New Christmas traditions lose sentimental meaning

Sarah Parduhn, Entertainment Editor

It is the most wonderful time of the year: Christmas. For those who celebrate the holiday, it is a time of family and gift-giving. Christmas Day is celebrated as a major festival and public holiday in countries around the world, including many whose populations are mostly non-Christian.

But are we straying from the traditional Christmas atmosphere to a more modernized one? In recent decades, key aspects of Christmas have changed to make the holiday more commercialized and less traditional.

The economic prosperity Christmas has brought to companies globally has changed the meaning of a true Christmas. In Christmases past, gift giving was a small aspect of the most giving holiday of the year. Now, presents spill out underneath trees. ‘Tis the season of gifts galore. It is now an overwhelming commercial holiday. This correlates with the popularity of Black Friday because the majority of the shopping on Black Friday is for Christmas gifts plucked at good bargains and prices.

However amazing gift giving can be, it is important to remember why Christmas is celebrated– to honor the birth of Jesus Christ. Do Americans acknowledge this religious component enough anymore?

According to a December 2017 Pew Research Survey Center poll, which surveyed about 2,000 adults on certain Christmas traditions, only one half of the population goes to church on Christmas morning. Further, the survey found a lessening majority of Americans believe in the key elements of the Christmas story as told in the Bible.

Christmas is straying away from the religious aspects. Traditionally speaking, Christmas Day has generally had the timeline of church and family. Nowadays, the holiday is perceived as a day of gifts and family more than of the religious background. The religious background, however, is what made certain elements of the holiday come to be.

Another aspect that has been modernized is the Christmas tree. The background of the Christmas tree is one of the most interesting of all the aspects of the holiday. Bringing evergreen plants into houses to celebrate the winter holiday dates back to the ancient Romans and Egyptians, according to “History of Christmas Trees,” an article from, the official website of the History channel. It was thought that the evergreen would bring prosperity and happiness. Christmas trees weren’t used in America until the late 1800s. Now, it is hard to imagine what Christmas would look like without a beautiful tree in the living room with bright lights and sentimental ornaments hung around it.

These days, though, there is an increasing popularity and demand for artificial Christmas trees. Artificial trees are less expensive in the long run because consumers only need to buy it once and continue the use for years after. While they may be a financial home run, where is the holiday spirit in a plastic tree? The smell of fresh pine throughout a home is an overwhelming component to the cozy time of year. The pine needles spread throughout the house makes Christmas feel like Christmas, and there is nothing like crawling underneath the branches to water the tree, keeping it fresh through the holiday season.

Sentimental meaning contributes to the most wonderful time of the year.  Christmas cards sent to family and friends showing a family’s Christmas spirit correlates with the sentimental meaning.

Another analysis from the same Pew Research Survey Center poll mentioned above, whose purpose for conducting this survey was because of the “long-simmering” debate continuing over how American society should commemorate the Christmas holiday, stated that while 81 percent of those surveyed said their families typically sent holiday cards during their childhoods, only 65 percent said they planned to do so this year.

This shows just how much traditions have changed throughout the generations. Holiday cards are supposed to be a way to send joy to those who families appreciate, and no longer sending them shows the shift in less personalized ways Christmas is celebrated.

The holiday season is a time of giving, a time of joy and a time to spread love to one’s family and friends. At its root, that meaning will never stray too far from the holiday. It will always be a time spent with family, exchanging gifts and dining together. On the surface, however, many changes have occurred throughout the generations that may portray America as less enthusiastic toward the holiday, or at least to the elements that make Christmas, well, Christmas.