Little Things You Never Knew About Christmas


Country MoonChristmas traditions

Probably no holiday season other than this one sustains so many different traditions without question. Sometimes we follow these traditions without knowing why or when they started, just because it has always been that way. This year, I wanted to know the history behind some of the lesser-known traditions that have become ingrained in our holiday celebrations.


How many people decorate without including holly, ivy, or mistletoe? The prickly leaves of the holly come from Christianity and represent the crown of thorns that Jesus wore when he was crucified, and the berries are the drops of blood that Jesus shed because of it. Ivy is a vine that has to cling to something to support itself as it grows; it symbolizes the need to cling to God for support in life.

Unlike here in the States, in Germany it is traditional that ivy only be used outside, and a piece tied to the outside of a church is supposed to protect it from lightning. The old theory was that holly was a male plant and ivy a female. An English tradition goes that whichever was brought into the house first over winter dictated whether the man or the woman ruled that year. However, it was considered unlucky to bring either in before Christmas.

Mistletoe, long associated with Christmas, usually grows on willow, apple, or oak trees. The tradition of hanging it in the house goes back to the Druids, who believed it supposedly possessed mystical powers that would bring good luck to the household.

The Norse mythology version is the one that is more closely tied to mistletoe’s modern tradition: It was a sign of love and friendship, hence the custom of kissing under it was born. Today, any time two people stand under the mistletoe, the custom is that they are supposed to kiss. In ancient times, a berry had to be picked before a couple could kiss and, when all the berries had gone, kissing had to cease.

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