So many of the traditions of Christmas become the yearly “norm” for us, and we don’t even realize that these traditions that we hold and practice each year, are actually traditions and practices from other cultures and countries, which we have adapted and evolved into our own. In honor of National Holiday Stationery Month, we are celebrating global and peace themed holiday greeting cards today. I thought this would be the perfect time to do a little research on America’s most popular holiday and Christmas traditions, and find out just where all of these unique ideas and practices started!
Who would have thought it would have been on the other side of the world…
STOCKINGS HUNG BY THE FIRE
There seems to be many ideas as to where the idea for Christmas stockings came from. The most popular “legend” or “story” is that Saint Nicholas, a bishop in Turkey, would go around leaving gold coins in girls’ stockings at night, when they were leaving them by the fire to dry. Saint Nick had inherited a large amount of wealth from his parents, which he spread around to benefit others.
THE CHRISTMAS TREE
Plants and trees have long been of special importance for many people during the winter season, as a celebration of the winter solstice. Just as we decorate our Christmas trees/pine trees, the people of ancient times also hung boughs over their doors and residence, however this was done to ward off bad spirits, ghosts and illness. It is said that Germany began the tradition of the Christmas tree in the 16th century, when Christians brought trees inside their home to decorate and enjoy. They started with a wooden tree, which was decorated with evergreen branches and candles. It was said that a 16th century Protestant reformer walked home from church one evening, and was dazzled by the look of the stars twinkling amongst the evergreen trees. He wanted to show this to his family, thus he took a tree home with him, and wired all of the branches with lit candles.
Dutch settlers brought the tradition of Saint Nicholas over to the United States, New York Specifically. The idea of Saint Nick largely grew after the Revolutionary War, after a dinner in 1810 celebrated the Saint Nicholas, and an image was drawn of this jolly and generous man. He was originally known as a religious figure, however quickly evolved into a children’s character.
CHRISTMAS GREETING CARDS
Sending holiday cards is a tradition held by people all over the world as a way to spread the holiday spirit to those we befriend, care for and love. Christmas cards go back until the middle ages when wood was used for the engraving of prints and religious messages. Over the years, Christmas and holiday cards grew more and more popular. In 1843 London was the first location to offer Christmas cards that were available for purchase, and made by someone else. John Callcott was hired by Sir Henry Cole to send greetings out to all of his peers. In 1875, American joined the bandwagon and began mass producing Christmas cards by Louis Prang.
stockings ~ christmas tree ~ santa clause ~ worldly greeting cards