When I was younger, December was always the most exciting time of the year. I went to a Christian Prep school, and I lived in a predominantly Christian environment- so I was raised with the idea that Christmas was an extremely joyful and important time.
My parents would always have to work during Christmas, so my nanny, sister and I would spend Christmas Eve decorating our modest, plastic Christmas tree. Over the years, as I’ve lived in different cities and countries, I’ve just kind of slowly grown out of the idea.
I mean…it’s a nice tradition. However, when you think about it, it is a little odd that millions of families pull trees into their houses for a few weeks.
Why a tree? Is it just for the sake of tradition that some of us don’t bring bushes into our houses? Well…Hanukah bushes do exist- but that’s not my point.
In today’s post, we’re going to be exploring the history and evolution of Christmas Traditions, and find out where exactly the tradition stems from. (Get it- stems? Like on a tree?
I’ll stop talking now).
Stay tuned till the end of this post to see what my Christmas tree looks like this year! Spoiler Alert- It’s once again plastic and diminutive; but at least this time I can blame it on the pandemic!
Let’s get started!
Why Am I Dragging A Tree Into My House Again?
The Christmas Tree Tradition is mostly credited to Germany in the 16th century. Martin Luther, a famous German theologian, is said to have been walking home one night, and was enamoured by the “brilliance of the stars” amidst the forest of evergreens. He was so inspired, that he rushed home to recapture the scene for his family.
He assembled a tree in the main room of his home, and adorned it with lighted candles.
However, some say that it was actually the Romans that started this time-honoured custom. Is it just me, or did the Romans do everything first?
Anyways, they say that the Romans would bring evergreen fir trees into their homes as a way to worship and show respect to the god Saturn.
Their logic was that bringing evergreen trees into their homes helped breathe life into the dark days of winter. It was also supposed to symbolise fertility.
Under the Mistletoe?
It wasn’t always just a subject matter for irritating Christmas Pop songs.
Fertility seemed to be a matter of huge importance to the Greeks and Romans. It’s also why we kiss under the mistletoe. By “we” I mean you guys- I’m happily spending Christmas alone in bed, watching Netflix and writing.
In the early years, most plants would die during the winter season. The only plant that would survive was the mistletoe. Therefore, it was thought that kissing under the mistletoe would bring luck and fertility to the ones standing under it.
It seems that although not necessarily tried and true, this is a tradition that shows no sign of being kissed goodbye.
Nog, Nog, Nogging on Eggnog’s Door
I’m sorry, I couldn’t think of a witty name. So you get to nog on eggnog’s door…whatever that’s supposed to mean.
Eggnog is a mixture of eggs, milk, cinnamon, sugar, and some sort of alcohol. It was initially a drink exclusively consumed by aristocrats , as they were the only ones that were able to afford the alcohol that would prevent the drink from quickly turning bad.
You’d have to add a huge amount of alcohol to convince me to drink raw eggs.
The chosen alcohol in question was almost always rum; and so the drink was originally called egg-n-grog (grog meaning rum). However, since humans are creatures of laziness, this was eventually shortened to “eggnog,” as we know it today.
Candy Cane Lane
The candy cane dates back around 350 years to 1670. The candy cane as we know it today started off as simply a straight, white stick of sugar. It wasn’t even peppermint flavoured!
Legend says that a choirmaster was concerned about young children making noise during the extremely long hours of service, so he gave them a straight, white stick of candy to keep them quiet.
However, the church complained that sugar wasn’t appropriate during service. So, the choirmaster beat the sticks into a hooked shape to resemble a walking stick, in order to diffuse their concerns.
I wonder if we could also use candy canes to mute children on airplanes?
Another theory states that the shape was simply to commemorate the sacrifice of Jesus (with the shape of a ‘J’); however, I’m choosing to believe the other story! It’s so much more interesting!
As for the signature red and white colour that we see today; once again some say that it’s meant to pay homage to the blood of the sacrifice of Jesus; but in all actuality the colours only emerged in the 1920s when mass production was automated. It was simply just the colours that sold the most!
The “Blood of Jesus” story is just good marketing I guess.
Why Do We Hang Stockings?
According to folklore, Saint Nicholas (the inspiration for Santa Claus); heard a story about the 3 unmarried daughters of a local widower. They couldn’t afford to pay the dowry required for their matrimony.
The generous Saint Nicholas then decided that he wanted to help. He found out where the family lived and slid down their chimney in the middle of the night. He saw the sister’s socks drying above the fireplace and filled them with gold coins.
When the girls woke up the next morning, they were elated, because they now finally had their dowry.
Over the years as gold coins have become less accessible, we’ve evolved into stuffing stockings with plastic toys. Coal for the ones on the naughty list!
Thank you so much for reading! Stay tuned until next time for another Christmas-themed post!
I’ve attached a picture of our Christmas Tree this year. It’s around 6 feet tall I would guess? While it’s still made of plastic, and not the biggest tree in the world, it’s my first tree in almost a decade, and it was a very wholesome and sentimental experience setting it up with my family. We had everything from the classic Christmas music, to family members taking turns storming off in anger!
You can check out my last few posts here:
- Father’s Day Traditions Around The World
- Borrowed Poems From An Anonymous- ‘Sacrifice’ and ‘The End?’
- Meet Jefe
- The Modern Day Julie/Julia Project- Pretzels
Until Next Time.