Author: Edgar Patterson

A Brief History of Christmas in America

Although Christmas feels like a traditional holiday with embedded roots throughout human civilization, the interpretation of our celebrations today is relatively new. Did you know that the U.S. government didn’t recognize it as a federal holiday until 1870?

The Christmas season didn’t always celebrate the birth of Jesus. It used to be a time when the solstice was more important, indicating the progression of the year.

It wouldn’t be until the Roman Empire decided to mark the day of Jesus’ birth as a celebration in the fourth century that the holiday traditions would start. Religious leaders transformed a festival called Saturnalia, a time that honored the sun, to one that focused on Christianity. 

When the colonists came to the United States in the 17th century, the idea of celebrating Christ through decadence was seen as sinful.

Christmas was outlawed for early Americans. 

What Changed Christmas in the United States?

During the 1800s, several fictional Christmas stories became popular in the United States. Washington Irving was particularly famous for his fictitious portrayals of how the day was celebrated in England before society transformed to become more Puritan.

Many of those stories inspired American practices for the Christmas holiday.

German settlers came to the United States with the tradition of having evergreen trees and branches in their homes. These actions were originally meant to signify that life is possible, even during challenging times.

At the same time, Catholic immigrants brought over the tradition of keeping a small nativity scene in their homes.

By the time the American government decided to make Christmas a federal holiday, most families were already celebrating it anyway. Since then, it has grown into a spectacle of gifts, lighted trees, and hope for a peaceful new year.

Each family celebrates in their own way today. How do you mark this joyous time of the season?

Check Out These Impressive Tree Lighting Ceremonies

The holidays are almost upon us. It has been a stressful year in 2020 for most people, which is why a sense of pending relief is permeating the air. We are all looking toward the hope that a new year offers.

As your family gathers together at home, on Zoom, or whatever other plans you have, one of the great holiday traditions worldwide is to light the tree. Gather your gifts, have your Gaia Herbs products available, and enjoy these ceremonies this year. 

Best Lighting Ceremonies in the United States

Rockefeller Center

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is a global symbol of the Christmas holiday. This massive tree stands multiple stories tall, shining brightly over an ice skating rink. During most years, live concerts and plenty of festivities are included in the event that typically happens during the first week of December.

Lobster Trap Trees

Several New England communities put together Christmas trees made of local lobster traps. It’s wildly popular in towns like Gloucester and Rockland. The latter town has been performing this tradition since 2003. Don’t forget about the 5-foot lobster at the top to serve as the star!

National Christmas Tree Lighting

The national Christmas tree lighting ceremony started in 1923 when President Calvin Coolidge had the honor of lighting a 48-foot tree. This tradition continues today, often on the first week of December, to commemorate the messages of hope and peace that the nation strives for in the coming year.

Ski Tree Ceremony

Telluride is one of Colorado’s most popular skiing destinations. Each winter, the community uses old skis donated to the cause to create a Christmas tree from them. The ceremony usually happens during the first weekend in December, including a ceremonial bonfire where other old equipment gets lit to honor skiers’ patron saint.

With 2020 attendance restrictions to think about, many tree lighting ceremonies are moving online. What are some of your favorite holiday events to celebrate throughout the season?

How Pittsburgh Became Known as the Steel City

Pittsburgh was one of the largest American cities up until the 1950s. It plays a significant role in early U.S. development, including battles in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Part of the reason why everyone came here involved the availability of raw materials.

Tremendous coal deposits were found all around Pittsburgh. Andrew Carnegie used that knowledge to build one of the largest companies in world history, beginning steel production in 1875. By 1901, Carnegie and his partner, Henry Clay Frick, merged several businesses together to create the United States Steel Corporation.

Up until the 1950s, almost half of America’s steel output came from Pittsburgh. Many of the city’s buildings and neighborhoods testify to the industrial work, wealth, and creativity that flowed through the town.

How Did the Steel City Stop Growing?

During the 1970s and 1980s, steel production collapsed by over 50%. In 1973, the U.S. produced 111.4 million tons. It wouldn’t be until 2000 when the industry would reach the 100 million ton production level again.

Imports hurt Pittsburgh’s place in the American economy. The U.S. went from importing 146,000 tons in 1946 to 24 million tons in 1978 because the international market was cheaper than domestic production.

After the recessions of the 1980s resolved, Pittsburgh had to reinvent itself. It is now a place for research, medical development, and education.

Although the steel mills along the riverfront are mostly gone, the money made from its production continues to put Pittsburgh on the map. Carnegie donated much of his wealth to establish libraries, an art collection, the Carnegie Museums, and Carnegie Mellon University.

Pittsburgh’s professional sports teams still pay homage to the city’s traditions from the past. Black and gold are the colors that represent the industrial past, with the Steelers in the NFL directly named for the productivity and innovation that brought economic growth to the region.

Most Notable Female Writers from Early America

Early America had some fantastic literature. When schools teach the classics, you’ll find many authors who were white, male, and straight.

We must remember the groundbreaking Early American women who had their works published. Although they were drastically underrepresented, their work still had a profound impact on society.

How did they accomplish this feat? Many of them had to pretend to be white, male, and straight to their publishers.

Here are the women you should get to know better.

1. Judith Sargent Murray

She wrote the feminist essay called “On the Equality of the Sexes” in 1791, right around the age of 40. That was a full year before the famous piece by Mary Wollstonecraft that always gets discussed. Murray is quite rightly recognized today as one of America’s first published feminists.

2. Catharine Maria Sedgwick

Sedgwick was highly prolific for a female writer during her era. She had her short stories published by numerous periodicals, starting in the 1820s. Several novellas, 100+ prose works, eight children’s books, and six novels are part of her biography. At the time, her work was in the same league as Copper and Irving.

3. Anne Bradstreet

Her writing in the early 17th century was some of the first to come from the American colonies. It helped that she came from a wealthy family, and her father had always insisted on giving her a world-class education. It wasn’t considered proper for women to write then, but she didn’t care. In Bradstreet’s eyes, the notion of a woman being inferior was ridiculous.

4. Susanna Rowson

Rowson wrote Charlotte Temple in 1790. It would be the first international bestselling novel to come out of the United States. That status wouldn’t change until another woman, Harrier Beecher Stowe, dethroned the book with Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852. Rowson also worked as an actress, wrote several operas, plays, and novels, and has numerous poetry volumes to her credit.

These notable female writers from Early America changed the course of their lives by refusing to back down. Their public performance inspired private changes in many households, eventually leading society to a place where true equality became possible.

Myths About Thanksgiving’s Origins

What do you know about Thanksgiving’s origins? Many of today’s American parents were taught that the Pilgrims and Native tribes sat together, exchanged food, and found a way to create peace.

The truth about Thanksgiving is that disease and massacres were on the menu. If you ask the surviving Wampanoags about the holiday, they’ll say it is a time of deep mourning.

Here’s a truth bomb: the first Thanksgiving was actually held in 1598 in Texas by Juan de Onate after a 350-mile hike through the Mexican desert.

How many other Thanksgiving myths are lingering out there?

Worst Myths to Debunk About Thanksgiving

1. Thanksgiving Was About Family

The original Thanksgiving holiday was a multicultural event. It was never about bringing your family together to stuff your face full of turkey. Even if you believe the Pilgrim origin story elements, they invited the Native tribes to join them.

2. Turkey and Cranberries Were Original

Did you know that the current tradition of having turkey with cranberries on Thanksgiving comes from the Victorian era? Since that culture was the one to create the holiday, their habits became part of the process. The one food we know that the original settlers had was deer. Anything beyond that is just conjecture.

3. There Is Only One Thanksgiving

When Abraham Lincoln declared that Thanksgiving would be a holiday, his proclamation said that the event should be held in November… and in August. Most Americans outside of New England didn’t even recognize this tradition until the 1863 declaration.

4. Plymouth Rock Was the Key

The first person to tell the story of Plymouth Rock was Thomas Faunce, a 95-year-old man with dubious references. Their first landfall was at Provincetown anyway. Still, going to Plymouth to see a rock stamped with 1620 does make for an exciting little adventure.

You need energy to prepare the modern Thanksgiving meal. Whether you’re a turkey, ham, or lasagna family, taking items from Life Extension and Bluebonnet can help you prepare and serve this meal.

What tips do you have for surviving the Thanksgiving experience?

Origins of Halloween in the United States

Halloween is a treasured time for many children in the United States. Dressing up in a costume, going trick-or-treating, and spending time with their families is a tradition that goes back several generations.

With the kids hyped-up for Halloween this year, parents may want to take their preferred items from Kirkman and Douglas Labs to be ready for the experience. The 2020 version of this holiday may look a little different with some mask or gathering requirements, so please follow whatever local guidelines are in place for your community.

When you’re finished gathering candy, you can talk about the origins of Halloween in America.

How Did Halloween Get Started in the United States?

The first Halloween celebrations in the United States involved the colonists. Many of the old Celtic religious practices were still followed even though most people had converted to Christianity. All Hallow’s Eve marked the end of the growing season, with celebrations involving animal costumes and fortune-telling. 

When Irish immigrants started coming to the United States in the 1800s, their updated Halloween traditions came along for the ride.

Instead of dressing up as animals at private parties, the event had shifted to asking neighbors for money or food. They pulled pranks on some of them, evolving into the idea of trick-or-treating that kids say after knocking on a door today. 

Most communities didn’t offer much candy or food during the early 20th century Halloween celebrations. Some pranks got so out of control that they became logistical expenses for cities to manage. One way to switch the holiday to something more family-friendly was to offer candy, with several companies obliging.

That process helped to create the modern Halloween holiday that we celebrate today. You still might get a trick or two out there each year, but that outcome might be better than getting a box of raisins.

When Was the Last War on U.S. Soil?

With all of the fighting happening in Africa, the Middle East, and in small pockets with terrorists, it can be easy to lose sight of the progress we’ve made as humans.

Over the past 50 years, the world has seen fewer wars than at any time in the past five centuries. It has been one of the most peaceful periods of human civilization, even though we have more people and fewer resources available than arguably at any other time.

The United States has been quite fortunate in its warfare history. Only a handful of battles have happened in the country after the Civil War.

Outside of the War of 1812, the only other time enemy forces occupied American territories was 1942. Japanese forces attacked the Aleutian Islands off of Alaska.

During that same year in September, Japanese bombers conducted a raid on the American mainland. They dropped incendiary bombs on one of Oregon’s state forests, causing Mt. Emily to light up in flames.

What Was the Last Major Battle Fought in the U.S.?

The last significant military engagement on U.S. soil happened in 1890 at the Battle of Wounded Knee.


Depending on one’s perspective of the conflict, it might also be known as the Wounded Knee Massacre.

It happened in December of that year. The U.S. Army had been dispatched to disarm a Lakota camp in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation within South Dakota’s Borders. Over 250 people from the tribe were killed that day, including women and children.


Another 31 soldiers died in the conflict, with 33 having injuries. The U.S. Government gave 20 soldiers in the battle the Medal of Honor.

The National Congress of American Indians passed two resolutions in 2001, condemning the military awards. Although they’ve never been rescinded, Congress passed a 1990 resolution that expressed “deep regret.”

For the last full war that was fought on U.S. soil, one would need to go back to the American Civil War.

5 Most Notable Figures of the Prohibition Era

The Prohibition Era in the United States is one of the most interesting moments of American history.

States ratified the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution in January 1919, banning the transportation, manufacturing, and sales of intoxicating liquor. The law went into effect in 1920, and it would stay in place for the next 13 years.

Bootlegging and speakeasies made it challenging for police to enforce the new laws. Increases in liquor’s illegal production led to rises in gang violence, money laundering, and criminal enterprises.

The 21st Amendment would reverse the idea.

Several notable figures came out of the Prohibition Era. Perhaps you recognize many of these names?

Al Capone

Born in Brooklyn, he would rise to lead the organized crime syndicate operating in Chicago during the Prohibition Era. He was tried and convicted for tax evasion in 1931.

Eliot Ness

Ness was part of the “untouchables.” He led a group of federal enforcement officers that tracked liquor movements and manufacturing. Those officials raided breweries in Chicago frequently. Ness would also move on to tackle organized crime in Cleveland.

George Remus

This Cincinnati bootlegger read the laws carefully, exploiting every legal loophole he could find. His empire got build by buying pharmacies and distilleries to make liquor for medical needs.

Bill McCoy

McCoy ran rum from the Bahamas to the East Coast during the Prohibition Era. The reason why we say the phrase, “That’s the Real McCoy,” is because of his efforts to always sell an unadulterated product.

Roy Olmstead

Before the Prohibition Era, Olmstead worked as a police officer in Seattle. After the 18th Amendment’s passage, he became one of the biggest and best bootleggers in the Pacific Northwest. Unlike most of the other people engaged in this enterprise, Olmstead never carried guns or engaged in other vices. He just kept bringing alcohol back from Canada. 

Who are some of your favorite characters from the Prohibition Era?

Civil War Battlefields to See During the Holidays

When you have an extended weekend to enjoy, packing the family into the SUV to see some of America’s historical sites is a lot of fun. If you live along the Mississippi River or to the East, visiting the Civil War battlefields can be an entertaining and humbling experience.

You’re going to need lots of energy for this trip! By bringing along your favorite products by Alaffia, Alba Botanica, and Collagen, you’ll be ready for a full day of exploring.

What stops will you add to your itinerary this year?

List of the Best Places to Visit to Remember the Civil War

The Civil War often pitted brother against brother and neighbor against neighbor in a quest to shape our continent. These battlefields became the places where those arguments got settled.

1. Fort Sumter

This site is where it all began. On April 12, 1861, Confederate soldiers attacked the fort. It took 34 hours for the defenders to surrender, with only two soldiers killed during the battle. Over the next four years, over 600,000 more would eventually die.

2. Manassas

The North hoped for a swift victory to make the Civil War a blip on history’s radar. Those expectations disappeared on this July 1861 battlefield. People were so confident that civilians treated the conflict as a tourist attraction. That quickly ended with a Confederate route and everyone running for their lives.

A second battle happened here in 1862. The Confederates won again, setting the foundation for an invasion of the Union.

3. Shiloh

One of the most massive battles in the Civil War was also one of its costliest. About 110,000 men fought on this battlefield, with approximately one-quarter suffering casualties. It would be an expensive Union victory, but it also helped to reinforce the North’s boundaries.

4. Gettysburg

This national military park is considered hallowed ground for many. The combat sites have been well-preserved to ensure everyone can see what the battle was like when it occurred. When General Pickett ordered a charge into Union forces at Cemetery Ridge, it would become a defining point of the war. Over 50,000 casualties were counted that day.

The lessons learned from the Civil War should help us to avoid these issues today. Visiting the sacred battlegrounds is one way to teach future generations about those circumstances.

The History and Significance of Labor Day

Labor Day occurs on the first Monday of September each year. It is dedicated to the American worker’s economic and social achievements, serving as a tribute to the contributions that people create.

Without workers operating in safe environments, the country’s strength and prosperity would not be where it is today.

The first declarations for celebrating Labor Day happened with municipal ordinances passed in the late 19th century. A movement started after, creating state legislation in New York, New Jersey, Oregon, and more. Five states would create a holiday in 1887.

Who Is the Founder of Labor Day?

No one knows for certain who the first person was that initiated the idea of celebrating Labor Day.

Many people give the credit to Peter McGuire. He was the general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, as well as the co-founder of the American Federation of Labor.

Matthew Maguire, who worked as a machinist, also receives credit for coming up with the holiday.

What we do know is that in 1882, the Central Labor Union in New York adopted a resolution to celebrate workers. They held the event on September 5 in NYC, and they continued the tradition the next year.

Twenty-three states adopted the holiday by 1894, putting pressure on Grover Cleveland to make it a national event. 

Labor Day became official on June 28, 1894.

How We Celebrated Labor Day

The first Labor Day celebrations involved speeches and parades. The goal was to show the American worker’s strength while providing opportunities for fun and community togetherness. For some time, the Sunday before the holiday was considered a time to review the modern laborer’s spiritual aspects.

Changes in recent years have shifted the emphasis of the holiday. Although union executives and government officials still give speeches, it has become a time when workers relax, pursue family activities, and celebrate in their preferred way.

Indeed, we wouldn’t be where we are today without American workers. When Labor Day comes each year, celebrate your accomplishments!