Jesus may have been born in Bethlehem, but it was the city of New York that transformed the traditional day of his birth, December 25, into a national and eventually global holiday season. The evolution of the Christian religious holiday of Jesus’ birth into a secular global holiday that embraces all religions, cultures, and traditions is a unique example of the emergence of a global culture. Little did Clement Clarke Moore realize when he transferred the holiday of St. Nicholas from December 6 to the 25th, nor Macy’s Department Store when it organized its first Thanksgiving Day Parade, that they were crafting a secular mid-winter holiday that would one day be catapulted onto the global stage to become the planet’s first global holiday, an integral part of the human cultural patrimony. Yet, today, in the early decades of the 21st century, this first global holiday is under siege from all sides and may not long endure.
This article will trace this evolution through eight major periods: 1) The establishment of the Christmas holiday in the early churches and the controversies surrounding the holiday during the Protestant Reformation, 2) The Great New York City Christmas War, 3) The emergence of the need for a unifying secular national holiday during the early American Republic and Civil War, 4) The engineering of the “Holiday Season” stretching from Thanksgiving to New Years’ by commercial and marketing interests, 5) The entertainment, food, and fun industries give a hand, 6) The inclusion of non-Christian holidays into the Holiday Season, 7) The globalization of the Holiday Season, and finally, 8) The tinsel covered Trojan Reindeer: the anti-Holiday Season backlash.
Brown, R. J. (2016). How New York City invented the holiday season: The rise and fall of the world's first global holiday. Journal of Unification Studies, 17, 195-228.
Originally published in the Journal of Unification Studies, 17, 195-228. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. This material can be found here.