Woolworth’s department store was the first store in North America to offer for sale manufactured Christmas ornaments. The year was 1880 and since then, the sale of Christmas decorations and Christmas presents has remained the most lucrative time of the business year in terms of retail sales.
In 1917, a massive fire in New York City was attributed to the use of lit candles on a Christmas tree. A young 15 year-old named Albert Sadacca sought to bring an end to such tragedy and set about to invent electric Christmas lights for use on trees. He sold the lights at his family’s novelty items store. The first year they sold 100 strings of white lights. The second year they used brightly coloured lights and saw their sales skyrocket. Today, lights are available in all colours, shapes and sizes.
The Christmas Creche (nativity scene) is attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi. He created his first crèche in 1223 in Italy and used real animals and people to depict the birth of the Saviour. Creches are now popular in most countries of the world.
Early Christians placed evergreens in their windows to indicate that Christ had entered their home. Holly became widely used in Church celebrations as the bush with its red berries is considered by some as representing the burning bush. The Holly reminds others of Mary, aglow with the Holy Spirit. The red berries represent the blood drops from the cruel thorns in the crown of Jesus.
Fruitcake had its origins in Rome where it was used as food to supply the armies that were far away from home. In early times it was actual law that fruitcake could only be served on certain holidays and milestones such as weddings. The tradition has carried on and today fruitcake remains a popular treat at Christmas. On a lighter note, recent polls indicate that for the majority of North Americans, fruitcake is best used as a door stop, as a gift from someone else, or as land fill.
The giving and exchanging of gifts at Christmas is based on the story of the Magi who presented gifts to Jesus when they arrived at the manger. The giving of elaborate gifts did not become fashionable until the latter part of the 1800’s. In 1867, American store Macy’s stayed open until midnight on Christmas Eve and seven years later they were the first to design their window displays around the Christmas theme.