Christmas Timeline - The History of Christmas

A truly awesome Christmas timeline from the year dot!

Before Zero

Long before the birth of JC, our Scandinavian bretherin celebrate Yule on the 21st December. It seems they have an inkling something big is going to happen...


Jesus is born in Bethlehem to Mary a virgin mother, laid in a manger and it is said that angels proclaim him as the saviour for all people. Coincidentally he is born on Christmas Day. #whatarethechances


A Roman Bishop proclaims that songs called "Angel Songs" should be sung at a Christmas Service in Rome. These became known as Carols, and were originally sung by official singers called 'Waits. #dontbashthebishop


St Nicholas is born in Patara, Asia Minor. Named the gift giver of Myra, gifts are given late at night in order for his identity to remain secret. Like Santa Claus, children are told St Nicholas will not come unless they are asleep in their beds.

more in 284

It also becomes a tradition for children to hang up stockings hoping they will be brought gifts. Chocolate gold coins even come from the notion that he delivered bags of gold to a poor mans daughters' stockings to pay for their wedding days.


The Feast of the Nativity is first held in Rome and thus marks Christmas being celebrated on the 25th December with a slap up meal. Yum!


The pagan Roman celebration of Saturnalia (traditionally a festival rejoicing light) leads to the winter solstice, bringing fourth the new year. Modern day feasting and exchanging of gifts derive from this celebration.


The Saturnalia Festival spreads across the Mediteranean Sea to Egypt, where they start to celebrate the coming of light and birth. #wotnoideasoftheirown


Charlmagne (Charles the Great) is crowned as Emperor of Western Europe on Christmas Day to emphasise the festival.


Cristes Masesse is the first reference to Christmas in Olde English (and is still how most people pronounce the day, after one too many Eggnogs!)


King William 1st is crowned on Christmas Day in 1066 following the Norman Conquest and the Battle of Hastings. This put a bit of a dampener on the big day for the Anglo Saxons!


Saint Francis of Assisi starts the custom of putting on a Nativity play in 1223, believing a life-size staging of the Crche would make Jesus's story clear and accessible


King Richard II hosts a Christmas Feast at which 28 Oxen and 300 sheep were eaten. It is alleged that the saying Baa Humbug derives from this event. #probablynot


John Awdlay a Shropshire Chaplain lists 25 Carols of Christmas" that are sung by groups of wassailers (early carol singers) going from house to house.


A Carol written by Richard Smart the Rector of Plymtree refers to Sir Christmas.


The first documented use of a Christmas Tree for festive celebrations in Riga, the Capital of Latvia, happens in 1510.


Earliest documented case of kissing under the mistletoe. Sales of polo mints in December increase by 6000%.


King James I insists that a play be acted out on Christmas night and the court indulge in games. The first Eggnog is consumed in 1607 in Jamestown by Captain John Smith. #drunkinchargeofaship


Parliament of Scotland officially abolishes Christmas in 1640 (it only became a holiday again in Scotland in 1958). Boooooooooo!


Act of Parliament bans Christmas in the UK. Even bigger Boooooooooooooooooooooo!


It becomes illegal to mention St Nicolas name and exchange gifts in America by the Puritans. #thisisgettingridiculous


A book called the 'Vindication of Christmas' argues against the Puritans and makes notes of old English Traditions such as a Christmas Dinner and Carol singing.


Christmas is cancelled by Oliver Cromwell. #Grinch #Scrooge #Bah #Humbug


Following the popular trend 'across the pond' Christmas is outlawed in Boston USA by American Pilgrims (Puritans) (until 1681).


The book 'Examination and Trial of Father Christmas' is published and the 25th December is reinstated as a Holy Day in England. #Hurrah #finallyseeingsense


The hot British drink called Posset is renamed Eggnog, as it is served in a small cup known as a noggin.


In 1756, The Gentleman's Magazine reports that 'His Majesty, attended by the principal officers at Court went to the Chapel Royal at St James' and offered gold, myrrh and frankincense. #1756yearsaftertheevent #betterlatethannever


Santa Claus first appears in the Riverton Gazette - this is the first mention of Santa. Anywhere. Ever!


New York Historical Society is founded with St Nicolas as its Patron Saint.


First documented hanging of stockings by the fireplace on Christmas Eve by writer Washington Irving who describes how the stockings are miraculously filled in the morning.


10 Years later the same author writes The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon - a celebration of Christmas in an English Manor House which sends Santa down his first chimney. #santagetssooty


William Gilley prints a poem called 'SanteClaus' about a man dressed in fur who drives a sleigh with a single reindeer. #isitrudolph


Dentist Clement Clarke Moore writes a poem called "An Account of a Visit from Saint Nicolas," (laterally called "The Night before Christmas").

more in 1822

Santa is portrayed as an elf with a miniature sleigh equipped with eight reindeer which are named in the poem as Blitzem, Comet, Cupid, Dancer, Dasher, Doner. He then composed a visit from Saint Nicolas on Christmas Eve to his children in a sleigh. #legend


New York City Council quash a Christmas Riot. #NOTChristmasSpirit


Future Queen of England Queen Victoria writes about her delight at having a Christmas Tree strewn with lights, ornaments and presents.


Old words are put to new tunes as the first collection of Christmas Carols is published. They are considered by Victorians as a 'delightful form of musical entertainment.


First mention of the term Christmas Tree in the English language. The word tree however had been used several hundred years previous. #uselessfact #spacefiller


Dispelling the myth that people in the Deep South of USA are a little slow, Alabama is the first US state to legalise Christmas. #goAlabama


J.W. Parkinson, a Philadelphia merchant, hires a man to dress up in a "Criscringle" outfit and climb the chimney of his store.


A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is released...

Meanwhile, Henry Cole commissions the first ever Christmas Card. #busyoldChristmasyear


The Illustrated London News publish a drawing of the Royal family celebrating around a decorated Christmas tree, a tradition reminiscent of Prince Albert's childhood in Germany.

more in 1848

British Confectioner Tom Smith wraps sweets in paper which snap when pulled apart and thus invents the Christmas cracker. #boom


Jingle Bells is published by Lord Pierpoint under the title "One Horse Open Sleigh.


Illustrator Thomas Nast creates images of Santa for the Christmas edition of Harpers Magazine.


3 years later and obviously still on a roll, Thomas Nast produces "Santa Claus and His Works" and portrays Santa Claus as living in the North Pole.


Macys stays open till Midnight on Christmas Eve. #precursor #Boxingdaysales


Some 34 years after Alabama had led the way, Christmas is declared a federal holiday in USA.


First Christmas Lights are invented by Edward H Johnson (a partner of Thomas Edison). #pretty #sparkly #things


Poet Katherine Lee Bates popularises Mrs Claus - the wife of the Big Man. Santa gets nagged forever more. #thanksKatherine


James Edgar starts depicting Santa Claus in his Brockton Massachusetts department store with an actor, together with staff members playing Elves.


First Christmas stamp is released in Canada in 1898.


Gamages Dept Store fill it's windows with toys to celebrate Christmas.


The United States Postal Service launch a Santa Letter answering service out of their James Farley Post Office in New York.


Buoyed by the success of 1911's promotion, Gamages Dept Store send out a Christmas Bazarre Catalogue with 500 pages of wonderful festive goodies.


Christmas Truce during World War I. In the week before Christmas parties of German and British soldiers begin to exchange seasonal greetings and songs and take part in the famous 'trenches football match. #lestweforget


White Rock Beverages are the first drinks company to depict a red and white Santa Claus as part of an advertising campaign as they use him to sell their Mineral Water drink. #NahCocaCola


The image of Santa is standardised to portray a bearded, over-weight, jolly man dressed in a red suit with white trim.

Coincidentally Uncle Albert of Only Fools and Horses fame is born. #truefact


Haddon Sundblum illustrator for the Coca Cola company draws a series of Santa images which are used in their festive adverts till 1964. Coca Cola hold this trademark for their portrayal of Santa to this day.


Charles W Howard who played Santa Claus in Department Stores establishes the Charles W Howard Santa School. The school still trains Santas to this day.


Writer Robert L May writes a poem about Rudolph - the ninth and most famous reindeer. #rednose


1940 marks the first Christmas in the UK on food rations because of the war. The public are also discouraged from giving presents and asked to donate to the War effort instead. #peskyHitler


Bing Crosby's 'White Christmas' is released.


Due to food rationing the Ministry of Food estimates that only one family in ten will receive a turkey or goose for Christmas dinner. Mock turkey is therefore introduced.


Miracle on 34th Street is released with Santa Claus being called Kris Kringle.


Johnny Marks writes the song "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.


The Sears Roebuck store in Colorado Springs gives children a number to call a "Santa hotline". The number is mistyped and children call the Continental Air Defence Command (CONAD) instead.

1955 continued

Director of Operations, Colonel Harry Shoup, tells children that there are signs on the radar that Santa is indeed heading south from the North Pole. Canada and the United States jointly created NORAD and a tradition begins where they track Santa to this day.


Canada Post make Santas full address: North Pole, Canada, H0H0H0 and over 13,000 postal workers volunteer to respond to Santa letters from children.


NORAD starts tracking Santa using the Internet and invites children the World over to track his movements on the site.


The Winterville Festival is launched in Birmingham and dubbed as Political correctness gone mad. #weagree


On December 23 Jason Kennedy, Canadas Minister of Citizenship formally awards Canadian citizenship status to Santa Claus.


Federal Court in Philadelphia endorses a school districts ban on singing Christmas Carols. #morepoliticalcorrectness


Keeping up with modern times, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II delivers this years epic Christmas speech in 3D! #GoLiz


The John Lewis ad has become a noteworthy event! They broke through with the delight Bear and Hare ad that brought Christmassy joy to our hearts. Now we look forward to it every year.


German second division club hosts 27,000 fans singing Christmas carols on the pitch


Adele is Queen of Christmas, topping the charts with 25. It's a white Christmas in Las Vegas.