The History Behind 5 Christmas Traditions
It's fair to say we all have some traditions around Christmas. It could a special family tradition, or maybe even a regional or national tradition. But like with most things....I often wonder why? And where did those traditions come from? Let's find out and thanks to Readers Digest for doing much of the leg work.
1) Why do we bake Christmas cookies
Ancient peoples gathered around the winter solstice to feast before cold weather wiped away their crops. Wine and beer that had been fermenting since spring were finally ready to drink. Christmas replaced these solstice celebrations by the Middle Ages, but the feasting continued with an all important addition of desserts. Bakers brought out expensive ingredients like butter, lard, and sugar for such festive occasions, and they started experimenting with spices like nutmeg and cinnamon. The result? Delicious Christmas cookies to share with friends and family.
2) Why do we put lights on the Christmas tree?
Martin Luther is said to be the first person to put lights on a Christmas tree. Legend has it that he was walking through a forest one night and was moved by the beautiful stars shining through the trees. When he got home, he recreated what he saw for his family by putting a tree in their living room and placing lighted candles on the branches.
3) Even wonder how building a snowman came about?
The first documented snowman appeared in 1380, but mankind has probably been making snowmen for as long as there's been snow. They were especially popular during the Middle Ages, when many lacked the proper resources or outlets for artistic expressions. So instead of trying to find traditional art supplies, they turned to snow and there was plenty of it. Michelangelo was commissioned to build a snowman for the ruler of Florence. But not all snowmen were happy, jolly souls. According to the fascinating history of the snowman, they've also played roles in political uprisings and massacres.
4) Why do we leave milk and cookies for Santa Claus?
This tradition hasn't changed all that much since it began in medieval Germany. During Yule season, children left out food at night in hopes of getting presents from a different white-bearded guy, Odin, the all-powerful Norse god who travelled on his eight-legged horse Sleipner. The American custom we know today started during the Great Depression. Parents used it as a way to teach their kids that even when money was tight, they still had to be considerate of others and show gratitude for the blessings in their lives.
5) Who's idea was the whole mistletoe thing?
Norse mythology creeps into Christmas traditions once again. According to legend, the gods used mistletoe to resurrect Odin's son Baldur from the dead. So Baldur's mother Frigg, the goddess of love, made the plant a symbol of love and vowed to kiss anyone who passed under it. In 18th century England, men were allowed to kiss any woman standing under mistletoe, and if the ladies refused, that meant bad luck.
Now you are in the know!
Have a Merry Christmas!