We are all familiar with the annual Christmas day, that falls on the 25th of December. Celebrated for centuries, it is a time to remember the birth of Jesus and plays a great role in many different faiths. Over the years, Christmas has become more commercialized and given us the likes of Santa Claus and his reindeer. However, for most of us, Christmas always has been and will be a time to spread good cheer, spend time with our families and of sharing, caring and giving.
The Christmas holidays has given birth to many traditions that can differ greatly from country to country, or by ones faith. You will no doubt have a few family traditions of your own. Ranging from the turkey roast to the more bizarre traditions of roller-skating to church, we are about to explore what goes on during the Christmas holidays.
The man with the red suit and notoriously long, white, fluffy beard. You will see him everywhere during Christmas time. He will be handing out gifts to children in shopping malls and schools in a make-shift grotto. He is nearly always accompanied by his little helpers or his reindeer, most famous of which, Rudolph with the red, shiny nose. He will be the one of which we speak of scurrying down the chimneys in the middle of the night with a sack full of pleasures for your little darlings. If he is lucky we might leave him a glass of sherry and some edible treats. Children across the western world will write letters to him with their Christmas wishes and send them to Lapland, where he supposedly resides. Its without doubt that St. Nicholas, as he is otherwise known, is all for the children. What we might not be aware of is that this tradition dates back as far as the 4th century AD. Bishop Myra of the present day Turkey was widely respected for his generosity, especially to the young and later became the patron saint of children.
Christmas morning - there is nothing more beautiful to wake up to than seeing those Christmas lights twinkling away amongst an array of colored baubles, tinsel and ribbon. Those little Santa chocolates grinning back at you and the star or angel perched proudly on the top of the Christmas tree. Whether your tree be artificial or living, it will be one of the pictures printed in our minds every time we think of the holidays. Throughout the history of Christmas trees, our traditions of bringing a living (or artificial) evergreen into the home represents the continuation of life through the cold and darkness of winter.
Remember grabbing that kiss you always wanted under the mistletoe? Another widely common tradition and now a case of strategical placement, mistletoe was first used by Druid priests 200 years before the birth of Christ. They would marvel at this plant, which would never lose its rich green color even throughout colder months. It became a symbol of their winter solstice long before we assigned it to helping us in our quest of the perfect holiday kiss. Our tradition relates more to that of the Scandinavians, who associate the plant to their goddess of love - Frigga. Kissing under the mistletoe would grant you happiness and luck in love for the following year.
Christmas Cards & Gifts
The tradition of handing out Christmas cards to family, friends and loved ones began in 1843. After the first year of their existence, 25,000 were sold in England, where they were first devised and produced on a large scale. The variety of cards to choose from today are more than plentiful. Big or small and always colorful, we can take our pick from images of Santa Claus, gifts under the Christmas tree, scenes from the nativity of Jesus and many more. So popular is the giving and receiving of these cards, we often have to hang them up on pieces of string around the room as the mantelpiece never provides enough space. Some people will throw them out once the festive season is over, but others will store them and use them next year - cutting out the best pictures to use as gift tags. As well as cards, we spend much time picking out the perfect gift for our loved ones. Wrapped in shiny paper and ribbon, placed under the tree and teared open on Christmas morning, the tradition of giving gifts has a lot to do with the three wise kings, who brought gifts to the newly born Jesus.
The 20lb Turkey
On Thanksgiving, most of us will sit down to feast on a turkey dinner. The bird also shows up on the table at Christmas. How did we end up with the tradition of eating turkeys during the holidays? They were fresh, affordable and big enough to feed a good crowd. Growing to weights of 20lb, turkey would be ideal for roasting on the big day and there would be sufficient amounts left for a week of turkey sandwiches, salads and soup. The classic menu of turkey with gravy, stuffing, and plum pudding was popularized by Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol', published in 1843 and widely read in the United States. Preparing dinner on Thanksgiving or Christmas can be a family affair. Its not just the turkey to consider, but all those extras that come with it, ending in the years most ultimate of feasts.
When Santa Claus comes shooting down the chimney, he will often be greeted by large red stockings hung above the fireplace. He should know already that this is his cue to fill them with small gifts, fruit, candy and perhaps coins. Children are often led to believe this story to add fantasy and wonderment to the Christmas holidays. Its not all plain sailing though, if they have been a naughty little boy or girl, they will be left with nothing but a lump of coal!
The Bizarre and Unknown
In Italy, they will decorate wooden pyramids with fruit as opposed to using Christmas trees.
In Caracas, the capital city of Venezuela, it is traditional to close all roads leading to the church, so that the city's residents can get there by way of roller-skating!
In the Ukraine you can find trees decorated with artificial spiders and webs. It is due to their belief it will bring good luck.
In the country of Norway, households will hide their brooms as it was once said that the witches would visit Christmas eve and steal them to go riding. (Or perhaps to play Quidditch?)