Party Pointers: Origins of Christmas Traditions

Traditions are a holiday mainstay at Christmas time. But do you know the origins of Christmas traditions? Do you know why we kiss under the mistletoe or why we hang stockings. So this is the time to find out!

Christmas tree  The use of evergreen trees predates Christmas and is associated with the pagan festival of Saturnalia, which celebrated the agricultural  god Saturn with partying and gift-giving. During the winter solstice, green branches served as a reminder that spring would arrive anew. Germans are credited with the first evidence of bringing them into their homes and decorating them.

Christmas stockings The Christmas stockings of today may be byproduct of various  traditions. One dates back to a Dutch custom in which children  would leave shoes full of food to feed St. Nickolas’ donkeys and then St. Nicholas would leave small gifts in return. Another origin story can be traced to the 12th century when nuns would leave socks full of nuts. fruits and tangerines for the poor. This is why some people put tangerines in Christmas stockings

Santa Claus  The origin story for Santa Claus can be traced to St. Nicholas, a Christian bishop who lived during the fourth century, St. Nicholas was very generous and gave away his fortune to help the needy. He also did various other good deeds. He became famous and began to be known by different names around the world. The Dutch called him Sinter Klaas, which eventually transformed to Santa Claus. The jolly persona came later when 20th century advertisers–especially the arties responsible for Coca-Cola ads–portrayed Santa in a red suit with a big smile.

Church bells Church bells ring for many special services, including Christmas mass. During Christmas midnight mass in the Catholic Church, the altar bells may be rung while the priest says the “Gloria.” Bells are part of caroling and jingling bells are associated with sleighs and Santa’s reindeer.

Mistletoe: The tradition of hanging mistletoe in the house goes back to the time of the ancient Druids. It was thought to bring good luck to a household and to ward off evil spirits. The custom of kissing under mistletoe can be traced to England. Originally a berry was picked from the sprig of mistletoe before the person could be kissed. When all the berries were gone–no more kissing.

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