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.

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