The origins of some beloved holiday traditions

  • Dec. 25, 2017 1:30 a.m.

Christmastime is here.

The presents are being purchased and wrapped. The stockings will soon be hung on the fireplace mantle. Mistletoe is pinned above the front entryway, and poinsettias add rich color to home decor.

Tradition is integral come the holiday season. Throughout the month of December, traditions fill people’s days and comprise the many reasons why individuals decorate, celebrate and dine the way they do this time of year.

But few may know the origins of some of the most beloved holiday traditions.

Christmas stockings

The Christmas stockings of today may be a byproduct of various traditions. One such tradition dates back to a Dutch custom in which children would leave shoes full of food to feed St. Nicholas’ donkeys, and then St. Nicholas would leave small gifts in return.

Another origin story of Christmas stockings can be traced to the 12th century, when nuns would leave socks full of nuts, fruit and tangerines for the poor.

This is why some people still put tangerines in Christmas stockings.

Christmas tree

Christmas Trees are everywhere this time of year. The use of evergreen trees predates Christmas and is associated with the pagan festival of Saturnalia, which celebrated the agricultural god Saturn with partying and gift-giving. During the winter solstice, green branches served as a reminder that spring would arrive anew. Germans are credited with first bringing evergreens into their homes and decorating them.

Santa Claus

Santa Claus’ origin story can be traced to St. Nicholas, a Christian bishop who lived during the fourth century. St. Nicholas was very generous and gave away his fortune to help the needy. He also did various other good deeds. St. Nicholas became infamous and began to be known by various names around the world. The Dutch called him Sinter Klaas, which was eventually transformed to Santa Claus. The jolly persona came later when 20th century advertisers – especially the artists responsible for Coca-Cola ads – portrayed Santa in a red suit with a big smile.

Mistletoe

Mistletoe is hung in doorways, and couples who stand beneath are encouraged to share a kiss. The tradition of hanging it in the house goes back to the times of the ancient Druids. Mistletoe was thought to bring good luck to a household and ward off evil spirits. The custom of kissing under mistletoe can be traced to England. Originally, a berry was picked from the sprig of mistletoe before the person could be kissed. When all the berries had gone, there could be no more kissing.

Christmas bells

Church bells ring for many special services, including Christmas mass. During Christmas midnight mass in the Catholic Church, the altar bells may be rung while the priest says the ÒGloria.Ó Bells are part of caroling, and jingling bells are associated with sleighs and Santa’s reindeer.

Christmas is rife with traditions that date back ages.

Just Posted

UPDATED: East Zeballos placed under evacuation alert as “out of control” wildfire approaches homes

BC Wildfire Service says rolling debris on steep terrain poses danger to firefighters

Heat and smoke raises health risks

Rick Stiebel - Sooke News Mirror Health risks arising from heat and… Continue reading

Victoria police seize over one kilo of fentanyl, guns and cars

Andrew Ritch is facing charges of drug trafficking and firearm offences

Student group seeks cap on international tuition fees

UVic increased international fees 20 per cent for 2018-19

New marijuana regulations questioned

A smokescreen for opposition to legal pot, say some critics

B.C. wildfires 2018: Hazy skies impacting crews in spotting new fires

18,000 people are on an evacuation alert, with 3,000 homes under an evacuation order

Red Cross now accepting donations for those impacted by B.C. wildfires

The Canadian Red Cross is asking for help now and in the weeks and months ahead.

Court rules against City of Nanaimo, fire safety enforcement order denied

Supreme Court of B.C. initially made the order last month in Nanaimo

B.C. program to educate parents reduces ‘shaken baby syndrome’ by 35%

Period of PURPLE Crying was launched nearly a decade ago

Off duty fire chief douses suspicious fire while teaching son to drive

Sooke fire concerned over second suspicious bin fire this year

B.C. golfer, just 23, scores the rare albatross

Six-million-to-one shot a first for the Terrace club

Former Nanaimo CAO Tracy Samra now working for First Nation in Vancouver

Ex-city manager listed as Musqueam chief administrative officer, according to NEB filing

Independent Investivations Office looking into Sayward crash

An incident in which a vehicle under RCMP scrutiny crashed near Sayward… Continue reading

Fredericton widow swears at Trudeau during condolence call

Widow of man killed in Fredericton shooting says she swore at Trudeau during condolence call.

Most Read