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IN History & Culture ON 25 Nov, 2016
Christmas is right around the corner, and I cannot wait to spend some time with my family. For some reason, the knowledge that Christmas is upon us makes me feel that everything will be alright.
It's probably because of the cold weather, the hot chocolate, and the generally positive mood. But why do we do what we do every Christmas?
From giving gifts to singing Christmas carols, it's time to know the origins of Christmas traditions. Read on!
A lot of people understand that Santa Claus originated from Saint Nicholas, who was known for being an incredibly generous person. But in reality, there are many other figures who helped shape the identity of Santa Claus. These figures include Sinterklaas, who also had his own elves. Another prominent figure to Santa Claus is the Brish Father Christmas, who was known in the 17th century as the symbol of happiness during the holiday season.
Also, the Santa Claus we know today wasn't popularized by Coca-Cola. In fact, he was already part of 18th-century folklore in America.
Boxing Day is an event that developed because of Christmas. It's a secular holiday, unlike the religious Christmas. It originated from St. Stephen's Day, which is also a Christian celebration.
St. Stephen was the very first Christian martyr who was a deacon in Jerusalem before he was stoned to death.
The Christmas tree we know today is different from its origins. Today, most of us use artificial trees. Back then, real trees were utilized. Apples and nuts were used to decorate these real Christmas trees. Of course, the Christmas tree symbolizes values that were also held by Hebrews, Egyptians, and the Chinese people.
In fact, the worship of trees was a common custom in paganism and in European druidism. For Christians back in the day, the placement of trees in December helped ward off evil and allowed birds to have a place to stay.
The practice of having Christmas stockings originated from Saint Nicholas, who also inspired Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas was a charitable individual in the 4th century who wanted kids to enjoy their childhood. You see, children back then already had to work to help families. Thus, Saint Nicholas decided to give clothing, furniture, and food. Legend states that Saint Nicholas thought of girls' stocking near the fireplace as a good area to place the gifts.
Some people believe that gift-giving started because of the story of the Three Wise Men who gave gifts to Jesus but its real origin dates back to paganism.
During Saturnalia, kids would typically receive wax dolls. These dolls represented humans who would be sacrificed to Saturn in exchange for a bountiful harvest.
We know that Christmas is meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, but it also has origins from Saturnalia. This is a Roman tradition that was created to honor Saturn during the winter season. Saturnalia occurred from December 17 until December 23, and it involved gift-giving, feasting, and partying.
Even before Christmas came to being, Romans and Greeks were already utilizing wreaths to represent power and strength. The laurel wreath they made was related to Apollo, who was the sun god. Thus, the laurel wreath symbolized Apollo's values. Still, this practice actually originated from the Etruscans.
In addition, harvest wreaths for the purpose of rituals were developed even before writing was invented.
The first genuine carols were created in 13th-century Italy, France, and Germany. These were performed at festivals and other social events, but they were not specifically made for Christmas. Rather, these carols were general holiday songs.
Still, the Christmas carols we know today were also inspired by 4th-century Roman Christmas hymns.
The origin of this tradition is unknown, but the first known instance of this was in 16th-century England, Since then, the practice of kissing under the mistletoe continued. But for the plant itself, the mistletoe was already being used by the Greeks who noted that the Roman ancestor, Aeneas, had a mistletoe in the form of a legendary golden bough.
Likewise, the mistletoe symbolized vitality and fertility.
During the Middle Ages, there was a belief that eating mince pies each day from Christmas until January 5 would give you happiness for 12 months. Mince pies were also a status symbol. During the Georgian era, the upper class would have a lot of pies to show that they were rich enough to hire the best pastry cooks.
Mince pies were initially stuffed with lamb meat, but now, they usually contain dried fruit mix.
The origin of the Christmas candy cane started around 250 years ago in Germany. At first, they were just straight sugar sticks.
By 1990, Christmas candy canes started to have red stripes and additional flavors such as wintergreen or peppermint.
The tradition of giving Christmas cards began way back in 1843 in the United Kingdom. It was the idea of Sir Henry Cole, who worked as an assistant keeper at the Public Record Office, which is now the Post Office. He wanted to find out how more people could utilize the office, so he suggested the creation of Christmas cards.
In fact, the first Christmas cards were designed by his friend, John Horsley. By 1860, printing became much easier thanks to improvements in technology. Because of this, more Christmas cards were quickly produced, popularized, and sold at an affordable price.
I hope you learned something new from this. Enjoy the Christmas season!