Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Unwrapped: The History of Christmas

This documentary originally appeared on the history channel back in 1997 and has been repeated every year. It has become a holiday favorite of mine even though I've seen it numerous times. It's narrated by "Early Show" host Harry Smith and traces the roots of Christmas back to its earliest beginnings as a pagan Roman holiday of feasting.

We then see Christmas virtually outlawed by the Puritans but never forgotten. The holiday would enjoy a rebirth in the mid 1800's thanks to several people including Clement Moore's poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas", and cartoonist Thomas Nast who helped define the look of Santa Claus.

From there we see the holiday further defined by popular culture in movies and TV and also by consumerism, as the holiday shopping season is invented and begins to really flourish at the turn of the 20th century. Nast gives way to Haddon Sundblom's Santa paintings that he did for Coca Cola, finally giving us the jolly, fat santa we know today.

Throughout he documentary we get comments from historians such as Stephen Nissenbaum and Penne L. Restad who've written their own books about the origins of Christmas. And comments from Humorist jean Shepherd, whose works the famous holiday film "A Christmas Story" was based on.

No comments: