Passing Old Christmas Traditions to New Generations

2 12 2012

As I have talked about in previous posts, I plan on making this Christmas all about giving, spending valuable time with family & good friends, and traditions.

I have talked about Making New Traditions including $5.00 Family Exchange3 Ways to Spark the Spirit on a Budget, and how to make your own Homemade Christmas Ornaments and Advent Calendars.

While on our annual Christmas Tree hunt last weekend, my boys became increasingly curious as to why we would even want a Christmas Tree in our living room. To be very honest, I really had no idea how to answer their probing questions of why this has become such a normal tradition.

Again, while my family and I were unpacking our Christmas decorations this weekend I noticed there are several “Old Christmas Traditions” that we participate in and I really had no idea where they originated from.  In order for us to pass these traditions to future generation, I decided to do some research to be able to provide information about them, that way I can teach them to my children.

Follow along with me to learn about why we do all the little things we do that contribute to making the Christmas season so magical.

The Christmas Tree

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Also known as the “Yule-tree”, this tradition has been traced back to Germany since the 15th century.     “The tree was traditionally decorated with edibles such as apples, nuts or dates. In the 18th century, it began to be illuminated by candles, which with electrification could also be replaced by Christmas Lights. Today, there are a wide variety of traditional ornaments, such as garland, tinsel, and candy canes.An angel or star may be placed at the top of the tree, to represent the host of angels or the Star of Bethlehem from the Nativity”. Wikipedia- Christmas Trees

How did this tradition begin? “Well, the story goes that St. Boniface, who is credited for converting many Germans to Christianity, came across a group of Pagans worshiping an oak tree. This made him angry, so he cut the tree down. What sprouted up in its place was a fir tree. St. Boniface took this as a sign from God, and it has been a Christian symbol ever since. Also, when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert, he gave a tree to his wife for Christmas, since it was a custom in his homeland of Germany”.  Kidzworld

Christmas Stockings and Saint Nicholas

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“While there are no written records of the origin of the Christmas Stocking, there are popular legends that attempt to tell the history of this Christmas tradition. One such legend has several variations, but the following is a good example: Very long ago, there lived a poor man and his three very beautiful daughters. He had no money to get his daughters married, and he was worried what would happen to them after his death”.

Saint Nicholas was passing through when he heard the villagers talking about the girls. St. Nicholas wanted to help, but knew that the old man wouldn’t accept charity. He decided to help in secret. He waited until it was night and crept through the chimney”.

“He had three bags of gold coins with him, one for each girl. As he was looking for a place to keep those three bags, he noticed stockings of the three girls that were hung over the mantelpiece for drying. He put one bag in each stocking and off he went. When the girls and their father woke up the next morning, they found the bags of gold coins and were of course, overjoyed. The girls were able to get married and live happily ever after”.

“This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so, St. Nicholas is a gift-giver”. Wikipedia-Christmas Stocking

History of Candy Canes

candy cane

“Around the seventeenth century, European-Christians began to adopt the use of Christmas trees as part of their Christmas celebrations. They made special decorations for their trees from foods like cookies and sugar-stick candy. The first historical reference to the familiar cane shape goes back to 1670, when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, bent the sugar-sticks into canes to represent a shepherd’s staff. The all-white candy canes were given out to children during the long-winded nativity services”.

How did they get their stripe?  “About fifty years later the first red-and-white striped candy canes appeared. No one knows who exactly invented the stripes, but Christmas cards prior to the year 1900 showed only all-white candy canes. Christmas cards after 1900 showed illustrations of striped candy canes. Around the same time, candy-makers added peppermint and wintergreen flavors to their candy canes and those flavors then became the traditional favorites”.  More info Here

Story of the Mistletoe

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“Mistletoe has been getting people locking lips together for a long time. The Celts used to believe that mistletoe was a powerful charm against lighting, thunder and other scary things. The Norse thought the plant was a symbol of peace. Warriors who met under the green leaves would not fight and warring couples would “kiss and make up”. Other European cultures believed that mistletoe aided in fertility and was an aphrodisiac – which explains why peeps become so smitten underneath it”! Kidzworld

Christmas Cards

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“The first Christmas was made by Sir Henry Cole who worked for the British Postal Service. He hired an artist to create three scenes – in the middle a family sat around the dinner table, on the left, the hungry were being fed and on the right, the needy were being clothed. The familiar greeting “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You” was written on it..  English School Boys also wrote greeting cards to their parents as proof of how well they could write”.  Kidzworld

So I have provided a bunch of information regarding how Old Christmas Traditions began.  Now when the little munchkins ask those puzzling questions it will be easier to answer them.

Remember, these holidays will be the memories your children will remember for the rest of their lives.  This is their reality! Even if you are on a budget many of these traditions just take time, love, and creativity.

Have fun this holiday season and make them as magical as possible!

What are some old traditions you like to enjoy with your family?

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