A little over 2 weeks until Christmas and we can’t stop singing Christmas carols, staring at the blinking lights on our trees and wearing what seems like the ugliest Christmas sweaters in the world – all with the biggest smile. Something about the ambiance of the month of December makes the most stressful of times seem so microscopic. The lights, presence of Santa, and gifts are all part of the holiday cheer that we so adore – but have you ever stopped for a second to think where did all these traditions come from? Sure we love getting gifts from Santa and hanging ornaments on a tree but where did all this holiday activity come from? We love it so much that we decided to do some digging and found out where each tradition derived from!
Who doesn’t love getting gifts? We have the Pagan beliefs to thank for the tradition of gift giving. During Saturnalia, children would get gifts of wax dolls that represent human sacrifices that Rome had given to Saturn in the past as a reward for good harvests. Not only dolls, but also boughs of certain trees and other plant matter were also a common gift to represent bounty and good harvests. Although we love the idea of gift giving we’re happy the gifts evolved from trees to an iPad.
Filling stockings is one of our favorite Christmas activities since our nuts are the perfect stocking stuffers! But have you every wondered why it’s in the shape of a sock? Well this Christmas tradition can be traced back to Scandinavian countries that still held on to their Pagan beliefs. It’s said that children would leave their shoes full of carrots, straw and other foods for Odin’s mythic horse, Sleipnir. When Sleipnir ate the food Odin would leave candy and other treats in their place making it the perfect “stocking stuffer!”
More than just a pretty wall decoration, the wreath has been known since classical antiquity, as the symbol of power and strength. To embody this image of power and strength, Kings and emperors often wore laurel wreaths as crowns. As for the connection to Christmas, it symbolizes tenacity and everlasting life, which is the perfect touch of Christmas vibes if you ask us!
If there’s one Christmas tradition that has become iconic, it’s the Christmas tree. Believe it or not, the modern Christmas tree differs a tremendous amount from its roots! While we are busy decorating our (sometimes) fake tree with glass ornaments and pretty lights, the tree back in the day was, of course, only real and decorated with food such as apples and nuts. (Well, we still decorate ours with nuts too.) Just like the wreath, the symbol of the evergreens meant fortitude and immortality. However, it wasn’t only used for holiday festivities. A lot of other cultures would put up a tree in December to ward off any type of evil. We’ve come a long way since the first Christmas tree but the love of it is still the same!
FA LA LA LA LA LA. Okay, we won’t sing but never associate yourself with someone who doesn’t enjoy holiday music – you really don’t need that kind of negativity in your life! A good holiday tune can literally turn anyone’s day from bad to amazing and we have the 13th Century Romans to thank for this one! The first true carols were developed in France, Germany, and Italy written in the language of the area they were composed and were sung at festivals and events. At first, these carols weren’t associated with the holidays but as time passed on it became more and more common to add the extra touch of holiday songs. Now, the modern practice of door to door caroling has to do with the root word for “carol” – “carole, or “carula” which both mean a circular dance. Don’t forget to hit the high notes.
We actually just sent ours out last week! There isn’t a specific time period as to when this started but we needed to add this on our list! To keep the tradition alive, Canada Post has given Santa his own postal code! You can send Santa a letter in any language and he will even answer back. Don’t forget to include a return address!
Pucker up! Usually when you receive a romantic gesture it isn’t a bouquet of mistletoe, so why is it the symbol of love during the holidays? Well, the explanation dates back to ancient Greeks, who believed that the mistletoe carried the male essence, and by certain extension, romance, fertility and vitality! The true reason behind the kissing under the mistletoe hasn’t been found but for a small plant that usually causes stomach pain when digested, it holds a huge symbol of affection!
He’s making it a list and checking it twice! (We sure hope not.) One of the main figures of the Christmas season is ol’ Saint Nick: The chubby guy that wears a red suit and magically appears on Christmas Eve leaving you a 100 presents (we’ve been good, we swear!). Yep, our favorite guy. Many of us know that the origins of Saint Nicholas are the generous Saint who gave presents to needy children. However, there is another figure that has had a roll in the man we call Santa Claus today. The first is the Dutch Sinterklaas, he is known as the “main” inspiration for Santa Clause. He looks exactly the same: wears red and knows if you’re naughty or nice. However, instead of only giving coal to the naughty children, his duties also include punishing the ones on the naughty list with “jute bags and willow canes.” And instead of coming from the North Pole in a sleigh he comes on a boat from Spain. Next up we have the modern Santa Claus that has derived from American folklore from the late 18th century. His name comes from the American version of the Sinterklaas, and over time he’s lost his bishop hat and moved from Spain to the North Pole.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not you cannot deny the fact that this month is the one time of the year where we’d like to think everyone is in a better mood, more generous, and inspired by the positivity. Wishing you a coal free holiday season!