ANNE GREENE here.
The 1920s ushered in significant changes in American life. Most Americans acquired their first radios and automobiles and achieved the highest standard of living in the nation's history.
The celebration of Christmas changed as well. President Calvin Coolidge celebrated with the first national Christmas tree in the White House. He lit the sixty-foot fir in an impressive ceremony in 1923.
Cotton ornaments, inexpensive and unbreakable, enjoyed great popularity. By the late 1920s, however, Americans imported spectacular glass ornaments from Germany. In the 1920s, advertisers standardized the popular image of Santa Claus, originally created by German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast.
The Friend Telegraph on December 11, 1925, remarked in an editorial entitled "How Times Change": In Christmas seasons gone by, it was not considered good form for a young man to give his best girl articles of wearing apparel. To do so indicated that her people neglected to clothe her. A man’s gift had to be an album, a toilet set or something along that line.
In the 1920s Christmas giving grew more sensible giving the recipient gifts they could use. People bought more for the home. Rather than pictures and mementos, a chair, a new rug, dishes or silverware, labor-saving devices and even new-fangled cooking utensils became favorite gifts. “Give a woman something serviceable to wear or something she can use in her home and you gladden her heart. Give a man something for his auto, or something he can wear besides neckties, and you win his thanks.”
The 1920s became the age of flapper fashion and jazz music. New fashions in art and architecture, from art deco to modernism jumped into fashion. Frank Lloyd Wright built his ultra-modern homes. In 1927, Lindbergh made the first flight across the Atlantic. Hot toys included die-cast metal toys, the Raggedy Ann doll, and, toward the end of the decade, the yo-yo.
A Christmas Budget in the 1920s purchased such items as:
A Persian rug: $40.00
Winter overcoat: $18.50
Fountain pen: $2.50
Silk hat: $7.50
RCA Radiola: $115.00
RCA Radiola with loudspeaker: $150.00
One-pound box of chocolates: $6.50
Ladies’ silk umbrella: $10.00
Toy tool chest: $1.55
Juvenile model bicycle: $48.75
Girls’ ice skates: $5.00
Beautiful jointed doll with wig, dress, shoes, and stockings: $1.95.
Victrola brand phonograph: $99.80.
One of the most popular dances, the Charleston, lent its name to a dress completely covered in fringe, that would move and shake along with the body's movement, revealing the legs. This embroidered or shawled dress invaded all of high society. These were the Fitzgerald years, and many of the period's actresses wore these fringed dresses in either short or long versions. This would make a popular Christmas gift.
In the News in the 1920s:
Prohibition Made Its Presence Felt:
Shortly after the Volstead Act went into effect, federal authorities issued an announcement that America’s newspapers included in the Christmas Eve edition: The use fermented wines for sacramental purposes during religious services is forbidden.
At an elite Christmas party attended by Charming H. Cox, the governor of Massachusetts, prohibition agent Harold Wilson seized four bottles of White Horse Cellar whiskey. A major scandal ensued, and the bottles disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
Headline of an article in the December 5, 1926, Providence Journal, urged procrastinating wives to show more thought during the holiday season. The article is accompanied by an illustration of an unnamed acquaintance who dreaded Christmas and spent the holiday in bed, with ice-bags at her head and feet.
Christmas Advertising in the 1920s:
(In 1897 Francis P Church, Editor of the New York Sun, wrote an editorial in response to a letter from an eight year-old girl, Virginia O'Hanlon. She had written the paper asking whether there really was a Santa Claus. It became known as the Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus letter.)
So by the 1920's the image of Santa had been standardized to portray a bearded, over-weight, jolly man dressed in a red suit with white trim.
Santa suggested the newspaper reader enjoy the following for Christmas dinner: Tradition dictated fowl, cranberry sauce, and mince pie or Christmas pudding, plus the usual items not absolutely required by rule, such as stuffing with the fowl, and rich giblet gravy, sweet and Irish potatoes, some kind of salad, fruit cake and Mincemeat pie. All these items could now be purchased at your local grocers.
Christmas Traditions in the 1920s:
Home-made Christmas cards became popular. They were often unusual shapes and constructed with foil and ribbon. These cards were too delicate to send through the post and people delivered them by hand. A gift of Christmas cookies accompanied the card.
The tradition of hanging the Christmas stocking was thought to arise from the following story: A poor man had three daughters. He was so destitute, he didn’t have enough money for a dowry, so his daughters couldn't marry. (A dowry is money paid to the bridegroom by the bride’s parents on the wedding day.)
One night, Nicholas secretly dropped a bag of gold down the chimney and into the house. The bag fell into a stocking that had been hung by the fire to dry! This meant the oldest daughter had a dowry and could marry.
The same gift was repeated later with the second daughter. Determined to discover the person who had given him the money, the father hid by the fire until he caught Nicholas dropping down a bag of gold. Nicholas begged the man not to tell anyone what he’d done, because he didn’t want to bring attention to himself.
But soon the news got out, and when anyone received a secret gift, he thought that Nicolas gave the gift. Because of his kindness, the church proclaimed Nicholas a Saint.
Besides the many unfamiliar Christmas songs filling the air, Jingle Bells, Winter Wonderland, and Let It Snow, Let It Snow were popular. And, of course, people sang the Christmas Carols we all know.
Christmas really was not so different from the way we celebrate Christmas today.
Which one of those 1920s gifts would you have given the man in your life? Leave a comment for a chance to win Anne’s newest release, MARRIAGE BY ARRANGEMENT.
ANNE GREENE delights in writing about wounded heroes and gutsy heroines. Her second novel, a Scottish historical, Masquerade Marriage, won the New England Reader Choice award, the Laurel Wreath Award, and the Heart of Excellence Award. The sequel Marriage By Arrangement released in November, 2013. A Texas Christmas Mystery also won awards. She makes her home in McKinney, Texas. Tim LaHaye led her to the Lord when she was twenty-one and Chuck Swindoll is her Pastor. View Anne’s travel pictures and art work at http://www.AnneGreeneAuthor.com. Anne’s highest hope is that her stories transport the reader to an awesome new world and touch hearts to seek a deeper spiritual relationship with the Lord Jesus. Buy Anne’s books at http://www.PelicanBookGroup.com. Or http://www.Amazon.com.
Visit http://www.anneswritingupdates.blogspot.com for information on writing an award-winning novel.