Today is Christmas Eve, so in honor of that, I wanted to share with you some backstory on Christmas. Most of you probably know the backstory behind the “reason for the season” (started as a Roman pagan festival and then became a Christian holiday celebrating Jesus’ birth, etc). But what about some of the most well-known Christmas traditions? How did they come to be?
So first, the evergreen Christmas tree. Now I didn’t realize this, but apparently there is a lot of controversy surrounding the beginnings of the Christmas tree. Some people believe that the tree has pagan origins. Others say that it was a Christian tradition that originated in the 1500s (the first known use of a Christmas tree) somewhere in Germany or Scandinavia. And still others claim that the tree was actually created centuries earlier by St. Boniface.
Now how did the Christmas tree cross the wide blue ocean to the US? Fast forward several centuries to the end of the Revolutionary War. After losing the war, many German (Hessians) stayed in the US, bringing their traditions, including the Christmas tree. However, problems still arose. The Christmas tree was declared a pagan symbol, and so for many years, people fought to put an end to the “heathen tradition” of decorated trees.
However, the popularity of Christmas trees grew, and having/decorating a Christmas tree has become a widely popular tradition.
This is one of my favorite holiday traditions, stockings. Like the Christmas tree, it’s not quite known where this tradition came from, but there is a famous legendary tale regarding the origins of stockings. It goes a little something like this: A nobleman’s wife died, leaving him with three daughters. Having no money left, the nobleman was worried about the dowry for his daughters to marry. On Christmas, St. Nicholas came to their home and saw the girls' stockings hanging to dry above the fireplace. He then filled them with gold and the nobleman's daughters were able to marry.
While there are slightly different versions of the story, the tradition of stockings is often attributed to St. Nicholas. Children would hang up their stockings hoping that St. Nicholas would leave a gift in their stockings for them. This tradition spread, and by the 19th century, made its way to the US. Hanging stockings is now a common Christmas tradition practiced worldwide in many different ways.
DISCLAIMER: I am not an expert in this subject, this is just my interpretation of what I researched. For more information on the subject, I highly recommend either Binging or Googling the topics to learn more.