do not just
include feasting, giving and receiving presents, and
It includes the time-honored traditions that are different in
parts of the world.
example, due to their sunny climate, don't usually sit down to roast
turkey and ham, as is the Christmas custom in other European and
ex-colonial countries. Instead, their custom is to have seafood for
their Christmas lunch, often served cold.
Christmas traditions should be kept and we should decorate our homes to
the best of our ability in honor of the day. It is custom to put up a
to mark the occasion, put swags of foliage on mantelpieces, as
well as to display the various Christmas
that we receive from friends and family through the
A friend once
remarked, as she busied herself with some
Christmas cards she was sending off to the hospitals, " I always like
to tie a sprig of evergreen on each card; it looks and smells so
Christmasy." And so it does.
Even a few pieces of evergreen, tacked over doorways or branching out
from behind picture frames, give a room a festive, Christmas-like
appearance that nothing else can, and as evergreens are so plentiful in
America there are few houses that need be without their Christmas
with its brilliant red berries peeping cheerily forth from
their shelter of prickly leaves, adds brightness to the other
adornments, and when the white-berried mistletoe can also be obtained
all the time-honored materials for the Christmas decorations
Where we got some of our Christmas Customs
came from many nations, Americans have a
right and claim to any Christmas custom they may admire from other
we have already taken the Christmas custom of
the Christmas tree; from
stocking; Santa Claus hails from
Holland, and from old
sent us the cheery greeting, Merry Christmas !
The Christmas customs of the French
where they arrange their
shoes on the hearthstone on Christmas Eve for the Christ child to fill
with toys or sweetmeats, is too much like our own Christmas stocking to
be anything new.
However, in Sweden and
their Christmas customs consist of a
peculiar way of delivering
Christmas presents which we might adopt to our advantage, for it would
be great fun to get some of our gifts in their novel manner.
Old Christmas Customs and
Traditions in Decorating the Christmas Tree
The tradition of
Christmas trees dates back thousands of years.
worshiped evergreen trees as a symbol of eternal life and when the
winter solstice arrived they would decorate their houses with greenery.
During the annual winter festival of Saturnalia, in honor of Saturnus
the god of agriculture, Romans
metal pieces and candles on
Other stories tell of apples hung on evergreen trees
during the Middle Ages
as a symbol and
celebration of the feast of Adam
and Eve. The Vikings
of Northern Europe
and the Druids
of Britain and
France also decorated trees to honor their gods, hoping that this would
appease the gods and result in a good harvest.
The First Christmas Tree
about the first Christmas tree tells how on the
night of Jesus'
birth all living things, including trees came to Bethlehem bearing
gifts. The olive tree had olives, the palm tree had dates, and so on,
but the fir tree had no gift to bring. An angel felt sad for the fir
tree and so hung stars from heaven on its green branches. This is said
to have delighted baby Jesus so much, it was then decided that fir
trees would always be decorated to make children smile at Christmas.
German Christmas Customs and the Christmas Tree
the tradition of bringing the Christmas tree indoors is believed to
have started in Germany
. One legend has
it that in 1500, religious
leader Martin Luther was so moved by the beauty of the starlit fit
trees on Christmas Eve that he brought one inside and decorated it with
candles, which he lit in honor of Christ's birth.
Another story goes that Saint Boniface
who traveled to Germany as a missionary in the 8th century, came across
a sacred oak tree that was used for human sacrifices. Courageously, he
cut it down. The a miracle occurred. A young fir tree sprang up between
the gnarled roots of the oak tree. Saint Boniface recognized this
sapling as symbolic of his Christian faith.
Who knows whether
this is true or not, but we do know that the oldest
record of a
comes from a 1605 diary found in
Strasbourg (then part
of Germany, but now part of France), which describes the tree as
bulging with paper roses, apples and candles.
Victorian Christmas Customs and the Christmas Tree
The traditional Christmas
custom of having a Christmas tree spread throughout Europe and was
widespread by the 18th century. In 1841 Prince Albert is reputed to
have introduced the Christmas tree to England - it is said that Queen
Victoria's husband missed the traditions of his German homeland - and
decorated it with candles, candies, fruit and gingerbread.
Modern Christmas Customs and the Christmas Tree
the march of technology, electric lights have taken Christmas trees
into the modern era. It was Edward Johnson, an associate of the
inventor Thomas Edison, who first wired light bulbs and strung them
around a Christmas tree.
That was in 1882. Until the turn of the
century, electric Christmas lights were strictly for the wealthy as
they were individually blown by hand and had to be installed by a
In 1903 came the first plug-in lights, but it wasn't until
one enterprising family business began offering the novelty of colored
lights that the idea really took off worldwide.
on Christmas Customs and the History of the Christmas Tree
from Medieval Times to Today
Traditional Christmas Customs and Advent Calendars
Calendars are a symbol of the holy season of Advent, the period of
preparation for the celebration of the Nativity, or Christmas. Advent
appears to have been observed since the fourth century. It
traditionally began on the Sunday closest to November 30th which is the
Feast Day of St. Andrew the Apostle. The following 4 Sundays are then
followed from this date.
Victorian times the Christmas custom then was to suspend an evergreen
wreath with one red candle over the dining room table. Each day,
starting 4 weeks before Christmas a paper star containing a Bible verse
was added to the wreath, and each and each Sunday a new candle was lit.
The family would gather to light the candles, read the verses, sing
carols and enjoy holiday treats.
Today, Advent calendars are a fun way for
excited children to count down the days until Christmas. Homemade
Advent calendars are usually made from a card or poster with small
doors concealing a picture or a small treat such as a chocolate, a door
opening each day from December 1 through to Christmas Day.
Traditional Christmas Customs and Christmas Cards
cards are a popular way for people to keep in touch at Christmas. But
they are a relatively new Christmas custom. In 1840 a businessman, Sir
Henry Cole, who
didn't have time to write to all his family and friends asked a local
to design a card with a message on it that he could send to people. The
idea took off and in 1843 around 1000 cards were produced, selling for
a shilling each. These were the first mass-produced Christmas cards.
Traditional Christmas Customs and Caroling
first Christmas carolers appear in the Bible. They are the heavenly
hosts who lifted their voices to sing in the celebration of Christ's
birth. As far back as the 13th century during the Medieval Ages priests
and monks celebrated the birth of the Christ child with song.
Eventually, the tradition spread beyond the churches and monasteries.
Victorian times, caroling enjoyed a renewed popularity. Victorian
carolers were known as "waits" and were usually accompanied by a
musical instrument. Often caroler, going from door to door were greeted
with a warm cup of wassail Made with beer, wine and spices, wassail
comes from an Old English word that means "be healthy!" and was used as
Traditional Christmas Customs and Sugarplums
sugarplums were whole figs, simmered in a sugar syrup until they become
glazed fruit. Later, sugarplums involved int exotic
combination of fruit and nuts available only at Christmastime.
Victorian children loved these sweet treats, but for excitement of
course, nothing beats Christmas Crackers.
Traditional Christmas Customs and the History of Christmas
festively wrapped cylinders contained candy and novelties such as small
toys, games, hats and balloons. When pulled at each end, a cracker
would burst with a bang, revealing the goodies inside.
Who invented Christmas crackers?
Invented in 1840 by a London baker crackers became popular at Christmas
dinner tables and were traditionally popped at the end of the main
course, before dessert was served. Christmas crackers are still popular
in England, and enjoyed around the world.
Traditional Christmas Customs and the History of Christmas
tradition of hanging Christmas stockings by the fireplace may come from
the legend of two poor sisters. Both longed to marry by their father
was too poor to pay for their wedding dowries. One Christmas Eve, the
sisters hung their stockings by the fire to dry. Intervening, Saint
Nicholas himself tossed some gold coins down the chimney and into the
On Christmas Day, the sisters discovered the money - enough for both
dowries - and rejoiced!
children, hoping for similar results took to hanging their stockings on
the end of the bed. Parents then had the same gift-giving recipe that
still works today; "Something to eat, something to read, something to
play with and something they need."
Traditional Christmas Customs and Evergreen and Mistletoe
the halls dates back to pre-Christian times when in many parts of the
world certain plants were believed to have magical power. People
brought evergreen branches indoors to freshen their homes during the
dark days of winter.
Holly, the most symbolic of evergreens was used to signify eternal life.
was considered a highly sacred plant. Because it grows high above the
ground, ancient people believed mistletoe represented the link between
heaven and earth.
In the British Isles, Druids collected
mistletoe in November, cutting it down from trees and catching it on
sheets before it hit the ground. It was then hung above doorways to
symbolize peace and hospitality.
Mistletoe also represented
fertility to the Druids, who originated the tradition of kissing under
the mistletoe. In Victorian times, it was shaped into a ball or wired
to a frame to make a kissing ring. Each time a couple kissed, a berry
was picked. When the branches were bare, the kissing had to stop!
Traditional Christmas Customs Around the World
Christmas Customs Around the World and Santa Claus - Who was
Santa Claus legend began with Saint Nicholas
the youngest bishop in
Asia Minor in the 4th century who was persecuted and imprisoned by the
Romans. Two centuries later, he appeared in handwritten documents as a
great figure in Christian legend - so much so, that stories claim Saint
Nicholas's bones were dug up 700 years after his death and moved to a
more revered place in Italy. Nicholas's generosity, rescuing the
destitute and robbing the rich to give to the poor, and saving sailors
from shipwrecks is well documented. But the one story that seems to
have stuck is the legend of him as the special saint of childhood and
the giving of gifts to children.
6th December is Saint Nicholas
Day - the birthday of this 4th century bishop and is a date that is
celebrated in many European countries where it signals the start to the
Christmas holiday season.
In some countries
the St. Nicholas
festivities have been absorbed into the religious and cultural
celebrations surrounding 25 December, the birth of Christ.
, South Africa and the UK
St. Nick is known as Santa Claus, but what about the rest of
In Puerto Rico
Children receive gifts
from the Three
Kings (we know them as the 3 Wise Men) on 6th January, the festival of
Epiphany. Children put grass under their beds for the king's camels and
in the morning the grass is replaced with gifts.
In the Netherlands
Sinter Klaas rides a
white horse and leaves gifts in the wooden clogs.
children leave a pair of their shoes by the door
on the night
before Epiphany, and the next morning they find them filled with small
gifts and candy left behind by Babbo Natale (Father Christmas).
children leave their shoes under the Christmas
tree on the night
of 5th January and presents from the Three Kings appear the next
morning. Santa Claus is called Papa Noel and some children receive
presents both days; 24 December from Papa Noel and 6 January from the
Christmas Customs Around the World: The Julklapp from Sweden
Before Christmas Day arrives all the presents intended for the Julklapp
must be prepared by enclosing them in a great
of various kinds, none of which should in any way suggest their
If one of the presents is a pretty trinket, wrap it up in a fringed
tissue paper, such as is used candy; place it
in a small box, and tie the box with narrow ribbon; then do it up in
common, rough brown paper, and wrap the package with strips of cloth
until it is round like a ball; cover the ball with a thin layer of
dough, and brown in the oven. Pin it up in a napkin, wrap in white
wrapping paper and tie with a pink string.
The more incongruous the coverings, the more suitable they are for the
Julklapp. You may enclose others gifts in bundles of hay, rolls of
cotton or wool, and use your own imagination in choosing the inner
It is wise to always use something soft for the outside
covering, the reason for which you will understand when the manner of
delivery is explained. Each package must be labeled with the name of
the person for whom it is intended, and if an appropriate verse,
epigram, or proverb be added it will be the cause of fresh mirth and
The Julklapp delivery
can, and does, start
very early Christmas morning,
for the little folks, always early risers on this day, will no doubt be
up before, and ready for the business of the day.
The first intimation the less enterprising members of the family will
have that Christmas has dawned, will be a loud bang at the chamber
door, followed by a thump of something falling on the bed or the
sleeper's chest. Then springing up and opening startled eyes, from
which all sleep has been thus rudely banished, one will probably
discover a large bundle of something on the bed or lying on the floor
close beside it.
It will be useless to rush to the door to find from whom or where this
thing has come, for although a suppressed giggle may be heard outside
the door just after feeling the thump, no one will be seen upon opening
it, but dead silence, and nothing seen but the empty hall.
At any time during the day or evening the Julklapps may arrive and when
all look toward the door, as a loud rap is heard, whiz ! Something
comes through the window and lands in the middle of the room. A sharp
tap at the window is followed by the opening and closing of a door, and
a bundle of straw, wool, paper, or cloth, as the case may be, lands in
In short the Julklapps may come from any and every
direction, and when one is least expecting them, and so the surprises
and excitement are made to last until, weary with the fun and gaiety of
the day, the
tired merrymakers seek their beds on Christmas night.
If it has not been made plain enough who, or what causes the mysterious
arrivals of the Julklapps we will say that the whole household join in
the conspiracy, and the packages come from the hands of each of its
Christmas Customs Around the World - Polish Christmas
The Polish custom of searching for Christmas gifts, which have
previously been hidden in various places in the house, is one the
children will delight in, and one that, introduced at a Christmas
party, will provoke no end of merriment and fun.
Christmas Customs Around the World - British Christmas
Traditions and The Bran Pie
The bran pie
is an English custom, but is
quite acceptable to the
It is an excellent means of distributing trifling gifts and may be new
to some of you.
Use a large, deep brown dish for the pie. Put in it a gift for everyone
who will be at the Christmas dinner, and cover them over thickly with
bran, decorate the top by sticking a sprig of holly in the center.
After dinner have the bran pie put on the table with a spoon and plates
beside it, and invite everyone to help her or himself, each spoonful
bringing out whatever it touches. Comical little articles may be put
the pie, and the frequent inappropriateness of the gift to the receiver
of it, often helps to create laughter.
The Bran Pie should be the secret of not more than two persons, for,
like all things pertaining to Christmas gifts, the greater the
surprise, the more pleasure there will be in it.
Blind Man's Stocking
The Blind Man's Stocking
may also be used
for small gifts, or it may
hold only candy and bonbons.
Make the stocking of white or colored tissue-paper. First cut out one
piece like the pattern, making the foot thirteen inches long and six
inches from the sole to the top of the instep, and the leg of the
stocking sixteen inches from the heel to the top ; then cut another,
one inch larger all around than the first. Place the two together fold
the edge of the larger over the smaller piece and paste it down all
around except at the top. Fill the stocking with small gifts or
sweetmeats, tie a string around the top to keep it fast, and suspend it
from the center of a doorway.
Blindfold each player in turn, put a long, light stick in her hand, a
bamboo cane will do, and lead her up within reach of the stocking and
tell her to strike it.
When anyone succeeds in striking the stocking and a hole is torn in it,
the gifts or candy will scatter all over the floor to be scrambled for
by all the players. Each player should be allowed three trials at
striking the stocking.
Young children are always delighted with this Christmas custom, and the
older ones by no means refuse to join in the sport.