Christmas is probably the most exciting holiday that we celebrate. Have you ever wondered where and when all the traditions began and why we still practice these in the year 2011? All of our traditions have very special meanings.
Why do we have a decorated Christmas Tree? In the 7th century a monk from Crediton, Devonshire, went to Germany to teach the Word of God. He did many good works there, and spent much time in Thuringia, an area which was to become the cradle of the Christmas Decoration Industry. Legend has it that he used the triangular shape of the Fir Tree to describe the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The converted people began to revere the Fir tree as God’s Tree, as they had previously revered the Oak. By the 12th century it was being hung, upside-down, from ceilings at Christmastime in Central Europe, as a symbol of Christianity. The early trees were biblically symbolic of the Paradise Tree in the Garden of Eden. The first decorated tree was at Riga in Latvia, in 1510. In the early 16th century, Martin Luther is said to have decorated a small Christmas Tree with candles, to show his children how the stars twinkled through the dark night. http://www.christmasarchives.com The decorations were Tinsels, silver wire ornaments, candles and small beads. All these had been manufactured in Germany and East Europe since the 17th century. The custom was to have several small trees on tables, one for each member of the family, with that persons gifts stacked on the table under the tree.
Where did baking cookies and sweets originate? During the 16th century, German towns began to celebrate Christmas with fairs offering gifts for sale as well as gingerbread men. This is also where the ‘yulelogs‘ became associated with Christmas.
Where did giving gifts originate? The ‘Wisemen’ gave gifts to the newborn Christ. In Roman traditions after the birth of Christ it became tradition, most probably, Italy. As the date for Christmas itself was supposedly fixed on the pagan Saturnalia in order that the people would more readily embrace the new tradition of celebrating Christ’s birth. http://www.funtrivia.com
Why do we sing Christmas hymns? The first specifically Christmas hymns that we know of appeared in fourth century Rome. In the ninth and tenth centuries, the Christmas “Sequence” or “Prose” was introduced in North European monasteries. In the twelfth century the Parisian monk Adam of St. Victor began to derive music from popular songs, introducing something closer to the traditional Christmas carol. Carols gained in popularity after the Reformation in the countries where Protestant churches gained prominence (as well-known Reformers like Martin Luther authored carols and encouraged their use in worship), this was the consequence of the fact that the Lutheran reformation warmly welcomed music. http://www.wikipedia.com
Why do we send Christmas cards? It was in England-1843, and this date is now generally agreed upon, that Sir Henry Cole arranged to have an illustrator named John Calcott Horsley design a card especially for the day. It was printed in lithography and tinted by hand, by a professional color. One thousand copies were sold that first Christmas, and literally billions of cards have been sent out in the ensuing years; they bear out Sir Henry Cole’s original intention to have “artistic treatment applied to ‘unconsidered trifles’ as well as to weightier matters.” http://www.santaclausfun.com
In essence, we have Europe to thank for all our traditions-Germany for our trees and sweets, Italy for our hymns, and England for our cards. Most importantly, we have so much joy and love to share because of the original meaning-the birth of Christ.