importance of the recipient to the giver.  In 1856 Harper’s Magazine attached the security of a relationship to gift giving when it stated “Love is the moral of Christmas…What are gifts but proof of Love.”  Gifts were given on a declining scale based on a person’s relationship.  The best gifts were given to family and close social circles, lesser gifts in descending order of value to relatives and acquaintances.  The deserving poor received the least valuable and least personal gifts.

The act of giving gifts was controversial, as some perceived it to be a materialistic perversion of a holy day.  Affluence was viewed as a reward from God and charitable gifting as a Christian duty.  A rich man could escape condemnation by acting in a generous fashion to help those in poverty.   Best and Company had an advertisement in 1894 that suggested while purchasing items for Christmas the shopper should think of Children less fortunate and for them the store suggested “a gift of serviceable clothing” be chosen from a group of marked down goods that “would be more than welcome.”

In today’s society the act of giving to those less fortunate is seen in all aspects of our life, including toy donation boxes in stores, mitten trees, and the annual Salvation Army Red Kettle Drive to gather money for providing meals, toys, and other items to those in need.   Over the years I have participated in various forms of charitable giving, including shopping for a needy child and/or family, donating to mitten trees, working as a server at a soup kitchen, donating a stuffed Christmas sock for a designated sex/age child.

As you go through your holiday preparations think about where the traditions came from, jot a personal note in that Christmas card and if you are able, help out a child or family in need.  After all, it is an American tradition.

 

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Merry Christmas

My Christmas Tree.  Photo by Grace Grogan

My Christmas Tree. Photo by Grace Grogan

Wishing Everyone a Merry Christmas.

This year we had family Christmas with my sister, her daughters and grandchildren on the 21st of December, followed by Christmas with my daughter, three grandsons and daughter’s boyfriend on Christmas Eve.  All previous years Caroline came

Caroline with her three children, Alexandria, Corbin and Austin; Linda with her two Children, Aiden and Marney.

Caroline with her three children, Alexandria, Corbin and Austin; Linda with her two Children, Aiden and Marney.

over with her kids on Christmas Day after they had opened gifts at home, but this year we had to make different arrangements.

Our oldest grandson, Austin, was leaving at 9 pm Christmas Eve to spend the rest of his Christmas vacation at his father’s house. This created a bit of a dilemma as my daughter’s boyfriend, Rob, had to work the morning of Christmas Eve, so it raised a problem with when Santa should arrive. The solution – Santa came to our house, left a note explaining why all the gifts were here and not at their house.

Corbin and Austin

Corbin and Austin

Once Rob was out of work they all came over to our house, arriving around 2 pm for pizza and gift opening. This worked out perfect as Austin was then able to go home and play his new and #1 gift wish, Skylander, before leaving to go to his dad’s for the rest of his Christmas break. Corbin, who will be 4 on the 30th of December, was thrilled with his Thomas The Train tracks, his fire engines and cars.  He is a kid that likes anything with wheels, but his number one love is trains.  Alexandria, just born on the 12th of December slept through the entire event.  She looked adorable in her “Baby’s First  Christmas” shirt sleeping away.

Ron and I waited until the gang had left before we opened our main gifts for ourselves — new Nikon D750 Cameras and gear.  Since we had no children in the house or gifts to open on Christmas morning, we were able to spend the time figuring out our new cameras and getting them programmed the way we wanted.

I hope all of you had a fun-filled Christmas celebration.

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Filed under children, Family, grandchildren, Holidays, Life is a Melting Pot