History of Christmas

History of Christmas | Hallmark

Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrated around the world commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. In the third century, efforts were made to find out the date of the Nativity, but only in the year 336 A.D. was the date of the Dec. 25 festival set in commemoration of Jesus’ birth. Pope Julius formally selected Dec. 25 as the day of Christmas in 349 A.D.

Roman Catholics, Lutherans, members of the Dutch Reformed and Anglican churches, and those of the German sects were most responsible for establishing Christmas traditions in America. Christmas customs spread with the westward expansion of the United States, and by the late 1800s, it had become firmly entrenched in American society.

Santa Claus made his first foray into American culture in the late 1700s when groups of Dutch families in New York gathered to celebrate and honor St. Nicholas on the anniversary of his death on December 6. The name Santa Claus came from St. Nicholas’ Dutch nickname, Sinter Klaas, which is short for Sint Nikolaas.

St. Nicholas was a 4th-century bishop of Myra in Asia Minor. Many stories exist about St. Nicholas’ reputation for secret gift-giving and his kind deeds helping less fortunate people. His feast day became a children’s holiday associated with giving small gifts.

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  • 1910s
    Santa was a formal fellow, driving his reindeer-drawn sleigh in a very traditional way in Hallmark’s early years.
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 1910s
  • 1920s
    His red suit and green belt were hand-colored by Hallmark colorists in the days before affordable color printing.
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 1920s
  • 1920s
    He’s baaaaack…
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 1920s
  • 1930s
    Up on the rooftop Santa and his reindeer are ready to descend the chimney.
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 1930s
  • 1940s
    Longtime Hallmark artist Vivian Smith brought her distinctive, detailed style to the jolly old elf.
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 1940s
  • 1940s
    Who needs reindeer when air travel is available?
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 1940s
  • 1950s
    Santa cautions quiet and promises “somepin'” up his sleeve.
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 1950s
  • 1950s
    Santa’s at the center of it all in this jingle bell wreath design.
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 1950s
  • 1950s
    Baby Boomers were young and Hallmark created fun, child-friendly designs for them.
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 1950s
  • 1950s
    Norman Rockwell, one of the best-known and best-loved artists in midcentury America, lent his talent to Hallmark’s interpretation of Santa.
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 1950s
  • 1960s
    Traditional styles give way to more graphic interpretations in this decade.
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 1960s
  • 1960s
    Another Christmas Eve, another trip down the chimney…
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 1960s
  • 1960s
    Santa’s groovy style takes on stripes.
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 1960s
  • 1960s
    Santa raises a glass and looks a bit tipsy on this fuzzy card.
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 1960s
  • 1960s
    Santa takes on a minimalist look with a bird in his beard.
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 1960s
  • 1970s
    Santa succumbs to black-light mania.
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 1970s
  • 1970s
    Red and green colors are the only traditional things about this Santa image.
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 1970s
  • 1970s
    Santa stuffs the golf bag, not the stocking.
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 1970s
  • 1980s
    More traditional stylings of Santa Claus return.
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 1980s
  • 1980s
    Another traditional view of the jolly old elf.
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 1980s
  • 1980s
    When the Shoebox line appears in this decade, Santa uses the “me and the old bag” line one too many times.
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 1980s
  • 1980s
    Bright primary colors and a graphic style mark this holiday card.
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 1980s
  • 1990s
    Santa’s smartly styled in this graphic interpretation.
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 1990s
  • 2000s
    “Sure hope you enjoyed a year of naughtiness,” read the caption for a picture of a lump of coal on the inside of this card.
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 2000s
  • 2010s
    hoops&yoyo deliver the gifts and the fun in a webcam greeting that comes to life using augmented reality, a sure sign it’s not the 20th Century any more.
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 2010s
  • 2010s
    Open this card and Santa becomes a 3-D pop-up to make the holidays merry.
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 2010s
  • 2010s
    Who’s got the most Facebook friends? It’s a pretty sure bet Santa’s at the top of the list!
    Hallmark Christmas cards through the years: 2010s