The History of Christmas & Goods
History of Christmas
On December 25, Christians traditionally celebrate
the birth of Christ. The origins of the holiday are
uncertain, however by the year 336, the Christian church
in Rome observed the Feast of the Nativity (birth) on
December 25. Christmas also coincided with the winter
solstice and the Roman Festival of Saturnalia.
While Christmas is a centuries old tradition, it was
never an official American national holiday until 1870.
When Burton Chauncey Cook, House Representative from
Illinois, introduced a bill to make Christmas a national
holiday, which was passed by both the House and Senate
in June 1870. President Ulysses S. Grant signed the
bill which made Christmas a legal holiday on June 28,
Artificial Christmas Trees
Towards the end of the 1800's, another variation of
the traditional Christmas tree appeared: the artificial
Christmas tree. Artificial trees originated in Germany.
Metal wire trees were covered with goose, turkey, ostrich
or swan feathers. The feathers were often died green
to imitate pine needles.
In the 1930's, the Addis Brush Company created the
first artificial-brush trees, using the same machinery
that made their toilet brushes! The Addis 'Silver Pine'
tree was patented in 1950. The Christmas tree was designed
to have a revolving light source under it, colored gels
allowed the light to shine in different shades as it
revolved under the tree.
The tradition of using small candles to light up the
Christmas tree dates back to at least the middle of
the XVIIth century. However, it took two centuries for
the tradition to become widely established first in
Germany and soon spreading to Eastern Europe.
Candles for the tree were glued with melted wax to
a tree branch or attached by pins. Around 1890, candleholders
were first used for Christmas candles. Between 1902
and 1914, small lanterns and glass balls to hold the
candles started to be used.
Around 1610, tinsel was first invented in Germany made
from genuine silver. Machines were invented that shredded
silver into thin tinsel-sized strips. Silver tinsel
tarnishes and loses its shine with time, eventually,
artificial replacements were invented. The original
inventor of tinsel remains unknown.
Around the seventeenth century, European-Christians
began to adopt the use of Christmas trees as part of
their Christmas celebrations. They made special decorations
for their trees from foods like cookies and sugar-stick
candy. The first historical reference to the familiar
cane shape goes back to 1670, when the choirmaster at
the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, bent the sugar-sticks
into canes to represent a shepherd's staff. The all-white
candy canes were given out to children during the long-winded
The clergymen's custom of handing out candy canes during
Christmas services spread throughout Europe and later
to America. The canes were still white, but sometimes
the candy-makers would add sugar-roses to decorate the
The first historical reference to the candy cane being
in America goes back to 1847, when a German immigrant
called August Imgard decorated the Christmas tree in
his Wooster, Ohio home with candy canes.
About fifty years later the first red-and-white striped
candy canes appeared. No one knows who exactly invented
the stripes, but Christmas cards prior to the year 1900
showed only all-white candy canes. Christmas cards after
1900 showed illustrations of striped candy canes. Around
the same time, candy-makers added peppermint and wintergreen
flavors to their candy canes and those flavors then
became the traditional favorites.
Sweet Secrets of the Candy Cane
There are many other legends and beliefs surrounding
the humble candy cane. Many of them depict the candy
cane as a secret symbol for Christianity used during
the times when Christian were living under more oppressive
circumstances. It was said that the cane was shaped
like a "J" for Jesus. The red-and-white stripes
represented Christ's blood and purity. The three red
stripes symbolized the Holy Trinity. The hardness of
the candy represented the Church's foundation on solid
rock and the peppermint flavor represented the use of
hyssop, an herb referred to in the Old Testament. There
is no historical evidence to support these claims, quite
the contrary, but they are lovely thoughts.
Christmas Light & Electricity
In 1882, the first Christmas tree was lit by the use
of electricity. Edward Johnson lighted up a Christmas
tree in New York City with eighty small electric light
bulb. It should be noted that Edward Johnson created
the first string of electric Christmas lights that were
then mass produced around 1890. By 1900, department
stores started using the new Christmas lights for their
Edward Johnson was one of Thomas Edison's muckers,
an inventor who worked under the direction of Edison.
Johnson became vice-president of Edison's electric company.
Safe Christmas Lights
Albert Sadacca was fifteen in 1917, when he first got
the idea to make safety Christmas lights for Christmas
trees. A tragic fire in New York City involving Christmas
tree candles inspired Albert to invent electric Christmas
lights. The Sadacca family sold ornamental novelty items
including novelty lights. Albert adapted some of the
products into safe electric lights for Christmas trees.
The first year only one hundred strings of white lights
sold. The second year Sadacca used brightly colored
bulbs and a multi-million dollar business took-off.
Later, a company started by Albert Sadacca (and his
two brothers Henri and Leon) called NOMA Electric Company
became the largest Christmas lighting company in the
The Christmas Poinsettia:
What's in a Name?
• Poinsettias are part of the Euphorbiaceae or
Spurge family. Botanically, the plant is known as Euphorbia
• In Nahuatl , the language of the Aztecs, the
Poinsettia was called Cuitlaxochitl (from cuitlatl,
for residue, and xochitl, for flower), meaning "flower
that grows in residues or soil."
• Today the plant is known in Mexico and Guatemala
as ""La Flor de la Nochebuena" (Flower
of the Holy Night, or Christmas Eve).
• In Chile and Peru, the Poinsettia is called
the "Crown of the Andes".
• In Spain the Poinsettia has a different holiday
attribution. It is known there as "Flor de Pascua",
meaning "Easter flower".
• Poinsettias have also been called the lobster
flower and the flame-leaf flower, due to the red color.
• Poinsettias received their name in the United
States in honor of Joel Roberts Poinsett, who introduced
the plant into the country in 1828. Poinsett was a botanist,
physician and the first United States Ambassador to
Mexico. He sent cuttings of the plant he had discovered
in Southern Mexico to his home in Charleston, South
Carolina. The word Poinsettia is traditionally capitalized
because it is named after a person.
Anatomy of a Poinsettia
• The showy colored parts of Poinsettias that
most people think of as the flowers are actually colored
bracts (modified leaves). The yellow flowers, or cyathia,
are in the center of the colorful bracts. The plant
drops its bracts and leaves soon after those flowers
shed their pollen. For the longest-lasting Poinsettias,
choose plants with little or no yellow pollen showing.
• Many plants in the Euphorbiaceae family ooze
a milky sap. Some people with latex allergies have had
a skin reaction (most likely to the sap) after touching
• Despite rumors to the contrary, Poinsettias
are not poisonous. A study at Ohio State University
showed that a 50-pound child would have to eat more
than a pound-and-a-quarter of Poinsettia leaves (500
to 600 leaves) to have any side effects. The most common
side effects that have been reported from Poinsettia
ingestions are upset stomach and vomiting. The leaves
are reportedly not very tasty, so it's highly unlikely
that kids or even pets would be able to eat that many!
But be aware that the leaves can still be a choking
hazard for children and pets.
• In nature, Poinsettias are perennial flowering
shrubs that were once considered weeds.
• Poinsettias are not frost-tolerant. They will
grow outdoors in temperate coastal climates, such as
Southern California beach communities. In the ground,
they can reach 10 feet tall.
• The colors of the bracts are created through
"photoperiodism", meaning that they require
darkness (12 hours at a time for at least five days
in a row) to change color. On the other hand, once Poinsettias
finish that process, the plants require abundant light
during the day for the brightest color.
Great Moments in Poinsettia History
• Poinsettias are native to Mexico. They are
found in the wild in deciduous tropical forest at moderate
elevations from southern Sinaloa down the entire Pacific
coast of Mexico to Chiapas and Guatemala. They are also
found in the interior of Mexico in the hot, seasonally
dry forests of Gurerro and Oxaca.
• December 12th is Poinsettia Day, which marks
the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett in 1851.
• In Mexico, the Poinsettia is displayed in celebration
of the "Dia de la Virgen", which is also coincidentally,
• The Aztecs used the Poinsettia bracts to make
a reddish purple dye for fabrics, and used the sap medicinally
to control fevers.
• Montezuma, the last of the Aztec Kings, had
Poinsettias delivered to him by caravan to what is now
Mexico City, because Poinsettias could not be grown
in the high altitude.
• Paul Ecke Jr. is considered the father of the
Poinsettia industry due to his discovery of a technique
which caused seedlings to branch. This technique allowed
the Poinsettia industry to flourish. The Paul Ecke Ranch
in California grows over 70% of all Poinsettias purchased
in the United States and about 50% of the world-wide
sales of Poinsettias. As of August 2012, the Ecke Ranch,
which was family-owned and operated for nearly 100 years,
announced that it had been acquired by the Dutch-based
• The Ecke family had a secret technique that
caused every seedling to branch, resulting in a fuller
plant. In 1991, a university graduate student published
an article that described a method for causing Poinsettias
to branch. With the secret out and available to everyone,
competition flourished, especially from Europe, resulting
in a decrease of Ecke's share of the market.
• An NCAA college football bowl game in San Diego
is named the Poinsettia Bowl. The first bowl was played
in December of 1952 and was created as a military services
championship game, with the Western and Eastern military
services champions competing against each other.
Poinsettias By the Numbers
• There are over 100 varieties of Poinsettias
available. Though once only available in red, there
are now Poinsettias in pink, white, yellow, purple,
salmon, and multi-colors. They have names like 'Premium
Picasso', 'Monet Twilight', 'Shimmer', and 'Surprise'.
• The red Poinsettia still dominates over other
color options. 'Prestige Red'--one of many poinsettias
patented by Ecke--ranks among the best-selling hybrids.
• Poinsettias contribute over $250 million to
the U.S. economy at the retail level.
• California is the top U.S. Poinsettia-producing
• Poinsettias are the best selling potted plant
in the United States and Canada.
• Poinsettias are the most popular Christmas
plant. Most Poinsettias are sold within a six-week period
leading up to that holiday, representing some $60 million
It is estimated that women account for 80% of Poinsettia