Pop Culture Holiday History for 2022

Each year we add to our list of historical holiday moments of the Christmas holiday season – the good as well as the bad. Here is this year’s edition. Enjoy.

We all have our favorite holiday traditions from decking our hallways with Christmas decorations to the annual viewing of A Charlie Brown Christmas. But when did these traditions start? Who was the first department store Santa Claus? When was the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? What is the most popular Christmas movie of all time?

Here’s a short trip through holiday history from 1823 to 2022 featuring the highs and lows of Christmas pop culture.

Christmas Carol

Christmas Carols

Nailing down which was the first song written about Christmas is difficult to do, but according to Billboard, the song “The Friendly Beasts” is one of the oldest songs that is still sung today. The French tune which is about the gifts that a donkey, cow, sheep, camel, and dove gave to Jesus at the Nativity was written sometime in the 14th century. Burl Ives is credited for being one of the first American singers to include the song on his 1952 album Christmas Day in the Morning(Image: Pixabay)

Candy Canes

The origins of when the first candy cane was made comes from folklore. It is said that the treat was first made in 1670 in Cologne, Germany when a candymaker was asked to make a stick candy that would keep the kids quiet during the Living Crèche tradition of Christmas Eve. Since giving candy to children during a worship service was unheard of, the choirmaster requested that the candymaker create the treat with a crook at the top to help the children remember the shepherds who visited baby Jesus. According to The Fact Site, over 1.7 billion candy canes are produced worldwide each year. The candy company Sprangler have been making these treats since 1906 and Doscher’s have been making their canes since 1871! (Image: Pixabay)

candy cane

Twas the Night Before Christmas

A Visit from St. Nicolas (aka Twas The Night Before Christmas) was a poem written by Clement Clarke Moore in 1823. The poem has been credited for bringing uniformity to people’s notions on what Santa looks like and some of his personality traits. Before then, views about what St. Nicolas varied a lot.

A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens published the first edition of A Christmas Carol on December 19, 1843. It is said that it was Dicken’s own humiliation of a poor childhood that inspired him to write the story. The story was written in six weeks and since his last three books had been flops, his publishers refused to print it, so he had to self-publish the book. The very first movie based on A Christmas Carol (Scrooge or Marley’s Ghost) was made in 1901. Since then, many filmmakers have created their own versions of the story. In 2011, The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol was created for home video. Dickens was not pleased. The most recent adaptation (sort of) is 2022’s Spirited which stars Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell. (Image: Wikimedia)

A Christmas Carol

Nativity Sets

The first nativity set was a rather large one thanks to St. Francis of Assisi. In 1223, he wanted families to “keep Christ in Christmas.” Getting permission from Pope Honorious III, Francis built a manger using a cave in the village of Greggio outside of Rome. He placed a wax figure to represent the baby Jesus, found an ox and a donkey and recruited local villagers to play the roles of Mary and Joseph. Other churches began to follow suit throughout Italy. This tradition eventually led to the creation of smaller “home editions” that we are familiar with today.

Christmas Card

Christmas Cards

The very first Christmas cards were created by John Calcott Horsley for Sir Henry Cole of London in 1843. Here is a photo of the first commercially produced card also designed by Horsley. It took Hallmark until 1910 to create its first cards and the greeting card company says that the sending of Christmas cards is still popular as 1.3 billion cards are sent annually.


1872 Wilhelm Füchtner, known as the “father of the nutcracker,” made the first commercial production of nutcrackers using the lathe to create many of the same design. In 1995, George and Arlene Wagner opened their Nutcracker Museum in Leavenworth, WA. It features over 7,000 different nutcrackers. (Image: Pixabay)

Christmas Lights

Electric Christmas Lights

It as was only three years after Thomas Edison invented the light bulb that Edward Hibberd Johnson created the very first string of electric Christmas tree lights in 1882. The string featured 80 red, white and blue lights. Up until this time, families decorated their trees with candles. However, the first electric lights weren’t cheap. It is estimated that wealthy families would pay up to $300 for an electrician to string the lights on their Christmas tree. At least they didn’t need to worry about burning the house down. (Image: Pixabay)

The First Department Store Santa

While it is commonly believed that the very first department store to feature in-person visits with Santa Claus was Macy’s, the truth is, Santa first appeared at a little know dry goods store located on Main Street in Brockton, Massachusetts. In 1890, James Edgar purchased a Santa costume tailored for him and set up the first Santa meet-and-greet a couple weeks before Christmas. News traveled quickly and within days, children from as far away as Boston and Providence traveled by train to meet the jolly old elf. By the next year, Santa began appearing in major department stores all across the country. (Image: Wikimedia)

Santa with Children


The tradition of hanging stockings by the fireplace appears to be born out of legend. There are two common stories that have been passed down for generations. One involves a poor man who didn’t have money to give for his three daughters dowries. Saint Nicholas wanted to help the family, but he knew that the father was too prideful to accept money. So, he entered the family’s home and placed a bag of gold in each of the girl’s stockings which were hanging to dry by the fireplace. A variation of the legend states that perhaps he threw the bags through a window or tossed them down the chimney. The other story involves the Norse god Odin. It is said that children who fill their stockings or shoes with food for Odin’s flying horse and Odin would exchange this food with treats and toys.

Salvation Army Kettle

Salvation Army Kettles

The very first Salvation Army kettle was created and used in San Francisco, California in 1891. Today, kettles are used as far away as Korea, Japan and Chile helping over 29 million people each year. In some locations, the ringing of the bells is considered an annoyance, so some bell ringers hold a bell-shaped sign that reads, “Ding, Ding.” In 2019, the charity began taking electronic donations at the kettles.

The Nutcracker Ballet

The two-act ballet, The Nutcracker was originally choreographed by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky providing the score. It premiered in St. Petersburg in 1892. Initially, it was not a success. Today, just about every city in the U.S. has at least one production performing every year. (Image: Pacific Northwest Ballet) 

The Nutcracker Ballet

Yes Virginia …

In 1897, eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York’s Sun asking him if indeed there was a Santa Claus. Francis Pharcellus Church responded quickly with the famous, yet unsigned, newspaper editorial. It has since become history’s most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials.

Christmas Seals

Used as a promotional tool for the American Lung Association, Christmas Seals went on sale for the first time in 1907. Emily Bissell came up with the idea after she had read about similar Danish seals used in 1904. Bissell hoped to raise funds for a sanitarium in Delaware. In 1908, the stamps were used nationally to promote the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis (which later became the American Lung Association) and the National Red Cross (which later discontinued their involvement). (Image: American Lung Association)

Frango Mints

Frango Mints

Macy’s popular Frango Mints first began as a frozen dessert served at the Tea Room at the Frederick & Nelson department stores in the Northwest in 1918. The candy version of this treat didn’t arrive until 1927. In 1996, Frederick & Nelson closed its doors for the last time but the product was sold to The Bon Marche’ (which later became Macy’s) to continue the tradition.

The Coca-Cola Bears

Some people think that the Coca-Cola bears are a fairly new invention, but they’re not. The first polar bear that showed up in a print ad for Coca-Cola appeared in France in 1922. Since that time, Coca-Cola has used the bears in its advertising sporadically. The first TV commercial using the polar bears didn’t air until 1993. (Image: Coca-Cola)

Coca Cola Bears

The First Black Santas

It is said that the very first American black Santa Claus came about in 1920 when the Volunteers of America in Pittsburgh organized a group of men, one of which was black, to help get donations for the charity. In 1936, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, known for his tap dancing and acting, wore a Santa suit to entertain disadvantaged children in Harlem. In 1943, the Harlem department store known as Blumstein’s hired what became the first black department store Santa. In 2016, the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota hired its first black Santa Claus. And in 2021, more black Santas began popping up. Two have appeared in Disneyland and Walt Disney World’s Christmas parades and Oreo created a new ad campaign that features a black man as the jolly old elf.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Debuting in 1924, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has become the world’s largest parade and has only been suspended from 1942 to 1944 due to World War II. The first parade featured Macy’s employees marching to its Herald Square location on 34th Street in New York. With an audience of 250,000 people, the parade featured floats, marching bands, live animals from the Central Park Zoo and of course, Santa who became the “King of the Kiddies” at the balcony at the store’s entrance. The first giant balloons to be featured in the parade were shown in 1928 (replacing the animals). The parade was first broadcast on TV in 1948 and Milton Berle was one of the first TV performers in 1949. Broadway numbers were first introduced in 1975. In 2020, Macy’s announced that the parade will go on as usual, but only for a television audience due to the Coronavirus. (Image: NBC)

The Coca-Cola Santa

Coca-Cola first produced magazine ads featuring a friendly Santa Claus in a red suit in 1931. This depiction of Santa was based on Thomas Nast’s 1881 illustrations used for the poem, The Night Before Christmas. However, up until 1931, the jolly old elf was portrayed in a variety of ways. It was Coke’s contribution that helped solidify what St. Nick really looks like. (Image: Coca-Cola)

Coca Cola Santa
Christmas Tree Rockefeller Center

Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center

The very first, albeit unofficial, Christmas tree ceremony held at Rockefeller Plaza occurred in December 1931 when a group of demolition workers at the Center’s construction site collected money to purchase a 20-foot-tall Christmas tree. The tree was later decorated with handmade garlands created by the worker’s families. Today, it is estimated that more than half a million people will pass by the tree every day. Many years later, the annual ceremony was broadcast in New York on WNBC. IN 1997, NBC began to air the ceremony nationally and the tradition continues today. (Image: Wikimedia)

The Oldest Santa-Themed Attraction

Known for being the first attraction in the town of Santa Claus, Indiana, Santa Claus Town is also known as the oldest themed attraction in the U.S. The attraction was built in 1935 by Milton Harris who understood the potential the town had to bring in a few visitors due to its unique name. The first shop to open was Santa’s Candy Castle which was originally sponsored by the Curtiss Candy Company (who originally made Baby Ruth and Butterfinger candy bars). This was followed by a Toy Village and Santa’s Workshop which were added in 1936.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph, the 9th reindeer with the red nose, first appeared in a booklet written by Robert L. May for Montgomery Ward department stores in 1939 as a promotional gimmick. The song about the red-nosed wonder wasn’t released until 1949 by both Harry Brannon and Gene Autry. Still later, the Rankin/Bass stop motion TV special first aired in 1964, and has been shown every year ever since.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
White Christmas

White Christmas

Irving Berlin wrote the song “White Christmas” for Bing Crosby’s movie, Holiday Inn in 1940, but the movie wasn’t released until 1942. The song was so popular, it stayed at the top of the Billboard charts for 11 weeks, which is amazing for a Christmas song. As for the movie, it too was a huge hit becoming the top movie of the year. It became the highest-grossing musical film at that time. Ironically, the same set from the movie (and the song) was reused for the Crosby’s other similar movie, White Christmas in 1954. The song remains Crosby’s best-selling recording and the best-selling Christmas single of all-time.

It’s a Wonderful Life

Frank Capra first introduced America to It’s a Wonderful Life starring James Stewart and Donna Reed in 1946 and soon everyone knew that every time a bell rings, a angel earns its wings. Despite how popular the film is today and how Americans feel about the sentimentality, it was initially a financial flop. According to IMDB, it is ranked #1 as the most popular Christmas movie. Die Hard is #2. The movie is shown on NBC once or twice during the holidays. (Image: NBC)

It's a Wonderful Life
Frosty the Snowman

Frosty the Snowman

Like Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman became known as a part of Christmas when songwriters Walter Rollins and Steve Nelson wrote about how a snowman came to life when a magic hat was placed on his head. The first version of the song was recorded by Gene Autry and the Cass County Boys in 1950 and later by Jimmy Durante who also was the host of the 1969 Rankin/Bass Productions’ holiday special. The animated special was followed by three Rankin/Bass sequels (Frosty’s Winter Wonderland in 1976, Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July in 1979 and The Legend of Frosty the Snowman in 2005) as well as the lackluster non-Rankin/Bass special, Frosty Returns in 1992. In July of 2020, Warner Bros. announced that a live-action adaptation of the story was in development and Jason Momoa was in negotiations to voice the snowman. So far that magic has yet to materialize. (Image: Rankin/Bass)


In 1955, Sears Roebuck and Co. misprinted a telephone number to put children in touch with Santa Claus. The number went straight to NORAD. Colonel Harry Shoup had his staff “check” the radar for Santa for those who called. Today, children (and adults) can check on Santa’s whereabouts when they visit the NORAD website. (Image: NORAD)

I Love Lucy Christmas

The ‘I Love Lucy’ Christmas Special

In 1956, CBS aired a Christmas episode of I Love Lucy aired a Christmas episode, but it was never shown in reruns. It was considered the “lost” episode until 1989 when the network aired the episode as a Christmas special. In recent years, CBS has rebroadcast the special in a colorized format along with an additional colorized episode. (Image: CBS)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas was first published in 1957. In 1966, the story became an animated holiday classic that was directed by Chuck Jones. The Grinch was voiced by Boris Karloff and the hit song was sung by Thurl Ravenscroft who was also the original voice of Tony the Tiger for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes cereal. A Broadway show based on the story arrived in 1994 and a live action feature film starring Jim Carrey as the green guy was made in 2000. In 2018, Universal released a new animated movie of the story that starred Benedict Cumberbatch voicing the Grinch. All of adaptations of the story were pretty successful. However, in 2019, NBC aired the TV special, Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Musical which received poor reviews.

The Grinch

The Chipmunk Song

Though disliked by many today, “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” was a huge hit when it was released in 1958. Written and performed by Ross Bagdasarian (under the stage name of David Seville), the song won three Grammy Awards for Best Comedy Performance, Best Children’s Recording and Best Engineered Record. The song even reached the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles chart. Over 4.5 million copies of the song were purchased in seven weeks.

Black Nativity

Black Nativity

Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity, A Gospel Celebration debuted off Broadway in 1961. Many years later, it continues to be produced annually in numerous major cities throughout the US. In 2013, a new movie that was inspired by the play debuted in theaters. It starred Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Tyrese Gibson, Jennifer Hudson and Mary j. Blige.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

The TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas aired for the first time on CBS in 1965. It was the first of many Peanuts specials that followed. At the time, executives tried to persuade Charles Schulz from having Linus quote from the Gospel of Luke thinking that it would turn off viewers. Instead, 50% of all TVs in the U.S. tuned into the first broadcast. The special continued to air on CBS until 2001 when the rights went to ABC. In turn, ABC aired the special numerous times over the years through 2019. In 2020, AppleTV+ bought the rights to the special removing the special from broadcast TV. (Oh, good grief!) However, the streaming service had a change of heart and offered the special to air on PBS for a year or two.

A Charlie Brown Christmas
Batman Robin and Santa

Batman, Robin and Santa

During an episode of Batman, which aired three days before Christmas in 1966, Batman and the Boy Wonder encountered Santa Claus during one of their iconic climbs. Santa (played by Andy Devine) tells the Dynamic Duo that he would be happy to bring them gifts if they tell him where the Bat Cave is. Batman (Adam West) turned to the camera and said, “If you can’t trust Santa, who can you trust?”

Black Friday

Black Friday

The term “Black Friday” (the day after Thanksgiving) was first used in the 1960’s by Philadelphia police and cab drivers since they knew that the day would be full of bad traffic. Later in the 1980’s retailers began to embrace the notion that the name came from the date in which shops first began to see a profit, but this is untrue. The term has been watered down in recent years too. “Black Friday” has turned into a term used by retailers wanting to convey Black Friday-like savings throughout the year and many retailers have come to embrace the idea of opening, at least for a few hours, on Thanksgiving Day.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Ever since the stop motion animated film, The Nightmare Before Christmas opened in theaters in 1993, it has been debated if the tale is a Christmas movie or a Halloween one. Created by Tim Burton and directed by Henry Selick, the story involves the character of Jack Skellington from Halloween Town (where it is Halloween every day of the year) stumbling across Christmas Town (where everything is Christmas). Thrilled by what he sees, he attempts to re-create Christmas back home while kidnapping Santa Claus. Today, the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland gets a “Nightmare” overlay during the Christmas season. (Image: Walt Disney Pictures)


This made up holiday “for the rest of us” is celebrated on December 23. Most Americans became familiar with Festivus from the Seinfeld TV series which aired on December 18, 1997, but this day was actually created in 1966. According to author Daniel O’Keefe, the date celebrated his first date with his future wife. His son, Dan O’Keefe wrote for Seinfeld and included the family tradition in the episode which included the traditions of the Festivus pole, the airing of grievances and feats of strength.

A Brady Bunch Christmas

Christmas with the Brady Bunch

On November 2, 1970, Paramount Records released the infamous Christmas album, Christmas with the Brady Bunch. The album featured classic Christmas tunes sung by the six original Brady kids. Given that the children were actors and not necessarily singers, the results were mixed. In 1988, the “family” reunited for the made-for-TV movie, A Very Brady Christmas which aired on CBS. It still airs on a few channels each year. Nobody knows why.


Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments

Hallmark introduced six glass balls and 12 yarn figures as the first collection of Hallmark Keepsake Ornaments in 1973. Since then, the company has introduced more than 3,000 different ornaments and for many families, they are a Christmas tradition.

Hallmark Keepsakes Ornament
A Year Without a Santa Claus

A Year Without a Santa Claus

Two side characters, Snow Miser and Heat Miser, almost stole the show when Rankin/Bass Productions produced A Year Without a Santa Claus in 1974. The stop-motion TV special featured the voices of Shirley Booth as Mrs. Claus who had to take matters into her own hands when Santa (Mickey Rooney) came down with a cold just before Christmas. But it was Dick Shawn and George S. Irving’s characters that everyone remembers the most. In 2006, NBC won the rights to create a live-action remake starring John Goodman (Santa), Delta Burke (Mrs. Claus), Michael McKean (Snow Miser) and Harvey Fierstein (Heat Miser). While the original continues to be shown each year, the latter is no where to be found. (Image: Rankin/Bass)

David Bowie and Bing Crosby

David Bowie recorded a duet for a Bing Crosby Christmas special in September of 1977. The two had never met beforehand and Bowie didn’t even know who Crosby was. The “Peace on Earth” and “Little Drummer Boy” combo became a big hit. However, Crosby didn’t live to see the song’s success. He passed away in October of that same year.  (Image: ITV/Rex Features)

David Bowie and Bing Crosby
Star Wars Holiday Special

Star Wars Holiday Special

CBS aired the notoriously bad Star Wars Holiday Special in 1978 for the first and last time. To this day, George Lucas barely acknowledges its existence, and the show has never been re-telecast or officially released on home video. Rare clips from the special can be found from time to time on YouTube, but most fans would just like to pretend that it never happened. Ironically, Disney+ began to air a LEGO-themed special in 2021 that was sort of a loose parody of the original special.

Cabbage Patch Kids

Love them or hate them, but in 1983, 5,000 parents and grandparents staged a near riot at the Hills Department Store in Charleston, W. VA trying to get their hands on the latest fad for Christmas gifts for their kids.

Cabbage Patch Kids
A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story

This movie wasn’t a hit when it came to theaters in 1983, but since then it has become a cult classic. Based on Jean’s Shepherd’s semi-fictional book, In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash, the film starred Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, and Peter Billingsley. The story focused mainly on little Ralphie’s desire to acquire a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle while being told repeatedly that he would shoot his eye out. The comedy is so popular, TBS or TNT has shown 12 consecutive airings of the film back-to-back on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day since 1997. In 2022, HBO Max debuted the sequel, A Christmas Story Christmas which featured some of the original cast members including Billingsley. Time will tell if it becomes the next Christmas classic.

Disney Christmas Parade

In 1983, Disney Parks created a new tradition creating its first Christmas Day Parade special. The company has run a similar special every year since with the exception of a “Tracking Santa” special in 2000. The 2005 edition won a Daytime Emmy Award. Covid concerns kept the parade from production in 2020, but the parade and special resumed in 2021.

Disney Christmas Parade


The very first versions of “E-Cards” were created in 1984 and they were all the rage. Many thought the electronic cards would make traditional Christmas cards obsolete. While people are not sending paper cards like they used to, they aren’t really sending many e-cards either.

Folger’s Classic TV Commercial

Folger’s showed the “Peter Comes Home” commercial for the first time in 1986. It aired every year until 2009 when a new version was created. The newer one doesn’t hold the emotional weight of the original, but old one is pretty worn out.

Folger's Peter Comes Home
Hershey Kisses

Hershey’s Kisses Christmas Commercial

Ever since 1989, Hershey’s has been ringing those bells. This iconic ad features 11 kisses representing bells and playing the Christmas tune “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

Kneeling Santa

Jeanne Pieper practically started a movement when she published her book, A Special Place for Santa that tells about Santa visiting the Nativity. Soon, figures of kneeling Jesus’ were popping up all over the place. While the message being portrayed is that is important for us to not forget the “reason for the season,” some Christians feel that there is “no room in the inn” for Santa.

Kneeling Santa
The Simpsons

The Simpson’s

The Simpsons is not only the longest running animated television series, but also one of the longest running TV series period. In 1989, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” was the first full-length episode of The Simpsons to air on FOX as a TV holiday special. Surprisingly sweet and with a touch less sarcasm than the show it became, it was viewed by approximately 13.4 million viewers.


Tickle Me Elmo

Similar to the great Cabbage Patch Doll fiasco of ’83, Tyco created mass hysteria in 1996 with the creation of Tickle Me Elmo. Based on the cute little monster featured on Sesame Street, when a child squeezed his tummy, he would giggle and shake. The product was a too big of a hit and caused parents to fight for the few left on store shelves weeks before Christmas.

Tickle Me Elmo
Campbell Soup Snowman

Campbell’s Soup Snowman

While not technically a Christmas-themed commercial, Campbell’s Soup’s “Let it Snow” commercial is aired numerous times through the winter months as has done so since 1995. It features a snowman who goes inside to enjoy a nice bowl of hot soup but he turns out to be a boy who had been outside a little too long. In 2020, Campbell’s introduced a new winter-time animated commercial, and it appears that the soup company may have retired the older one.

Trans Siberian Orchestra

Created in 1996 by producer, composer and lyricist Paul O’Neill, the Trans Siberian Orchestra is a blending of classical music and rock music. O’Neill had wanted to create a number of rock operas, a 3-part Christmas production and possibly two other “regular” albums. The orchestra/band’s first album, Christmas Eve and Other Stories, remains the group’s most popular release. The best-known tract from that album is “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24” which features their take on “Carol of the Bells.” The song is one of the best-selling Christmas singles.

M&Ms and Santa

The first TV commercial where Red and Yellow, the mascots for M&M candies, meet Santa for the first time, was presented in 1996. Both parties utter the phrase, “They do exist” and then both Santa and Red faint because of the realization. Yellow just stands there looking confused.

M and M Christmas
Starbucks Red Cup

Starbucks’ Red Cups

For some, nothing signals the arrival of the Christmas season more than coffee drinkers sipping from Starbucks red cups. They were first created in 1997. In 2015, there was small uproar from Christians complaining that the coffee giant had given up on Christmas when they decided to go with just plain red cups with no design. At the time, Starbucks said that they wanted to give their customers a “blank pallet” to create their own holiday cups. To the surprise of many, the company released many of these original designs in 2016.

Elf on the Shelf

The first “official” Elf on the Shelf book was written in 2004 by Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell. However, this elf wasn’t exactly a new idea. In 1946, similar elves called “knee-huggers” were first imported from a company called Yuletide of Japan. Not to be outdone, years later Gill Hoffman created the “Mench on a Bench” for Jewish kids. In 2011, “Horace the Elf” wrote a parody book for parents.

Elf on the Shelf

The Santa Clause

Disney stumbled upon a huge hit when they released the Tim Allen comedy holiday film, The Santa Clause in 1994. Originally, the film was planned to be more of a dark comedy to be released by Hollywood Pictures (given that Santa falls to his death at the beginning of the film) but with a few tweaks, the movie was turned into family fare. Bill Murray and Chevy Chase were offered the lead role of Scott Calvin, but they both turned it down. The studio also considered Tom Selleck, Tom Hanks and Mel Gibson before settling on Allen. The movie was a huge hit and is considered a Christmas classic. It was followed by The Santa Clause 2 in 2002, The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause in 2006 and the limited series The Santa Clauses which debuted on Disney+ in 2022.

Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday

The term “Cyber Monday” was first used to describe one of the biggest online shopping days of the year in 2005. It is held the Monday after Thanksgiving. In recent years, Black Friday has become less popular. 2015 became the most profitable Cyber Monday to date for retailers. So much so that Target.com shut down due to the overwhelming response from shoppers.

The War on Christmas

Some non-profit organizations petitioned for boycotts of various retail stores demanding that they use the term “Christmas” rather than “Holiday” in 2005. Many retailers have refrained from using “Merry Christmas” in their advertising so that they wouldn’t offend some customers. By doing so, they did exactly what they didn’t want to do. Today, it is still tricky for some retailers. For instance, Target stores proudly say “Merry Christmas” when you enter their stores, but they still sell “holiday” trees.

The War on Christmas
The Nativity Story

The Nativity Story

New Line Cinema released The Nativity Story in 2006. The film is one of the few focused solely on the events leading up to the birth of Christ. It also made history as being the first film ever to stage its world premiere in the Vatican City. (Image: New Line Cinema)

Santa Claus Hall of Fame

In 2010, the first of many inductees to the Santa Claus Hall of Fame were nominated. Located within Santa’s Candy Castle in Santa Claus, Indiana, a variety of men from different backgrounds have been inducted. The first alone awarded 14 men the esteemed honor including James Edgar (credited as the first department store Santa), Doug Mellor (who portrayed Santa in a variety of TV commercials) and actor Edmund Gwenn (who portrayed the hero in the movie, Miracle on 34th Street).

Small Business Saturday

In 2010, knowing that smaller stores and businesses really couldn’t compete against larger, national chain stores on Black Friday, American Express came up with the idea of promoting local small businesses in 2010 with Small Business Saturday. The idea has caught on and today, many shoppers do just that.

Small Business Saturday
Christmas Myth Billboard

Christmas Myth Billboards

American Atheists began producing “myth” billboards to bring home the point that they don’t believe in God and that others shouldn’t either around 2011. This stunt continues to annoy and sadden Christians everywhere each year.

Giving Tuesday

GivingTuesday was created in 2012 as a national day of giving and was added to the calendar on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Giving Tuesday
Largest Live Nativity

The World’s Largest Nativity

In 2014, audiences at Rock Canyon Park in Provo, Utah might have possibly seen the most impressive live nativity reenactment since the real thing. Breaking the Guiness World Record, 1,039 volunteers showed up for the non denominational Christian ceremony which also featured The Piano Guys and The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The previous record contained 898 people.

Christmas Drones

In 2016, Disney and Intel were the first in America to use 300 drones for a new show experience over the skies at Disney Springs at the Walt Disney Worlds Resort. “Starbright Holidays – An Intel Collaboration” invited guests to wish upon a holiday star and enjoy the choreographed show.

Christmas Drones
The Doughboy and Santa

The Doughboy and Santa

Pillsbury has created at least two endearing holiday commercials that feature Pop-n-Fresh (aka The Doughboy) and Santa. In 2009, the Doughboy offers a cookie to Santa and later in 2017, the company created one where Santa would poke the little fellow in his tummy and Pop would say, “Hee, hee, hee.” Then Pop would poke the Big Guy in his stomach and he would respond with “Ho, ho, ho.”

The Star

Produced by Sony Pictures Animation, with a partnership from Walden Media, Affirm Firms and The Jim Henson Company, The Star, the first animated movie about the nativity story was released in theaters in 2017. It starred the voice talent of Steven Yeun, Gina Rodriguez, Zachary Levi, Keegan-Michael Key, Kelly Clarkson, Patricia Heaton, Kristin Chenoweth, Tracy Morgan, Tyler Perry, and Oprah Winfrey. The film’s main song was sung by Mariah Carey.

The Star
(Affirm Films)
Pizza Candy Canes

Pizza Candy Canes

In 2013, the “big” gift idea were giant versions of favorite candy bars such as Snickers and Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. In 2019, Archie McPhee’s introduced the world to pizza-flavored candy candy which are supposedly baked in candy-fired oven by Sicilian elves. If that flavor doesn’t excite you, the Seattle-based company also offers other flavors including ham, kale, clam, mac ‘n cheese, dill pickle and bacon.

Mariah Carey Beat Out The Chipmunks

Originally released in 1994, Mariah Carey’s song “All I Want for Christmas is You” was so popular in 2019 (thanks to a new album) that it reached the top of Billboard’s Christmas music and Hot 100 Pop Singles charts at the same time – a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since David Sevilles’ “The Chipmunk Song” which was recorded in 1958.

Another Year Without a Santa Claus

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the department store chain Macy’s announced in 2020 that Santa Claus would not be making an appearance in its stores ending a 159-year holiday tradition. Since 1947, children have climbed up on Santa’s lap to tell him what they wanted for Christmas. But Santa did make an appearance through a “virtual engagement” on the company’s website and he appeared in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Image: Pixabay)

Surprised Santa

Virtual Santa Meet-and-Greets

While the Coronavirus of 2020 caused Santa to avoid large crowds, he decided to keep in tough with the kids via Zoom calls. Different services, like VisitFromTheClauses.com, began offering live chats with the Jolly Old Elf and his bride. Sure, it’s not the same as waiting in line for hours, but it will do. (Image: Visit from the Clauses)

For more pop culture history, visit This Day in Pop Culture.

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