Christmas and a Free Market

Thoughts on a free market…….by Phyllis Hunsinger December, 2020

                The celebration of Christmas in America is an interesting journey. In the 1600’s, the Puritans were not allowed to exchange gifts, light a candle, or sing Christmas carols. Many traditions observed today had their roots in pre-Christian winter festivals. Celtic legend says mistletoe can bring good luck, heal wounds, and ward off evil spirits; and, the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe began in the Victorian era. Dutch immigrants during the 17th century brought with them the legend of Sinter Klaas. And in 1773 Santa first appeared in the media as St. A Claus. Congress proclaimed Christmas a federal holiday in 1870.

                The character of Santa Claus is based on St. Nicholas, a legendary Christian bishop who provided for the poor and needy. He also loved children and enjoyed giving gifts to them secretly. During the early 1800’s, Washington Irving included Saint Nicolas in a book about New York and Clement Moore is believed to have written a poem that has become known as “The Night Before Christmas.”

                F.W. Woolworth first brought glass ornaments to the mass market in the United States when he imported them from a small German supplier. Candy canes have a long history dating back centuries in Germany when they were reportedly given to young children to keep them quiet through the Christmas nativity service. The tradition of sending Christmas cards began in the 1800’s along with the introduction of Santa Claus in the stores. By 1890, the Salvation Army had begun the practice of sending individuals dressed in Santa suits into the streets of New York City to solicit donations to pay for holiday meals for the needy.

                By the early 1900’s Santa’s image had been standardized to portray a bearded, over-weight, jolly man dressed in a red suit with white trim. Coca Cola included Santa images in their Christmas advertisements. Robert May, while working for the Montgomery Ward Company, created a poem about Rudolph, the ninth reindeer. Some ten years later Johnny Marks wrote the song, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” which Gene Autry made famous.

                Some people believe commercialism is blurring the true meaning of Christmas. The word Christmas is literally Christ mass, which is defined as a Christian commemoration of the birth of Christ. The beautiful decorations, Nativity scenes, Christmas cards and trees, holiday concerts, parades, gift wrapping, myriad of gift ideas, delicious food preparations, fireplace stockings, and many other traditions and products associated with the season represent ideas and innovations that have survived because we, the consumers, have made them successful. Thanks to the free market economy, consumers have choices.

                This brief examination of the celebration of Christmas demonstrates how the free market has promoted and provided the Christmas and winter seasonal traditions we enjoy. Christmas is a sacred religious holiday for many. Worldwide cultural and commercial industries have developed around Christmas. Enjoy the season! Merry Christmas!                            Phyllis Hunsinger © 2020 All Rights Reserved

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