I'm sure one time or another in your life you asked yourself why do we do the things we do on Christmas, such as putting a tree in the house or hanging lights outside. It almost seems as if it should be the other way around and in some cultures might be looked at as ludicrous. But I am here to tell you that it didn't come from some crazy drunk who decided to randomly do these things or just pop out of thin air. We do them for a reason and though we may have forgotten the stories behind our traditions it's nice to know where they came from.
A Christmas tree, known as the evergreen tree throughout history, was not referred to as a Christmas tree until the 16th century in Germany, but it wasn't until the mid nineteenth century when it started to become a common feature in Britain and America when the middle class followed the example of Queen Victoria and her German husband Prince Albert who placed a tree in the palace. The evergreen is a symbol of eternal life at the time of year when all plant life has died. The evergreen was also used in pagan winter celebrations a thousand years before Christ was born.
Christmas decorations and lights have been a tradition in the United States since the beginning of the twentieth century. Many shops and businesses would place lights in their display windows but it wasn't until after World War 2 when decorations became more affordable for households. The tradition started not by lights on display but as fire started by the pagan's during the winter solstice to celebrate the coming of the sun and the longer days that will bless them in the coming year.
The Christmas bell is something that has been affiliated with the holiday's for many years, the bells were used in ancient traditions to keep bad spirits away during the darkest winter days. Those traditions made the bells a sound of happiness and was made stronger with the association of Santa. Scandinavians would also fit their reindeer's with these bells so that they could be found in heavy fog and winter storms.
The reason's we kiss under the mistletoe come from medieval times when women used to wrap the plant around their wrists and waist to boost their chances of conceiving. This came from the belief that the mistletoe, which grows on top of apple trees, had a magical force because it lived through the harshest winters and still gave apple trees their fruit. The fact that it could reproduce and grow without roots gave it more of a mystical quality.
Lastly the origin of Santa Claus. Some know the origin of Santa Claus came from Dutch settlers who told stories of Sinter Klass, we know him as Saint Nicholas who was depicted in engravings in the eighteenth century as a man dressed in robes that gave gifts to the needy. Many believe that this man was Nicholas of Myra, an ancient bishop who was honored because of his giving nature. St Nicholas is only the foundation of what we know of Santa Claus, the rest actually comes from the poem all of us know which was written in 1822 by Clement Clark Moore. The poem was under the original title "An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas," but we also know this poem as "Twas the Night Before Christmas."
Many of the traditions we follow are unknown to us at times but its always nice to know why we place trees in our living rooms and hang lights on our gutters.