The 1920s ushered in significant changes in American life. They were years when most Americans acquired their first radios and automobiles, and achieved the highest standard of living in the nation’s history.
The celebration of the Christmas holiday in the 1920s changed as well. The first national Christmas tree originated during the administration of President Calvin Coolidge. This sixty-foot balsam fir was lit in an impressive ceremony in 1923. Cotton ornaments, inexpensive and unbreakable, were at the peak of their popularity. By the late 1920s, however, spectacular glass ornaments were being imported from Germany. The popular image of Santa Claus, originally created by German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast, was standardized by advertisers in the 1920s.
The Friend Telegraph on December 11, 1925, remarked in an editorial entitled “How Times Change”: “Already the ‘feel of Christmas’ is in the air, and each day now will find it growing stronger. Even though it may not hold the joy for some of our older citizens that it held in the days of their youth, we are safe in saying that not one man or woman in Friend would vote to abolish it.
Lolita, LaVerna, and Edna Riley at Christmas 1928
“We like to think back to Christmas seasons gone by, and especially to compare the customs of celebrating it then with customs of the present day. Time was when it was not considered good form for a young man to give his best girl articles of wearing apparel. It indicated that her people were neglecting to clothe her. His gift had to be an album, a toilet set or something along that line.
“Today Christmas giving is on a much more sensible basis, and gifts of service, gifts the recipient can get some good out of, are the most appreciated. Today, too, people buy more for the home than formerly. An odd chair, a new rug, dishes or silverware, labor-saving devices for the home and even new-fangled cooking utensils are favorite gifts now, instead of pictures and gew-gaws that did not possess comfort or lighten the household burdens.
“Give a woman something serviceable to wear or something she can use in her home and you are gladdening her heart. Give a man something for his auto, or something he can wear besides neckties, and you will win his thanks. Human nature hasn’t changed, even if Christmas has. It is only in recent years that we have learned human nature craves something serviceable.”
If something serviceable was not available, the First National Bank of Friend advertised an alternative: “If you give any presents of cash at Christmas time you want the bills to be bright and fresh and crisp ‘all dressed up for the occasion,’ as it were. We have a supply of brand new currency on hand. Just drop in and tell us what you need!”