Date of Award

Spring 4-25-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)



First Advisor

Eric Morser

Second Advisor

Murat Yildiz


Christmas in the United States has been heavily influenced by immigrant communities. German-immigrants specifically have had a major impact on Christmas in America, as they brought with them an extensive history with Christmas and its motifs, emotions, and traditions. Christmastime in America at the turn of the 20th century, reveals a larger story of German immigration, assimilation, and also resistance to the loss of cultural markers. The first section of the thesis examines the history of Christmas in “Germany,” followed by a section focused on the emotional ties German Americans and Germans have with Christmas. The thesis next demonstrates how the central American figure of Santa Claus became embedded in German-American Christmas, and the significance of his adoption into the cultural practices. What follows these establishing sections are two investigations into the practices of businessmen themselves, G.A. Schwarz and John Wanamaker. This exploration highlights how businessmen who were a part of the German community market this nostalgic Christmas and how those outside the community understand the needs and desires of their new German customers. Finally, the thesis investigates music and alcohol consumption two practices embraced by German households during Christmastime, and how they were both transformed and reinforced through American commercialization. Ultimately, by focusing on German Americans in Philadelphia at the turn of the 20th century, the thesis asks us to reconsider how the celebration of Christmas reflected the way in which identity itself was built during a time in which material culture allowed heritage to be commodified, bought, and sold.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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