Origins of Christmas Things

by Dave Weller

Have you ever wondered about the history of some of the Christmas items we are so familiar with? Here are a few examples:

Christmas Lights – The use of small candles to light a Christmas tree dates back to the middle 17th century. The candles were glued with melted wax to a branch or attached with pins. Candle holders appeared around 1890. The first Christmas tree lit by use of electricity was in New York City in 1882. By 1900, department stores began using bulbs to light up their Christmas displays. Safe Christmas lights for trees were developed around 1917.

Christmas Cards – The first commercial Christmas Card appeared in London in 1843 and featured an illustration by John Callcott Horsley depicting a family with a small child drinking wine together!


Early English cards rarely showed winter or religious themes, instead favoring flowers, fairies and other fanciful designs that reminded the recipient of the approach of spring. In 1875, Louis Prang became the first printer to offer cards in America.

Artificial Christmas Trees – Artificial trees first appeared in Germany in the late 1800’s when deforestation was a problem. They were metal wires covered with goose feathers and often died green to simulate the look of pine needles. The trees first appeared in the United States in 1913, and were offered for sale in the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog, ranging in size from 17″ to 55″.

In the 1930’s, the Addis Brush Company developed an artificial tree using the same machinery it used to create toilet brushes! The branches were made using pig bristles dyed green. These branches were color-coded for ease of assembly.

Santa Claus – The history of Old Saint Nick and how he evolved is much too long to fit on these pages. You can read more about it here.

Have a very Merry Christmas!!