What Christmas Looked Like 100+ Years Ago

A Glimpse into the Past: Christmas in 1920

As we delve into the archives of history, we find ourselves transported to a Christmas scene from 100 years ago. The setting is Washington D.C., in the year 1920. This era, known for its post-World War I recovery and the dawn of the Roaring Twenties, held a Christmas ambiance distinct from what we know today.

What Christmas Looked Like 100+ Years Ago

The Christmas Tree: A Centerpiece of Tradition

At the heart of this yuletide setting were the Christmas trees, often less grandiose than today’s but equally cherished. In a typical home, like the one in our picture, the tree would be modestly sized, often reaching just a few feet in height. These trees were decorated with homemade ornaments, candles, and sometimes, for those who could afford it, electric lights, a novelty of the era.

The Joy of Simple Gifts

Beneath the tree, gifts were simpler and fewer. The commercialization of Christmas was not as pronounced as it is today. Presents often included handmade items, books, and small toys. The focus was more on the act of giving and less on the extravagance of the gift.

Festive Celebrations and Family Gatherings

Christmas in 1920 was predominantly a family affair. Large gatherings were common, with extended family members coming together to share a meal, often featuring traditional dishes like roast turkey or goose. The spirit of community was strong, and neighbors often exchanged small gifts and well-wishes.

The Children’s Experience

For children, Christmas was a magical time. The two children in our picture, standing in awe around their Christmas tree, represent the innocence and wonder of the season. Their excitement was for the simple pleasures – the lighting of the tree candles, the unwrapping of a hand-knitted scarf, or the joy of a homemade toy.

A Reflection of Simpler Times

The Christmas of 1920, as depicted in our snapshot from Washington D.C., was a reflection of simpler times. It was less about materialism and more about the warmth of family, the joy of giving, and the simple pleasures of life. As we look back, it offers a poignant reminder of the timeless spirit of Christmas, unaltered by the passing of a century.

How Were Christmas Trees Decorated?

In 1920, Christmas tree decorations were significantly different from today’s glittering and electrically lit displays. Families often used homemade ornaments crafted from paper, fabric, or natural materials like pinecones and nuts. Candles were a common sight, carefully mounted on the branches to bring a warm, flickering light to the tree. Electric Christmas lights were just beginning to gain popularity among those who could afford them, marking the start of a new era in holiday decorations.

What Types of Gifts Were Exchanged?

Gift-giving in 1920 was a far more modest affair compared to modern standards. Presents typically included practical items like clothing, handmade toys, books, and homemade treats. The emphasis was on the thoughtfulness of the gift rather than its monetary value. This era saw less commercial influence on gift-giving, reflecting a more personal and heartfelt approach to the tradition.

Were Christmas Cards Popular?

Yes, Christmas cards were indeed popular in 1920. They were a cherished way of sending holiday greetings to friends and family, especially those who lived far away. The cards of that era often featured intricate designs and heartfelt messages. They were considered a significant part of Christmas celebrations, serving as a token of affection and a way to maintain connections across distances.

How Did People Celebrate Christmas?

Christmas celebrations in 1920 were primarily centered around family and community. The day was marked by attending church services, singing carols, and enjoying a festive meal with family and friends. Community gatherings, local plays, and concerts were also common, reflecting a strong sense of togetherness and communal celebration during the holiday season.

What Was the Role of Santa Claus?

Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas or Kris Kringle, played a similar role in 1920 as he does today, embodying the spirit of giving and joy. Children eagerly anticipated Santa’s visit, often hanging stockings and leaving out snacks for him and his reindeer. The concept of Santa Claus served as a magical element of the holiday, inspiring wonder and excitement in children and adults alike.

A Century of Christmas Evolution

Reflecting on these aspects of Christmas from a century ago, it’s evident that while some traditions have evolved or expanded, the core essence of the holiday remains. It’s a time for family, generosity, and joy, transcending the changes of time and continuing to be a cherished celebration in the hearts of many.

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases through some links in our articles.