December 25​:

Christmas Day

​On December 25th - 

   -The Molasses Act came into effect. (1733)

   -George Washington and his troops crossed the Delaware River. (1776)

   -Andrew Johnson granted unconditional pardons to Confederacy veterans. (1868)

But come on, it's Christmas!

​Here's a little gift for you - John Adams and Theodore Roosevelt talk about their Christmas traditions.

​Christmas Day, as the video above shows, was not celebrated the same throughout American history. But in truth, Christmas was celebrated differently in different parts of the country ​as well.

Adams represents a more New England approach to ​​​the holiday - not celebrating it at all. There was a Puritan resistance to celebrating Christmas; it was forbidden during the 17th century. That continued into the 18th century with Congregationalist populace. Church services slowly crept into Christmas at the close of the 1700s.  The situation was similar in Quaker-founded Philadelphia, where Adams spent many years in government. ​Many stores were open  and very little celebrations took place.  Plus, Adams took a more Unitarian approach to religion in his later years, so Jesus' birthday might have been a little less pressing. Although he truly enjoyed going to church.

Of course, the further south you traveled, the more likely you were to see Christmas celebrations. Anglicans/Episcopalians and Catholics celebrated more of the religious festivals, e.g. the Nativity, the Epiphany, the Purification.Christmas Day might have three or more services - though to be fair, church services were frequent throughout the year.

Across the colonies/states, there would be decorations (pine and holly boughs, not full trees) and music or some other form of entertainment. But again, the further south, the more noticeable the celebration.

Christmas changed gradually over the decades - an ebb and flow of things like gifts and trees - as well as the appearance of Saint Nicholas in 1812 in ​Washington Irving's ​Knickerbocker's History of New York​ and Clement Clarke Moore's ​A Visit from Saint Nicholas​."

By the time Theodore Roosevelt celebrated his first Christmas, ​Charles Dickens' ​A Christmas Carol ​had reached America, and December 25th was officially a federal holiday by 1870. As you heard from TR, his family celebrations were huge! Stockings, tables of gifts - and there would be any number of other events from large family meals to sleigh riding. ​Most of the things that current Americans see as "Christmas traditions" were in full effect.

Although there was some backlash against the Christmas tree by conservationists - that's possibly why Roosevelt opted for a tree-free White House many years. Even though it didn't stop Archie.

But even though Christmas was ​treated differently for these two men and their families - it was noted, observed, and celebrated in their own particular ways. And however you celebrate the day or the season, "all of us" at Historic Experience wish you and yours a Merry Christmas.


John ​Adams

to ​Abigail Adams, ​18 ​November 17​75

​I hope to be with you at Christmas, and then to be excused from coming here again, at least untill others have taken their Turns.

​Theodore Roosevelt

​from ​​Autobiography​, ​​​1​913.

​Christmas was an occasion of literally delirious joy.

About the Author

The "founding father" of Historic Experience. Peyton is an actor-historian with over 15 years experience as a John Adams and Theodore Roosevelt interpreter, impersonator, speaker, or whatever descriptor speaks to you. Peyton Dixon is based in central New Jersey and travels across the country bringing American history to life.