The holiday spirit takes the US by storm every year, starting the second families finish the last serving of their Thanksgiving dinner. The holidays are a major part of culture in the US, and the time holds a special place in people’s hearts.
Artists from all around the country and the world have captured this spirit and feeling in their works, from paintings and illustrations to literature, music, and film.
Christmas specifically has been largely depicted through art for hundreds of years, with paintings going back to pre-Renaissance. These early paintings are focused entirely on the religious side to the holiday, which when compared to more recent paintings that resemble how many celebrate the holiday today, have a completely different sentiment and meaning.
In terms of music, holiday songs have developed a distinct “sound” over the years recognized by many. A lot of modern holiday music started off as hymns or folk songs from religions; traditional Jewish and Christian songs have carried through into more modern songs that have the same sound and evoke a certain feeling of the holidays, that have now become mainstream. Holiday music has been evolving in the US since the 1800s, and now that iconic “holiday music sound” developed in the early 1900s.
A countless number of American films have been made about the holidays, mainly capturing the way the US celebrates Christmas. These movies bring in huge numbers at the box office (to date Home Alone has an estimated $285 million revenue, from boxofficemojo.com) and in general reflect the feeling of the holidays as a time where everyone is happy, cozy, and all of American society is excited to be in the holiday spirit.
The way the holidays are reflected in literature mirrors that of movies, with a lot of the same underlying themes and similar feelings evoked. Famous works such as A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens spread more serious and meaningful messages to their audiences while still maintaining the holiday aspect, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss also tells messages surrounding the holidays while being aimed at kids.
People all over the country love the holiday time of year, and for the past hundred years in the US, artists’ expression of the holidays has reflected a time of happiness, community, love, respect, and fun, that has become a staple of this time of year. Many people feel a certain way when they hear a holiday song, or go outside in the snow and see decorations on stores, read books, see movies, or even look at art, that all strengthens this spirit. The way the holidays are reflected in art and how that art has ingrained itself in American society has shaped the way US citizens regard, enjoy, and feel about the holidays to this day.
Graphic: Erin Kim