9 Christmas Traditions and their actual Origin
Christmas, as most of us know, is the Christian tradition honoring the birth of Christ. it evolved out of the Roman tradition of Saturnalia, a festival honoring their god of agriculture, Saturn, on the winter solstice.
1. Giving Gifts
The tradition of gift-giving started with the 3 wise men, who visited Jesus and gave him gifts of myrrh, frankincense, and gold.
2. The Abbriviation ‘X-Mas’
- The X stands for the Greek letter Chi, the first letter of the Greek word for Christ.
- But some say that “x-mas” is an attempt by the “dirty liberals” to “keep the Christ out of Christmas”.
- In the modern world, X has been taken to be used as an abbreviation for any word with Christ or the “krys” sound in it.
- Practice of stocking-stuffing can be traced back to his charitable donations in the 4th century.
- Saint Nicholas gave to children whatever he could in form of homemade food, clothes, and furniture.
- The bishop even gave out oranges, which would have been very rare and expensive in Lycia, where he lived.
- The Tradition of hanging a sock comes from Scandinavian countries.
- Children would leave their shoes full of carrots, straw, or other similar foods for Odin’s mythic horse, Sleipnir.
- When Sleipnir ate the food, Odin would leave candy or other treats in their place.
Harvest wreaths – the predecessors to our modern decorations – were used in rituals for good harvests, and predate even written history.
In Rome and Greece, kings and emperors often wore laurel wreaths as crowns of power and strength.– a practice they themselves borrowed from the Etruscans, who predated them.
5. Christmas Carols
- Christmas carols grew out of the first Christmas hymns, which developed in 4th century Rome.
- While these Latin hymns were sung in church for generations, the first true carols developed in France, Germany, and Italy in the 13th century.
- These carols were written in the vernacular language of the area they were composed, were enthusiastically sung at community events and festivals.
- They were not composed specifically for christmas in the beginning.
6. Christmas Tree
- In Christian tradition, trees were often put up in December to serve the dual purpose of warding off the devil and allowing a perch for whatever birds still remained.
- Evergreen trees decorated with apples and wafers were also used in Christmas Eve plays during the Middle Ages to represent the tree from which Adam and Eve at the forbidden fruit.
7. Boxing Day
- Boxing Day is traditionally the day following Christmas in which people receive gifts from their bosses or employers.
- These days it is popular as Shopping Day.
- The Greeks believed that Aeneas, the famous ancestor of the Romans carried a sprig of mistletoe in the form of the legendary golden bough.
- In Eddic tradition, mistletoe was the only thing able to kill the god Baldur, since it had not sworn an oath to leave him alone.
- Amongst other pre-Christian cultures, mistletoe was believed to carry the male essence, and by extension, romance, fertility, and vitality.
- Santa’s origins lie in Saint Nicholas, that generous Saint who gave presents to needy children.
- Some other theories suggest that the Dutch Sinterklaas, who himself has basis with Saint Nick, was the main inspiration for Santa Claus.
- Another large influence into Santa’s design is the British Father Christmas, a figure developed in the 17th century as the embodiment of holiday joy and mirth.
- Odin also exists as a potential pagan inspiration for Santa Claus; he lead a hunting party with other gods on Yule, a German holiday at roughly the same time as Christmas.