Traditions at Christmas

December 28th, 2009 | Uncategorized

I guess it would be fair to say that some traditions become distorted or at least mis-interpreted over time, and others perhaps completely lost. I have noticed that some younger people actually struggle to explain why we ‘religiously’ follow certain traditions, but that simply makes it all the more interesting to re-discover their origins.

This being the case, I thought that I would look back at a couple of Christmas traditions myself and share my findings with you now…..

Let’s start with a big one – Father Christmas, Père Noël or Santa Claus (to mention but a few of his pseudonyms). Did you know for example, that the current rotund, red-suited Santa we have all come to know and love was actually created in 1935 for a Coca-Cola advertising campaign? In his previous incarnation, he was a much thinner, paler character based on the 4th century Greek bishop, St Nicholas, who was the patron saint of children. It was in Holland, where he’s known as Sinterklaas, that he earned his reputation for giving away Christmas gifts (although legend has it that it was possibly St Nicolas himself who started the tradition by distributing gold to the poor).

Now here’s another interesting one – have you ever stopped to wonder why you put a pine tree in your living room at Christmas (albeit these days it is may well be plastic)? One theory at least is that it has pagan origins, when an evergreen tree was decorated with fruits to celebrate the winter solstice on 21st December. Later in history the Germans hung crackers on the tree to represent the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, the English eventually replacing the fruit with the glass balls and candles that are more familiar today. The tradition was apparently popularised in the UK by Queen Victoria’s German-born husband, Albert, who started the decorating of trees for Christmas in the mid-19th century. (Artificial trees were first created in the 1930s by the Addis Company, who allegedly manufactured them using spare capacity in their toilet-brush factory!)

And finally, the Christmas cracker (completely unknown here in Spain), was invented by Tom Smith, a London sweet shop owner. After spotting French bonbons wrapped in paper with a twist at each end, he sold similar sweets with a “love motto” inside, and later added a trinket and a bang. His ‘Bangs of Expectation’ included gifts such as jewellery and miniature dolls, and by 1900, was apparently selling around 13 million a year!

Of course there are many more traditions associated with this holiday, but I will save a few for the coming years.

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