There are heaps of Christmas traditions and they contribute greatly to what makes this time of year such a special one for the whole family. From hanging up the stocking over the fireplace and decorating the tree, to making mince pies and giving each other gifts, there is a story behind why we do certain things at this time of year, and here are just a few explanations why.
One of the oldest customs at Christmas is hanging a stocking over the chimney breast ready for Santa to fill with lots of presents and surprises, this essentially dates back to a legend from 17 centuries ago when the Bishop of the city of Myra, a kind man called Nicholas from a wealthy family, went around giving gifts and money to the poorer members of the village. His habit on Christmas Eve was to quietly go from house to house in his community making sure every child had a present of some kind. One eve he became aware that some of the women of the village had no dowry to offer future husbands, so he started leaving money inside their woollen stockings that were left out to dry to help them. And that is where the tradition of hanging a Christmas stocking for Santa came from.
During the festive season it’s traditional to hang mistletoe over the doorway and claim a kiss from anyone walking beneath it. During the Middle Ages they hung branches of mistletoe from the ceiling to deflect evil spirits and put them over the doorway to deter witches. Mistletoe has many virtues it’s represents peace and love, is linked to life and fertility, coupled with the magical and unexplained, and acts as a guard against poison, as well as being an aphrodisiac! In parts of England the farmers believed mistletoe brought fertility and good luck, and would give a bunch of mistletoe to the first cow that calved in the New Year as a good luck charm for the whole herd in the future.
A major part of celebrating Christmas in today’s world involves giving gifts to family and friends and particularly for kids this is the most exciting part about the festive holidays. But why do we do this and where does the idea come from? It’s actually an ancient tradition that can be traced back to the Ancient Romans, for some people it comes from remembering Saint Nicholas’s fine deeds and benevolence, whilst for others the custom has to do with the 3 Wise Men who travelled from afar to bring gifts to baby Jesus, or it’s simply seen as a special time to convey love and thanks to family and friends.
The Role of reindeer in the history of Christmas is an interesting one. Robert May was a regular guy working in a department store in 1939, the only difference between him and the other workers was that he was particularly imaginative and ended up writing a poem called ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’. Children loved it and more than 2 million kids took it home, when it was republished as a children’s book in 1946 Rudolph became a household name. The story of Rudolph has endured and every youngster knows of him and is captivated by how he helps Santa during this busy time.
Go into any department store from October onwards and you’ll be reminded of how many shopping days there are until the 25th with signs and banners, festive songs playing, and gifts and cards on display. The aisles are crammed with Christmas trees and decorations and ornaments made from glass or plastic, wreaths and shiny bunting, and twinkling Xmas tree lights bombarding you at every counter and shop window.
One family tradition is to decorate the Christmas tree together which arose from ancient Roman beliefs and Christian religion when the early Christians believed particular trees flowered out of season on the eve of xmas in honour of the birth of Jesus. In the 1800’s Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of England approved the custom by flaunting their own lavishly adorned tree at the palace. Decorating the tree then became just a major part of Christmas and ornaments were typically hand-crafted or suitable for eating such as nuts, candies and fruits.