From God to gifts

How Christmas lost its religious meaning


Eric Benitez, Staff Writer

When people think of Christmas, they’re first thoughts are of Santa, flashing lights, and, most importantly, presents.  But the holidays weren’t always about presents.

Christmas originally started as a pagan holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  However, the rise of Christianity from the period before the discovery of the New World prevented pagans from openly celebrating Christmas.  

During the 19th century, Christmas re-emerged in the United States as the holiday people celebrate today.  Christmas came at a time when the United States was experiencing rapid industrial growth.  

In the mid 1850s, Christmas surfaced as a unifying symbol of national identity during the time when tensions between the North and South continued to intensify over slavery.  The appeal for Christmas only grew during the Civil War.

By the 1900s, Christmas essentially lost its religious elements and was now being celebrated as something that brings the nation together.  Waves of materialism encouraged consumer spending, which only increased around the holidays.

As the years progressed, the Christmas tree was brought to America from German traditions.  Christmas cards soon became a staple among families.

Christmas decorations became a big business in the United States, people are more eager to spend during the holidays.  Businesses add to the image of Christmas being a symbol for materialism.

However, people don’t just look forward to Christmas for the presents.  Presents may be a huge plus for younger children, but for adults and most teens, Christmas is about family.  

Whether a person celebrates Christmas for religious reasons or for the presents, Christmas is a holiday for everyone to enjoy.