The season to be jolly is just around the corner, and we’ll all want to indulge in the most beloved traditions surrounding Christmas. Whether it’s Eggnog or hanging stockings, decorating the tree, or Christmas morning, we celebrate some of these Christmas or Boxing Day traditions differently worldwide. But do we know where these traditions came from? Some of these traditions are much older than Christmas, while others are more recent.
Families around the world celebrate Christmas in different ways. While opening presents in matching pajamas adds an extra level of comfort and Hygge coziness to the holiday, those corny family Christmas cards infuse the celebration with a pinch of extra happiness. I’m not bashing those Christmas cards, but some can be pretty amusing, and nobody can change my mind.
We, Americans, don’t only adhere to the religious or worldwide accepted Christmas tradition. We have our own traditions that might make the rest of the globe scratch their heads confused. But it doesn’t matter. As long as there are Christmas traditions that your family respects and follows, fill your household with joy. Just do you boo! Nobody is going to tell you otherwise. However, what we will cover is the most common American respected Christmas traditions. Where they come from and how they evolved from pre-Christian traditions to today’s modern celebrations.
World’s Most Well Known Christmas Traditions
The Christmas holiday is celebrated across the globe even if it isn’t Christmas. Other religions celebrate other holidays around this time of the year, and all these traditions have some factual truth behind them. In some cases, historical facts got lost along the way. Other religions and cultural traditions molded them from legends. That does not make these traditions any less important to any particular family. We all want to be embraced by Christmas’ warmth and surround ourselves with the most important people in our lives. Whether we want to celebrate this by taking photographs of cringy family scenes or sitting in front of the fireplace with some warm beverage and our family around us, we should all enjoy the beauty of this holiday.
If it isn’t the big man in red with a lengthy white beard and hair? Also known as Father Christmas in the UK, Santa Claus is the first thing most people think of when they hear of Christmas. Considering that, 100% of US children only think of Santa Claus when they hear about Christmas. It’s not a surprise, but let’s see what inspired the legend of Santa Claus. Looking back into historical information that we have access to, the most likely inspiration for Santa Claus is Saint Nicholas. The 4th-century bishop became famous for gifting children in Myra, Turkey.
In other parts of the world, Santa Claus’ story got mingled with Norse and Germanic Mythology. Wodan, an important Norse god, inspired the story of Santa Claus in several aspects. For instance, Wodan is known for riding the sky around the Yule period/ Similarly, Santa Claus’ headquarters is said to be in Scandinavia, just like Wodan. Furthermore, Wodan is also known to have a long white beard. Essentially, our beloved Santa Claus is a combination of bits and pieces that came from Turkish, Nordic, and Germanic stories, legends, and mythologies.
The beginning of Christmas lights might not be the most fire-safe option in today’s world. However, we are talking about a time before electricity. In early 18th century Germany, families decorated their Christmas trees with candles that they would place on tree branches and light up. In the 1890s, electrical Christmas lights were made available, and the first President to adorn the White House Christmas tree with electric lights was Grover Cleveland.
With the evolution of electrical lights, Christmas lights became more popular ever for American families by the 1940s and 1950s. As they became cheaper to create, people developed various forms of lights. If, at first, Christmas lights were limited to the Christmas Tree, as they evolved, placing them around the mantles, house edges became more common. Nowadays, Christmas lights adorn entire homes for the whole holiday season. Given the times we live in, it’s not uncommon for people to postpone taking them down as they bring joy to everyone who sees them. Why shouldn’t we extend their cheerful nature as long as they aren’t obnoxious and too powerful?
The most beloved decoration for children is the Christmas tree. Anything Christmas-related involving children will turn chaotic, at least to a certain extent, but merrymaking isn’t always clutter-free. Still, grown-ups can set their inner child free and dive into a messy but extremely exciting Christmas tree decoration together with their children. Back in the day, before the Christmas tree was connected to the Christmas holiday, these trees were still a part of celebrations. In some European and Near East cultures, trees were seen as sacred. Celebrating the Yuletide, a pre-Christian northern European celebration, included evergreen trees and their year-round greenery.
As we grew fond of them in modern days, the Christmas tree can be connected to the 15th-century traditions from Latvia and Germany. They started decorating Christmas trees and placing them in public spaces so that anyone could enjoy them and their Christmas symbolism regardless of their background. In religion, Protestants brought the Christmas tree inside the home, and Catholic families would recreate the nativity scene in their homes instead of the Christmas tree. Real or fake, we all love our Christmas tree and take great pride in how we decorate it. I’ll go for a fake one with gold and red decorations.
Known as one of the oldest traditions, various pre-Christian societies sang songs around the Winter Solstice, and these eventually evolved into today’s Christmas carols. Once Christianity converted those in these pre-Christian societies, the missionaries replaced the songs they used with songs related to Christ. The first Christmas carol, Angel’s Hymn, is as old as the 2nd century AD and was sung by Pope Telesphorus.
We can hardly compare the warmth and comfort we get from seeing our stockings hung by the mantlepiece to many other Christmas traditions. That is probably what people in the 4th century also believed, but we are short on accurate stories related to those days. Saint Nicholas, the Turkish bishop we mentioned earlier, used to hang presents on stockings for people.
In the 19th century, European children started to use their everyday socks to receive their presents in and in some countries, boots are another standard option. Instead of socks, children clean their boots and set them on the window sill or beneath the Christmas tree to receive presents from Saint Nicolas (another individual altogether, an addition to Santa Claus). In contrast, their parents clean the house and hope not to get a stick if they weren’t good throughout the year.
Sooner or later, children worldwide began creating stockings for Christmas where Santa Claus could place presents in them.
Years come and go, and we have to agree that the past two years had a significant impact on how we live our lives. There’s no way around it. We can feel the pandemic’s strain on society’s psyche from the simplest tasks like taking your dog out for a walk or the most complex like planning your next holiday. Things haven’t been easy from any perspective you look at things. That only adds to the reasons why this holiday season should inspire as much joy, happiness, and warmth as possible. The pandemic will be over, with a dash of responsibility and science on our side, we can all make it through this. Now, presents are a focal point of the Christmas holiday. Presents give us moments that we’ll forever cherish, and there’s no reason why we should focus on the future or dwell on the past because the present moment is the one that brings us the present of a smile. Next, we’ll have to deal with the New Year’s Celebration, and that’s a whole different story.
The season to be jolly is closing in, and merry-making should be our only focus during Christmas. Let us know in the comments below what your Christmas wishes are for your family and those around you. Don’t dwell on the things beyond your control, but treasure the ones that you can affect. Like & Share this with those you cherish and wish them all a happy holiday season.