• Enjoying the Christmas Lights? Thank Jewish Refugees from the Ottoman Empire

    by Devin E. Naar

    The story of Christmas lighting in America follows the paths of Sephardic Jewish immigrants from Turkey, who coped with nativist prejudice, linguistic difference, and labor exploitation to find community and work—including in light bulb factories. 

  • The Christmas Tree Predates Christmas Itself

    by Troy Bickham

    The modern Christmas tree, adorned with lights, has come full-circle with its roots in pagan veneration of evergreen trees at the winter solstice. 

  • The Complicated History of Germany's Christmas Markets

    It's unclear when medieval Germany's winter markets became affixed to nostalgic ideas of Christmas. But they've been adopted by ruling classes to offer prescriptive visions of class hierarchy, religion, and even Nazism. 

  • When Christmas Started to Creep

    by Bill Black

    The story of "Christmas Creep" is not a linear encroachment of Yuletide on the rest of the calendar, and hinged on political decisions made during the Great Depression and World War II. 

  • I'm Taking an Eco-Holiday From It All (and So Are My Kids)

    by Frida Berrigan

    Is there still value in stepping back from the wasteful cycle of individual consumerism when major corporations and the US military are putting astronomical levels of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere? 

  • Learning Lessons from "It's a Wonderful Life"

    by Christopher Wilson

    "With a panel of experts including the Smithsonian’s Lintelman, historian Jason Higgins, film critic Nell Minow, Leo Landis, curator of the State Historical Society of Iowa (the home state of actor Donna Reed who played Mary Bailey), and Reed’s daughter, Mary Owen, we explored American history as presented in a holiday favorite."

  • The Magnificent History of the Much-Maligned Fruitcake

    by Jeffrey Miller

    A quip attributed to former “Tonight Show” host Johnny Carson has it that “There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other.”

  • Reflect on Solomon Northup's "A Slave's Christmas"

    by Alan J. Singer

    Solomon Northup's famed description of being kidnapped from freedom in New York to slavery in Louisiana includes a description of Christmas revelry that shows how the enslaved preserved community and humanity, and a contrast to the yearly reality of fear and labor. 

  • Christmas Dies Hard

    The urban bourgeoisie of the 19th century pushed Christmas away from a drunken celebration of leisure and toward a holiday merging piety and consumerism. 

  • The Forgotten Story of Christmas 1918

    by Mary Elisabeth Cox

    We remember the 1914 Christmas Truce as a moment of humanity amid war. Four years later, a darker tale unfolded.