The Original Traditions Of Our 5 Favorite Christmas Symbols
Christmas is the season to be jolly, joyful and selfless however, we also harness a number of Christmas traditions that we sometimes don’t understand what its purpose is or how it became a year-on-year habit. Ever wondered why we kiss under mistletoe? Lets find out!
A sprig of mistletoe hanging in the hallway or at a Christmas party is generally a good excuse to pucker up but, there’s more to it. A tale from Norse legends explains its association to love dating back to the fifth and sixth centuries.
A young god called Balder was the son of a powerful sorceress, Frigga and and the chief of Scandinavian gods, Odin. The tale explains that Balder started to have hallucinations of himself dying so his mother, Frigga, to limit his fears, asked every creature that lives on or in the earth to swear never to hurt or harm Balder. However Loki, the deceitful one of the gods, discovered that one living thing, mistletoe, did not live on or in the earth but entirley off the branch of a tree. With that in mind, Loki made an arrow of mistletoe, shot it at Balder and killed him!
Frigga was so powerfully upset by this action that her tears turned to white berries covering the plant and symbolizing her love for Balder. This particular Norse legend is often why we give mistletoe is significance in bringing two people closer together by kissing under it.
It doesn’t really feel like Christmas until you have the tree up in your house, particularly when you adopt a real one that creates that wonderful pungent smell. But what is the point of it?
A long time before Christianity, trees and plants that remained green all year know as “evergreens” had a special spiritual meaning during winter time. The same way people today decorate their homes during the festive period with spruce, pine and fir trees, people of the past would hang evergreen decorations over their doors and windows. In many countries it was believed to keep illness and evil spirits at bay.
It is arguably said that the first Christmas tree appeared in Germany in the way we know it today during the 16th century by a German preacher called Martin Luther. He had been traveling through a forest one starry night, looked up through the trees and found it to be a magical view. It left such a mark that he told his children it reminded him of Jesus, who left the stars of heaven to come to earth at Christmas, and cut one down to place in his home. There are many theories behind the Christmas tree but Martin Luther’s story is widely known to be the most crucial.
We all tell dreadful lies to our children based on this joyful character, so who is he and where does he come from? His origin depends on which country’s story you choose to adopt so lets look and the most common.
The name Santa Claus truly originates from the Dutch words “Sinter Klaas”, which is what the Dutch call their favorite saint, St. Nicholas. He is believed to have died on December 6th, A.D. 342. In many countries, December 6th is celebrated as his ‘feast’ day on which he arrives with presents or punishments, depending on whether you have been naughty or nice. Christianity widely changed this date to when we all celebrate “Christmas” to coincide with religious beliefs.
St. Nicholas lived in what is now called, Turkey and was born around A.D. 280 into a wealthy family who educated him well. Whilst he was a young boy he was appointed as the Bishop of a town called Myra, which is why he his also know as the “Boy Bishop”. The reason we recognize Santa Claus as the wonderful man who bears gifts is because of the generosity and kindness St. Nicholas displayed by regularly going out at night and delivering gifts to the needy which in Christianity links in with the birth of Jesus and the 3 kings bring gifts. Nowadays along with our letters from Santa, the tradition of Santa continues to create new worldwide traditions.
The Christmas stocking can cause last minute panic in many households in the run up to Christmas an is actually closely linked to the story of Santa Claus.
The origins of the stocking comes from an old tale of a man who had three beautiful daughters however, despite their good looks the father and his daughters had no money for dowries which meant they could not marry.
St. Nicholas, ‘Santa Claus’, was riding through their village and heard of their miss fortune, so being the generous saint he is known for, he wanted to help this family to marry all three daughters. Knowing that the old man would not accept charity, St Nicholas climbed down the mans chimney to find three stockings the daughters had hung above the fire place to dry. He placed bags of gold into each of the three stockings and the following day the old man and his three daughters we’re delighted to find the gold as this meant all three daughters could now marry. Since then, families across the world hang stocking over the fireplace or at the end of the bed on Christmas Eve all because of this ancient tale.
A real favorite Christmas treat and enjoyed worldwide for many many years, but its origins root back to disruptive children in church.
A German choir master back in 1670 was desperate to find a way to encourage disruptive children in church to keep quiet and behave during the Christmas Eve ceremonies. He decided that children, like today, do anything for sweets and asked a local sweet maker to make some cheap sweet sticks. To justify handing out sweets during service, he asked the sweet maker for them to be made with a crook at the top to help resemble the crooks of the three shepherds. They we’re also made in red and whit to symbolize and reinforce Christian beliefs in the sinless life of Jesus.
The popularity of this idea spread across churches throughout Europe and then began to be traditionally handed out at nativity plays. That’s why we all see candy canes dotted around all the shops at Christmas time.