| Origin of Christmas Traditions
By Sarah Lane
Jul 20, 2011, 00:50 PST
The Origin of Traditions
Youre snug as a bug
in your Yule Log warmed home,
youve left your skates
and sled in the snow,
youve hung the wreath, the mistletoe,
the stockings on the mantle,
cookies are waiting for Santa.
Christmas cards are written,
eggnogs ready for sippin,
lights and candy canes
are on the tree, carolers
sing songs about Rudolph and Frosty.
Did you ever stop to wonder where youd be,
without traditions on Christmas Eve?
Did you know the burning of the Yule Log was taken from ancient sun worship rituals? Yule Logs are supposed to be cut from red oak trees and burned all of Christmas Eve and into Christmas Day. It is unlucky to buy your own log and lucky ones usually come from your neighbors woodpile. It is also customary to light the new log with a scrap of last year's log. The scrap is kept under the homeowners bed to protect the home from fire and lightning during the next year.
Can you believe the very first ice skates were made from animal bones? The oldest pair ever discovered was found at the bottom of a lake in Switzerland and date back to 3000 B.C. Leg bones from large animals were used as the blade and the skates were tied on with leather straps. The Dutch word for skate is schenkel which means leg bone. The largest outdoor skating rink is the Fujikyu Highland Promenade Rink in Japan. It was built in 1967 and covers 3.8 acres.
Can you think of what was used to move heavy items before the invention of the wheel? Sleds were used in the Neolithic Period as well as in pre-Columbian America where Eskimos used dogs to pull them. Ancient Egyptians also used sleds to haul large blocks of stone. Soon people created runners (to make the sled slide over the ground easier), two sleds together (the bobsled) and lightweight passenger sleds drawn by horses.
You may already know that no two snowflakes are alike, but do you know how they differ? Each tiny flake is formed by symmetrical crystals, meaning all sides are the same length and size. Each flake is different from the next in size, lacy structure and surface markings. The United States gets about 28 inches of snow every winter. Fun activities associated with snow are skiing, snowboarding, sled riding, snow mobile riding, or hiking with snowshoes. Some areas of the country have winter sports centers that depend greatly on the snow to make money.
Can you believe people used to worship evergreen holly as a sign of eternal life because it did not brown or die in the winter? Some religious groups say that the crown of thorns placed on Jesus head was made of holly. The berries were supposedly white but turned bright red from Jesus blood. Holly is also said to represent the suns return after a long winter. We now place wreaths on doors or hallways to create a festive atmosphere during the holiday season.
Did you realize that mistletoe is rarely used in churches because it comes from the ancient Druid ceremony celebrating winter solstice? This once pagan tradition started when a girl would stand beneath the hanging plant and a boy would walk up, pick a berry and then kiss her. When the berries were gone
no more kisses!
Do you know why we hang stockings on the fireplace? Long ago it was said that Saint Nicholas (now called Santa Claus) threw 3 coins down a chimney of the home of 3 poor sisters. Each of the coins landed inside separate stockings left on the hearth (fireplace) to dry. It is now a modern tradition to hang stockings there in hopes that we might have the same good fortune.
Do you know that the most popular cookie kids leave for Santa is the Oreo? Maybe thats because over 9.1 billion of them are sold each year. There is no exact date recorded but the idea of leaving cookies for Santa started sometime in the 1930s. Naughty kids use them to bribe Santa at the last minute and nice kids use them as a way of thanking him for all his hard work on Christmas Eve.
Can you believe that Santa has been around since the 4th century? Originally known as Saint Nicholas, the patron of children and sailors, the bishop was immortalized because of his generous and loving nature towards children. He was said to have brought joy to the poor by throwing gifts through their windows. The Dutch called him Sint Nikolass, which eventually evolved into Sinter Klaas. It wasnt until the Dutch began entering America that the colonials of New York began calling him Santa Claus.
The earliest known designer of a Christmas card was Sir Henry Cole, the first director of the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was both the Penny Post postal service in 1840 and the industrialization of the printing industry however, that led to the popularity of sending Christmas cards. By 1846, one thousand were sold at one shilling each. Cards in unsealed envelopes could be posted for half a penny. A German printer by the name of Louis Prang was designing and selling cards in Roxbury, Massachusetts in 1874. Ten years later his shop was selling more than 5 million cards a year. Since then, Christmas cards have evolved into a major holiday industry with millions of people exchanging traditional, electronic, and photo Christmas cards every year.
Did you know eggnog used to be made with beer? In the 17th century a strong ale called nog was very popular in Britain around the holidays. It was made from beer, sugar, egg yolks, lemon rinds and cinnamon. Later in the 19th century North Americans took the French version of the drink called Lait de Poule, made from milk, sugar, and egg yolks and added spirits. With the addition of brandy, rum or sherry, we have our own modern day eggnog. We now cook the drink to remove the threat of salmonella, but the recipe has been the same for over 150 years.
The very first person to have Christmas lights on their tree was Edward Johnson who worked for Thomas Edison. It would be a while however before the general public could purchase similar lights. The first strands to be mass-produced came from Ever Ready in the early 1900s. By the 1920s General Electric had improved upon the invention.
Can you believe that someone once thought sugar would keep kids quiet? In the year 1670 the local choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral gave his young singers sugar sticks to keep them quiet during the long ceremony. He had the candy bent in the shape of shepherds crooks to celebrate the festive occasion. In the 1920s a man named Bob McCormack made candy canes by hand for his friends and family. It took too long to bend them and only a few people could enjoy them. In the 1950s his brother-in-law, Gregory Keller, invented a machine that made lots of candy canes at the same time. Bobs Candies, Inc. became the largest maker of candy canes in the world. It was only in the early 1900s that red stripes were added and peppermint became the standard flavor.
Did you know the tradition of the Christmas tree comes from Germany? The very first trees were oak, the same tree used for the Yule Log. Trees have been a symbol of good luck since the Middle Ages. In Germany, whenever someone would build a house, a small evergreen tree would be nailed to the highest beam. Soon people began bringing the tree inside during Christmastime and decorating it. When German immigrants came to the United States, they brought this tradition with them. However, instead of live evergreen trees, some families choose to decorate artificial Christmas trees today.
The custom of singing Christmas carols is said to have come from 13th century Italy where a man named St. Francis of Assisi led songs of praise. It is very bad luck to send carolers away empty handed. It is customary to offer food, drink or even a little money. It is also said to be unlucky if you sing Christmas carols at any other time of the year besides the festive season.
Can you believe the invention of Rudolph was an advertising gimmick? The red-nosed reindeer was born in 1939 when a 34-year old writer for Montgomery Ward named Robert L. May was asked to invent a Christmas story. The company gave copies of the story to customers during the holiday season as a promotion for their stores.
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