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JIM: Commercialized Christmas lamented, in 1909

By "Jim"

Long before shopping malls, Black Friday, and the advent of a Christmas shopping season that starts in July and ends in June, there was...the commercialized Christmas tree.

Journalist Jacob Riis of Century Magazine didn't like this development, not one bit, and he took a roundhouse right at it in a pithy essay reprinted in the December 29, 1909 Adair County News:
"The Christmas Tree Every time I see a Christmas tree studded with electric lights, garlands of tinsel gold festooning every branch, and hung with the hundred costly knickknacks the storekeepers invent each year 'to make the trade' until the tree itself disappears entirely under its burden, I have a feeling that fraud has been practiced on the kindly spirit of Yule.
"Wax candles are the only real thing for a Christmas tree, candles of wax that mingle their perfume with that the of the burning fire...What if the boughs catch on fire? They [are] watched, and, too many candles are tawdry, anyhow.

"Also, red apples, oranges and old fashioned cornucopias made of colored paper, and made at home, look a hundred times better and fitter in the green; and so do drums and toy trumpets and waldhorns and a rocking horse reigned up in front that need not have cost $40, or anything like it."
Some weeks later, a lengthy article reprinted from an unattributed newspaper appeared in the News under the headline "The Good Old Days." The introductory sentence, "How would you like to return to the "Good Old Days..." led the author into several digs, swipes, snipes, and sneers at modern life before getting around to condemning the commercialization of Christmas, circa 1909:

"How would you like to return to the Good Old Days... Before kids learned to write a letter to Santa Claus, asking for wagons, guns, pistols, dolls, doll buggies, doll beds, trains, automobiles, candy, oranges, bananas, nuts, wearing apparel of every description, and acart and live pony?

"When a boy at Christmas time was satisfied with a package of firecrackers and three hog bladders, and a girl was delighted with a china doll and a candy sheep?"
My question to you, gentle reader, is this:Would you return to the good old days of candle-lit trees, china dolls & candy sheep, firecrackers & hog bladders for Christmas? If you're too young to know about the latter, maybe you can look it up on The Intertubes.

This story was posted on 2009-12-07 04:21:17
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