Savoring the Traditions of Christmas


Country MoonOK, it is time to delve into all the craziness of the Christmas season. Perhaps no other holiday is as steeped in tradition as Christmas. There are the more popular ones that almost everyone partakes in like trimming the tree, decking the halls, making cookies, buying gifts and caroling. The list can sometimes be endless.

Tradition is good. It gives us continuity and stability in a world that sometimes changes way too fast. It links us with our past and, hopefully, will be passed on to future generations to form family links through the years. This is good.

When it is not so good is when we try to keep every tradition alive and just go through the motions because we think we have to. A tradition should be kept alive for the sheer joy in doing it. With that said, I was curious about the history behind some of our more popular Christmas traditions. Here is what I found:

CHRISTMAS TREES: Perhaps the most-practiced tradition, this dates back to the 16th century. The first person to bring a fir tree into a house as we know it today may have been Martin Luther, a German preacher. The story goes that the night before Christmas he was walking through the forest and looked up to see stars shining through tree branches. He thought it was so beautiful that he went home and told his kids that it reminded him of Jesus who left the stars of heaven to come to earth at Christmas. We have definitely strayed from those first pure trees that were real and decorated with edibles like apples and nuts. Now we buy artificial trees, cover them with dazzling ornaments and try to make the tree look like a real tree and smell like a real tree. Why don’t we just buy a real tree?

CANDY CANES: These treats started out as just sticks of white candy. A choirmaster in 1670 was concerned that children would not sit quietly all through the long Christmas nativity service so he gave them something to eat. Later, to remind people of Christmas, they were fashioned into a “J” shape like shepherds’ hooks. In the early 1900’s stripes were added as was peppermint for flavor.

HANGING STOCKINGS: Stocking stuffing can be traced back to charitable donations in the 4th century. Saint Nicholas, who is the basis for Santa Claus, believed that childhood should be enjoyed. However, in those days children as young as 10 years old often had to work to help support their families. He gave what he could in food, clothes and other small items and, as he looked for a good place to leave the gifts where they would be found, he saw a young girl’s stockings hung by the fireplace and thought “Why not?” Another theory goes that he dropped bags of gold into the stockings of three daughters of a poor man to help deliver them out of slavery.

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