The Origins of Christmas Traditions: How They Began

CHRISTMAS IS CONSIDERED ONE OF THE WORLD’S FAVORITE HOLIDAYS, AND WE ALL LOOK FORWARD TO IT EVERY YEAR. WE ALL PREPARE FOR IT DIFFERENTLY AND WITH OUR OWN TRADITIONS, AND WE ALL ADD OUR PERSONAL LITTLE SPARK TO THE SEASON IN OUR OWN WAYS. BUT HOW MANY GENERATIONS HAVE BEEN LOOKING FORWARD TO CHRISTMAS, AND HOW DID ALL YOUR FAVORITE CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS ACTUALLY START? IN THIS BLOG, LEARN ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF CHRISTMAS AS WE KNOW IT, AND CONNECT WITH THE ROOTS OF YOUR FAVORITE HOLIDAY.

The Beginnings of Christmas: Where Did It Originate?

Christmas’ origins are often a topic of debate among historians, especially since Christmas in its beginnings and Christmas as we know it now are so different. Therefore, in this blog, we’ll start with the earliest forms of Christmas as we know it, instead of jumping back to the first recorded Christmas mass in 336 Rome.

Christmas has traditionally been a celebration of the Nativity, or the birth of Christ, in Christianized countries, starting back in Rome in the third century A.D., and spread through angloeuropean countries as the Christian religion made its way through Europe.

However, many believe Christmas as we know it to have originated as a celebration for the winter solstice and then have intertwined with religious masses over the years. This mixture of traditions was seen in places like Germany, Spain, and France, and has spread around the globe that way.

When Did We Begin to Decorate Christmas Trees?

Many of the Christmas traditions observed these days are seen to have originated in Germany. Before Christianity made its way into Germany, the celebration of the winter solstice was welcomed by the decoration of trees such as conifers and other evergreens, as they were representative of the fact that spring and summer will come again, despite how bleak the winter got.

Have you ever heard the classic song “O Christmas Tree”? It is actually a translation of a traditional German song which was enjoyed during these types of winter celebrations, dedicated to “the everlasting green of the evergreen”. Pretty cool, right?

These kinds of traditions began spreading across the globe throughout the years, like most of the Christmas traditions we observe now, and thanks to them we all gather around the Christmas tree and decorate it in festive ways. Some of the decorations over the ages have included fruit and berries, ribbon or twine, poinsettias, sugary treats, wooden figures, popcorn, candles (which we now substitute for strings of led lights), and even little presents in boxes or wrapped in cloth.

Why Do We Go Caroling?

This is a tradition seen in many countries, but the tradition’s origins themselves are a little mysterious — fun, right? Some historians suggest it came from feudal countries, stemming from what they called “singing for your supper”, when people would go to wealthy people’s houses and sing and dance in hopes of getting a plate of food. This usually happened during festivities, of the largest being Christmas celebrations.

Another theory is that the original forms of carols were religious hymns and parts of manuscripts which were translated from Latin to be used in masses. After a time, these hymns were sung inside people’s homes and then used in the same manner as the above theory, when people sang them outside wealthy people’s homes in return for food.

After many centuries, everyone began taking up this tradition, and today you will see charities, youth groups, senior groups, families, churches, choirs, and other establishments carolling on vibrantly decorated streets, often on their way to a Christmas party or celebration.

Some traditional carols include “Joy to the World”, “O Christmas Tree”, “We Three Kings”, “O Come All Ye Faithful”, “Silent Night”, “The First Noel”, “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, and of course, “Jingle Bells”.

Why Do We Give Presents on Christmas?

Have you ever heard the carol “We Three Kings”? Well, this is said to be the beginning of the gift-giving traditions we still practice during Christmas. Biblically, three kings were sent to the birthplace of Jesus bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and Myhr, which were very valuable goods at the time.

It’s hard to track traditions between then and now, as there were many religious wars and conflicts in the countries where this happened; but this is said to have been the root of the tradition we all love so much.

In other cultures such as in Germany, there was a tradition of Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, and other figures who are said to bring you gifts during the Christmas or winter festivities if you are good, or if you perform certain tasks.

It is easy to see how all these traditions from different countries and cultures have mixed in with each other, and have given life to what we now see as Santa Claus and his one night gift-giving extravaganza. It is also easy to see how each country has made its mark on the traditions we observe now — something many people don’t realize about Christmas.

As you can see, Christmas is a conglomeration of many different traditions and celebrations, and it can become a bit tricky to work out in a timeline style. But what is most important is that we all use this time to come together, celebrate what we want to celebrate, and make the most out of the time we get to spend together — whether it’s going carolling, giving gifts, reading Christmas stories, or all of the above!

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