The holiday season is a time of joy, celebration, and cherished traditions. These customs have become integral to our lives, from decorating Christmas trees to exchanging gifts. But have you ever wondered about the origins of these beloved traditions? This article will deeply dive into the history and peculiar beginnings of some of the most popular Christmas traditions.
Here are ten popular Christmas traditions with origins that leave you scratching your head.
10. The Yule Log
The Yule Log, a tradition that involves burning a large log of wood for the 12 days of Christmas, has murky origins. While its exact beginnings cannot be verified, the Yule Log has been a common practice in Europe. However, the tradition of lighting a Yule Log has no specific wellspring. The “proper” size for a Yule Log is about equivalent to the thigh of a pachyderm, making it impractical for most households. Despite its impracticality, the Yule Log continues to be a cherished tradition for many.
9. Christmas Witch
In Italy, children are told that their Christmas presents come not from Santa Claus but from Befana, the Christmas Witch. Befana flies on a broomstick and delivers gifts for good children, while the naughty ones receive garlic, onions, and coal tar. The Vatican introduced this tradition as a way to separate the saintly and secular aspects of Christmas. Although it may seem peculiar, the Christmas Witch has become integral to Italian Christmas celebrations.
Mistletoe, a plant associated with Christmas, has an intriguing history. It is believed to bring good luck and was incorporated into Christmas decorations by early Christians. The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe is thought to have originated from Norse, Celtic, or Druid customs. Some believe the tradition emerged from English communities where a girl stood underneath a tree, waiting for a boy to kiss her, symbolizing a commitment. Regardless of its origins, kissing under the mistletoe has become a cherished Christmas tradition.
7. December 25th
The celebration of Christmas on December 25th has been a subject of controversy. The exact date of Jesus’ birth is unknown, and early Christians chose December 25th to align with existing pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. This date was locked in during the 4th century, coinciding with the rise of Christianity as a dominant world religion. The Twelve Days of Christmas, which start on December 25th and end on January 6th, also have historical significance.
6. Christmas Tree
The Christmas tree, a beloved symbol of the holiday season, has roots in Christian and pre-Christian traditions. The modern Christmas tree dates back to Germany in the 16th century, but pre-Christian nature worship venerated trees near the winter solstice. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert popularized the tradition when a sketch of their family sitting beside a decorated Christmas tree was published in the Illustrated London News in 1846. Today, the Christmas tree has become an integral part of festive decorations.
Eggnog, a rich and creamy holiday drink, has a long and fascinating history. Historians believe eggnog was inspired by a medieval glass called “posset” made with milk, eggs, sherry, and figs. American colonists played a significant role in popularizing eggnog and adding rum to the recipe. Even George Washington had his special eggnog recipe. Today, eggnog remains a beloved holiday beverage, often enjoyed with a sprinkle of nutmeg.
Caroling, the act of singing holiday-themed songs, has its roots in medieval times. It was common for people to visit their neighbors and wish them a Merry Christmas, but singing carols specifically was only widespread in the 19th century. The tradition gained popularity as holiday-themed songbooks became popular, and going from house to house to spread holiday cheer became a cherished tradition. Caroling continues to be a beloved Christmas activity today.
3. Advent Calendars
Advent calendars, which help count down the days until Christmas, have a history that dates back more than 1,600 years. The Christian tradition of Advent, four weeks of preparation for Christmas, inspired the creation of calendars that marked each day leading up to the holiday. Advent calendars initially featured Bible passages, poems, or small gifts behind each door. Over time, secular versions of Advent calendars emerged, offering a variety of daily treats and surprises.
2.) Ugly Sweaters
Ugly Christmas sweaters have become a beloved holiday fashion trend. Originating in Canada in the 1980s, these gaudy and humorous sweaters gained popularity as an ironic fashion statement. Today, ugly sweater parties are common, where people proudly wear their most outrageous holiday-themed knits. The trend has expanded to include retailers, food chains, and websites dedicated to ugly Christmas sweaters.
1. Christmas Cards
Sending Christmas cards has been a cherished tradition for over a century. The first official Christmas card featuring a simple holiday greeting was introduced in England in 1843. The practice quickly caught on in Britain and the United States, with millions of cards being exchanged yearly. Christmas cards provide a way to connect with loved ones and share holiday wishes, keeping the season’s spirit alive.
Christmas traditions hold a special place in our hearts, connecting us to the past and uniting us in the present. Each tradition has a unique story, from the enigma of the Yule Log to the joy of sending Christmas cards. As we celebrate the holiday season, let us remember the origins of these traditions and embrace the magic and wonder they bring to our lives.