Do you know why you do the Christmas traditions you grew up with? Read on and find out!
Now that we have stuffed ourselves with a delightful Thanksgiving feast sprinkled with love, we can direct our attention to the next big feast—Christmas. Christmas is certainly one of the holidays with a treasure trove of traditions, but do you know why and how exactly these traditions came about?
Oh Christmas Tree
The most popular Christmas icon, especially for children, is the Christmas tree. We’ve all been though the phase of counting how many beautifully wrapped gifts nestled under the tree have our name on it. But did you know that the tradition of decorating trees came long before Christmas itself? It is believed that ancient pagan societies that practiced animism brought and decorated trees indoors to please the spirits and ensure a good harvest. Trees only became linked to Christmas when Christianity started to spread across Germany. The popularization of the modern Christmas tree came about when Prince Albert, originally from Germany, introduced the Christmas tree to England after he married Queen Victoria in 1840.
The tradition of hanging Christmas stockings by the chimney is linked with the origin of Santa Claus’ story. It is believed that St. Nicholas threw three bags of gold coins down the chimney of a poor family whose father could not marry off his daughters because he had no money for dowries. It so happened that the daughters hung their stockings by the fireplace to dry and they caught the bags of gold coins that were dropped.
Wreaths, like Christmas trees, came from a pre-Christian tradition. Their circular shape symbolizes completion because they have no beginning and no end. When they were adopted by Christianity, the wreaths became a symbol of hope for the coming of Christ.
Who could ever forget jolly old Santa Claus? However, Santa Claus was not always the jolly old man in a red suit that everybody now sees him as. In fact, Santa Claus, or Saint Nicholas, is the patron saint of children and sailors. He is described as a generous man known for giving gifts to children, especially those who are poor. He was also a 4th century bishop of Myra, an area that is now part of Turkey.
Kissing under the Mistletoe
Nothing says “kiss me” like dung on a stick
If you know where mistletoe comes from, you would probably not want to kiss under it. In truth, mistletoe comes from the Anglo Saxon words “mistel” and “tan” which means “dung” and “twig,” respectively, because people noticed that mistletoe grows on spots on twigs where bird droppings are found. But why would people kiss under “dung on a stick?” According to ancient Druid beliefs and myths, mistletoe came from the heavens and grew on a tree, like heaven’s gift to Earth. Kissing under the mistletoe is symbolic of accepting that gift from heaven. Scandinavians associated the plant with Frigga, the goddess of love, hence, they believed that kissing under the mistletoe would bring them happiness or Frigga’s blessings.
How about you? What Christmas tradition origin can you share with us?