By Ariyana Hossain, Year 12



Did you know that although Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus, the actual celebration of Christmas didn’t begin until the 3rd century AD? This was when Roman church officials decreed December 25 to be the official Christian holiday. In our contemporary society, Christmas has now become one of the world’s most popular holiday traditions, celebrated all over the world by Christians and many non-Christians alike. In honour of the Mary Word’s 2017 Christmas Edition, here is an overview of how everyone’s favourite holiday has evolved over the last century.

Early 1900s:

  • The first two decades of the 1900s were accompanied by the emergence of store window displays as a way of getting festive for the holiday season. According to Smithsonian Magazine, 1907 was the year when companies in America first began decorating their windows for the holiday season.
  • Snow globes were first invented in Vienna in the year 1905.
  • The usage glass ornaments, which was traditionally a German tradition, began to be prevalently used in America.
  • A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, was released in film for the very first time and thus became a well-beloved cult classic film for many families.
  • During the war, military themed gifts for children such as toy soldiers and uniforms were common. However, extravagance was widely discouraged as it was ideal to give more practical gifts, particularly to the men fighting on the front.



  • The use of Christmas lights to decorate homes became a holiday tradition for the first time in this era (specifically stringed electric lights)
  • Although artificial Christmas trees can be dated back to the early 1800s in Germany, many families used a ‘goose feather tree’ (basically a tree made out of metal wire and sticks with feathers attached to them).




  • The world famous Christmas tree at Rockefeller Centre in NYC was put up for the first time in 1931
  • Since this was the decade of the Great Depression in the US, people would often use food as an alternative to decorate their trees. Cheap plastic decorations and tinsel were also common.
  • A Red Santa Claus was first introduced into the world—this was in fact inspired by Coca Cola!


1940s and 50s:

  • Electronic candles became a widely used decoration item from 1941 onwards
  • It’s a Wonderful Life, another cult-classic Christmas film was released in 1946
  • Christmas essentially became a commercial holiday after WWII, gradually becoming a more cultural holiday rather than religious, with the Christmas industry starting to make millions more in profits.
  • Rationing during the war was widely practiced, so many children either received gifts handed down from older relatives or wooden toys.
  • Toy trains: after they became famous in the early 50s, basically every kid wanted receive a toy train in their Christmas stockings—you could say it was the fidget spinner of the 1950s




1960s and 1970s:

  • Board games became insanely popular in the 60s, with games such as Mouse Trap and Operation being played for the first time.
  • The Beatles blessed the music industry with their Christmas albums which often took top spot in the charts
  • Colour TV allowed for families across the world to wake up on Christmas morning and watch their favourite Christmas specials on TV in colour for the first time ever
  • Using tinsel to decorate Christmas trees became a viral trend in these decades, switching from lead foil to plastic in the 70s due to the fact that lead foil would cause lead poisoning for many.



  • The decade when everything was big: big hairdos, big jackets…but also the gifts, with shortages of Cabbage Patch Kids and Barbie dolls, fights ensued as parents tried to get their kids the perfect gift.
  • With decorations now being exported from China, there was more emphasis in buying Christmas ornaments for decoration purposes rather than the tree itself.




  • In short: Mariah Carey






Works Cited

  • Hickman, K. (2017). How Christmas Trends Developed Over The Past 100 Years. [online] Bustle. Available at: [Accessed 30 Nov. 2017].
  • Mainwaring, R. (2017). 23 pictures that show how Christmas has changed in 100 years. [online] walesonline. Available at: [Accessed 1 Dec. 2017].
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