I'm thinking of the time that people would most likely think of if they heard the phrase "old-timey Christmas". Some of the things I'm thinking of are sleighs pulled by horses or the time period of the miniature displays you see for sale at retail stores.

My guess is late 19th or early 20th century. Is that accurate? Also, is there a "golden location" for Christmas? For that, my guess is London and/or New York.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Pieter Geerkens, KillingTime, José Carlos Santos, Lars Bosteen, AllInOne Oct 31 '18 at 14:14

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 5
    Can you think of a way to make this less subjective? "golden era", "golden location" and what "most people would think" are so subjective that frankly a person could just utterly make up an answer from whole cloth, and nobody would have any basis for claiming it wrong or right. – T.E.D. Oct 30 '18 at 19:09
  • 1
    I like the miniature displays detail. That's something that could be the basis for an objective question. Would that be enough for you, or are there specific other images you are interested in? – T.E.D. Oct 30 '18 at 19:11
  • Though it's not exactly an authoritative source, A Christmas Story is a movie from 1983 that I believe is set in the 1940's and includes your standard "kid looking wistfully at presents in a window display" scene, so it might be a good reference point. – Giter Oct 30 '18 at 19:21
  • 7
    A lot of the miniature displays often depict a Dickens-era scene. To many (subjective here) the Dickens “A Christmas Carol” story and timeframe captures the essence of a quintessential Christmas setting. But, to many, the “golden age” will likely always be: back when I was a kid... – Kerry L Oct 30 '18 at 19:53
  • Chris, is this the kind of "golden era" Christmas miniature scenery you were referencing? – Kerry L Oct 30 '18 at 21:13

There is no 'golden age of Christmas'. Christmas is an ancient religious as well as a secular festival. Part of it is religious, and part of it is secular. Going to church is the religious part, eat and be merry plus the gifts is the secular part. Christmas is somewhat differently celebrated in different countries. And it is celebrated somewhat differently over time.

In America and England Christmas Day itself is one official holiday. The next day is called Boxing Day. That day is not exactly the same as Christmas Day. In my country, The Netherlands, we call it Eerste Kerstdag and Tweede Kerstdag (First and Second Christmas Day, literally). Both days are official holidays.

In some countries giving gifts is an important part of Christmas, in others it is not. In The Netherlands, for example, giving gifts is a recent addition to the tradition. Gifts are more commonly given there on 5 Dec, on Saint Nicholas Eve. Father Christmas derives from Saint Nicholas. And his name Kris Kringle is probably from the German word Christkindl.

As I said, it is celebrated somewhat differently in different countries. What you are asking is the current Anglo Saxon tradition, which sort of emerged in Victorian times. It emerged out of much older traditions, and it merges into what it is today. It won't stop there, it will always change according to the times.

If you want to know when the golden age of Christmas was: right now. Nowhere in history have more people celebrated and in such luxurious ways Christmas. I recall vividly we had 1 egg for Christmas breakfast extra (normally we didn't get any, or on special Sundays only) and a large chicken for dinner. Forget getting X-boxes in' your stocking. A small present was all you got. For 'a small present' read 'one'.

I happen to live in Thailand were Christmas is not a tradition at all. Christmas is, after all, a Christian festival. Thailand is a Buddhist country. Christmas Day is just another day like any other. But you do see lots of Christmas decorations in usually upscale shops and restaurants. Mainly for the businesses, and Thais like parties a lot. We celebrate New Year 3 times: Western (December), Chinese (February) and Thai (April), for example.

Complaints that the festival is too secular are as old as Christmas itself.

As to your question about the 'golden location': any particular reason at all to assume London or New York? The Christmas story, if I recall correctly, plays somewhere in the Middle East. The world is bigger than just the English speaking world, you know.

  • 1
    Boxing Day is an official (federal) holiday in Canada - but is not one in the United States. – Pieter Geerkens Oct 31 '18 at 3:15
  • 1
    What @PieterGeerkens said. I didn't even realize it was A Thing until I started watching English Premier League games. It appears to be some manner of big deal on that side of The Pond. – T.E.D. Nov 2 '18 at 15:22


“The imaginary” is the general case of a particular cultural location or time commonly imagined by groups of people as a cultural phenomena. For example, much of “the Founding Fathers,” of the United States exist as a cultural imaginary barely related to the actual men involved: consider the cherry tree.

A golden age of Christmas is such an imaginary. Elements of the myth were generated by commercial advertisement and editorial illustration and photographs in colour magazines in the early and mid 20th century in the United States.

Miniature displays and parades were of lesser importance: they were geographically isolated, unless disseminated by the new colour image magazines.

Golden ages are an act of “remembrance,” they produce the “imaginary” past as an idealised state, normally in the service of blatant contemporary ideologies. They are deliberate ideological distortions or whole cloth inventions of the past. In the case of Christmas, this attracted new attention amongst whites in the 1920s-1950s particularly amongst white collar and skilled workers as a reflection on their hopes for stability and plenty, and in the case of blue collars as a reflection of their hopeless desire for the same. (Only in the late 1950s did the American dream become a reality for white union labour, and even then only for those with employment and domestic stability.). This is powerful “myth” making, and it is no surprise that Christmas is a powerful secular myth linking commodity consumption, the family, material plenty and personal satisfaction.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.