History of Christmas Traditions


By Joy Patterson

On Christmas morning, millions of people wake up to open presents left by ‘Santa Claus’. Yet many do not know the origins of this fantastic winter holiday. Christmas was originally created as a Christian tradition celebrating the birth of Jesus. Some of the traditions that have sprung up around this holiday are Christian, and some are not.

The common thought of Santa Claus leaving presents for children can be traced back to three sources. An old Germanic legend talks of a god named Odin, who would refill children’s shoes with presents if they put them out filled with straw and carrots for his fierce eight-legged, flying horse. Now, many European countries have adopted this tradition. The other potential source for the creation of Santa Claus goes back to Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas was an early Christian man who did not like to be seen giving little children presents, so he did it at night. The last potential source for modern day Santa Claus comes from a Norse legend speaking of a man named Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas is actually a variation on the name of Saint Nicholas. On December fifth, a man named Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas), dressed in his red robes, and gives presents to children.

When it comes to Christmas trees, all of the sources point to one country, Germany. One thousand years ago a man named Saint Boniface came across a group of pagan people worshiping a oak tree. Saint Boniface was angered by their actions, and swiftly cut it down and watched as a fir tree sprout from its stump. Saint Boniface took this as a sign of Christian faith, but it was not until the sixteenth century that they were brought indoors.

Now these trees are decorated in ornaments and lights, but it hasn’t always been that way. Ornaments were first put onto trees in the eighteenth century. People began by simply decorating the trees in things easily found naturally such as fruit and pine cones. Eventually, blown glass and tinsel ornaments began to appear. The trees were originally overhead with candles instead of electric Christmas lights, so it wasn’t until 1882 when the first Christmas lights began to encompass the trees. This wonderful addition to Christmas trees all over the world was invented by the friend and partner of Thomas Edison, Edward H. Johnson. The first string was made up of eighty, red, blue, and white hand-wired bulbs.

This is merely a small collection of the knowledge revolving around the Christmas traditions we simply take for granted and there is still loads of history revolving around Christmas traditions with information that is there for the taking.

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