Editors’ Choice: The Best Of The Past From The Year Just Past

American Heritage’s editors and contributors survey the historical offerings of recent months, and pick their favorites from a field wide enough to include movies, restaurants, furniture, cocktails, hotels, cookies, wristwatches—and artifacts retrieved from the staterooms of the Titanic .




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The Wizard Of Your Christmas Tree


The days were growing. shorter as the Christmas season of 1880 drew near. Many American families planned to decorate Christmas trees—a German custom that, although it had begun to catch on only a generation earlier, was spreading year by year. But travelers on the Pennsylvania Railroad in the early darkness of approaching winter were excited about a lighting display such as the world had never seen.

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Christmas Without George Bailey

Twelve classic holiday movies worth seeing when you can’t sit through It’s a Wonderful Life one more time

Every American knows what Christmas means. It means Miracle on 34th Street , A Christmas Carol , and It’s a Wonderful Life . Year after year. For readers who have found themselves finally half wanting Porter Hall to lock up Edmund Gwenn, Scrooge to fire Cratchit, and James Stewart to jump, here are twelve titles just as good that have avoided such wearying ubiquity. They may even reawaken that old holiday spirit in you.

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Master James Is Home For Christmas!

Some of the best moments in hundreds of movies took place at Christmastime. And the author may have seen every one of them.

Christmas hasn’t been all that merry on the screen in the past couple of decades. Santa was as likely as not to be Gene Hackman in costume to make a drug bust in The French Connection; the holiday itself became a horror in films like Black Christmas and Silent Night, Bloody Night; and there was even an extraterrestrial turkey called Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.Read more »

The Merriest Christmas

A World War I soldier writes home about the Christmas holiday in his hospital, "one of the merriest, happiest seasons of my life"

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A Visit From St. Nicholas

Illustrated with late-nineteenth-century magic-lantern slides Together with a brief inquiry into a Christmas mystery

’T was the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there; The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads; Read more »

’Twas Was The Night Before Christmas…

When up on the roof there arose such a clatter That Herbert rushed out to see what was the matter

On Christmas morning of 1929 Fire Marshal C. G. Achstetter of Washington, D.C., commenced the tedious paperwork that follows a $135,000 fire. Reaching for his office form, “Fire Marshal’s Record of Fire,” he noted that it had been a hard month: 779 fires to date in 1929, and this most recent one was number 162 in December alone. Read more »

When Christmas Was Banned In Boston

Many a book, a magazine, a play, a movie, has been banned in Boston. But Christmas? Read more »

Many a book, a magazine, a play, a movie, has been banned in Boston. But Christmas?

The Charm Of Christmas Past

It is one measure of the changes that occur in a dynamic society that Christmas, which the Puritans regarded as an idolatrous feast not to be celebrated or even tolerated by Godfearing men, became by the nineteenth century the quintessential expression of all that was dear to the pious Victorian generation.

Holiday Time At The Old Country Store

Millions of Americans, reared on a farm or in a country village, still treasure the recollection of December shopping expeditions to the old-time general store as one of life’s most permanent and agreeable memories. The crossroads store, around the turn of the century, was still in its full glory.