Coming to America
As early as the 1870s, Christmas in America began to change from essentially a religious to a secular national holiday–a process accelerated by commercialization and the custom of gift-giving.
In response, some Jewish families in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Hot Springs, Baltimore, New Orleans, and Toledo staged their own celebrations on the night of December 24. Incorporating both Christmas and Hanukkah symbols, regardless if Hanukkah fell earlier or later on the calendar, they decorated Christmas trees, exchanged gifts, and hung wreaths on the doors of their homes and stockings on the fireplace. In addition, from the 1880s to the beginning of World War II, American Jews of German descent hosted balls–featuring dinner, dancing, and a concert–for their Jewish friends on Christmas Eve.
Those Jews sharing in the tenor of Christmas without partaking in its religious elements would engage in selective borrowing of Yuletide accoutrements, lending…
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