Meanings Behind Our Holiday Traditions

Do you have holiday traditions, things you absolutely must do or it's just not the holiday season?

My daughter and I give each other pjs each year. It's the one present we open on Christmas eve after coming home from a candlelight service in which we both sing in the Choir. Christmas Day is spent in the Pj's watching only Christmas movies and culminates with Chinese take out.

Some have those kinds of traditions, personal, family traditions that have just evolved over the years and become a part of our holiday celebration. But do you ever wonder where those tried and true traditions come from, like decorating a tree or lighting candles? 

Here are the origins of some of those traditions.

Why do we hang stockings at the fireplace? 
This can be traced back to St. Nicholas. The story goes that a merchant had fallen on hard times after his wife died and his daughters could not marry without the customary dowries. Legend has it that St. Nicholas heard of the merchant's situation and rode by one night and saw the girls' stockings that had been hung by the fireplace to dry. He tossed three bags of coins down the chimney which landed in the girls' stockings. That started the tradition of not only gifts in stockings but Santa coming down the chimney to deliver them.

The history of the Christmas tree
Plants that remained green all year long have long held a special meaning. Symbolizing immortality and fortitude evergreens have been used in homes for centuries. However, Germany is credited with the Christmas tree as we know it now. Beginning in the 16th century Christians began bringing trees decorated with fruit, nuts and berries into their homes. Martin Luther was credited with the tradition of lighting candles and putting on the trees to symbolize the stars.

The Christmas tree did not become popular in America until after 1846 when Queen Victoria, ever the fashionista, was photographed with her family around a decorated tree. Royal watching Americans could not be outdone and the American Christmas tree tradition was born. And in true American style, our trees were significantly larger than the four foot high European trees reaching from floor to ceiling.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
You know Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, Donner and Blitzen...but do you recall, the most famous reindeer of all... In 1939, Robert May, a copywriter from Montgomery Ward wrote the poem story of Rudolph for coloring books to be distributed to customers. Inspired by the "Ugly Duckling" story and May's own childhood experiences, May's story of the misfit reindeer was printed 6 million times by 1946. 

In 1949 the red-nosed reindeer was immortalized in song by Gene Autrey.  In 1964, the Burl Ives narrated television special was created further ensconcing the lovable misfit in holiday lore.

Whatever your holiday traditions or celebrations include, I wish you the happiest and healthiest of holiday seasons. 

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