The Atlantic

16 Decades of Atlantic Christmases

A look back at stories, poems, book reviews, and art from 160 holiday seasons

Since publishing its first issue in 1857, The Atlantic has marked 160 Christmases. Contributors,  by dint of the magazine’s New England and Christian roots, made a point each year to memorialize the birth of Jesus and the many traditions celebrating it in every section and medium of the publication. For more than 16 decades, there have been myriad articles, stories, poems, book reviews, recipes, art, and even, in the mid-20th century, dozens of annual subscription gift cards.

“Whoever has passed the month of December in Rome will remember to have been awakened from his morning-dreams by the gay notes of the pifferari playing in the streets below,” wrote an unnamed contributor in April 1859, evoking the music of the season. The pifferari, as the article described, were shepherds who came to Rome at Christmastime to play music before shrines of the Madonna and child; these performers, and their songs, were a staple of Decembers in the city.

Eighteen years later, another Italian Christmas—this one passed in an abbey in Sicily.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic6 min read
The Best Athlete Americans Have Never Heard Of
American pro athletes face pressure to stick to sports. Australia’s David Pocock has a different idea.
The Atlantic7 min readPolitics
Trump’s Defiance Is Destroying Congress’s Power
Congress and the White House have a tense relationship, and future administrations might well choose to build on rather than repudiate the Trump example of how to respond to a hostile Congress.
The Atlantic5 min readPolitics
Your Neighbor’s Christian Education, Courtesy of Your Tax Dollars
One of the persistent disappointments of media coverage in the Trump era is how the eye-popping daily headlines about the president obscure slower-moving, equally important developments at all levels of government. This term, the Supreme Court is set