Did You Know? Christmas Tidbits

Familiar Christmas Traditions

Where or when did these items become a part of Christmas?

candles—One of the earliest records of candles being used at Christmas is from the middle ages, when a large candle was used to represent the star of Bethlehem.

candy canes—In the mid 1800s, candy canes were hung on Christmas trees for the first time.

Christmas cards—Sending Christmas cards originated in the UK in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole.

Christmas carols—Christmas music wasn’t typically used in religious services until St. Francis of Assisi in the 12th century. At times, some felt Christmas music was inappropriate for the holiday, and so carols were sung on streets more than in churches.

Christmas light displays—Thomas Edison created the first strands of electric lights and strung these outside of his Menlo Park Laboratory during the Christmas season of 1880.

Christmas tree—Germany receives credit for the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it when in the 16th century devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes.

nativity scene displays—St. Francis of Assisi staged the first nativity scene in 1223. According to his biography, he set up a manger with hay and two live animals—an ox and an ass—in a cave in the Italian village of Grecio.

presents—The pagan tradition of gift-giving during the winter solstice became associated with Christmas around the year 336 AD because of the gifts the Magi gave to baby Jesus.

Santa Claus—St. Nicholas was a Bishop who lived in the fourth century in Myra (in modern Turkey). A very rich man, he had a reputation for helping the poor and giving secret gifts to people who needed it.

wreath—The Advent wreath was first used by Lutherans in Germany in the 16th century. In 1839, Lutheran priest Johann Hinrich Wichern used a wreath to educate children about the meaning and purpose of Christmas, as well as to help them count its approach.

Yule log—The Yule log, of Germanic origin and once linked to the winter solstice celebration, became one of the most widespread Christmas traditions in early modern Europe. Its first recorded appearance was in 1184.

Learning a little about the history of the Christmas traditions that have become common in many parts of the world, can be fun. What about bells and mistletoe? Holly or stockings hung by the chimney with care? What about fruitcake and eggnog? Maybe you know the history of some favorite tradition. Feel free to share in the comments.

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Published in: on December 10, 2018 at 4:52 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 Comments

  1. Very informative, always loved christmas🎄

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  2. From what I have read, candy canes were made by a Christian candy maker to teach children about Jesus. It was in the shape of a “J” for “Jesus,” and upside down looked like a Shepherd’s staff. The white was for purity, the red stripes like the blood Jesus shed for us on the Cross , and the “stripes” on His back.
    Wreaths are round, symbolizing eternity (with no beginning or end).
    When I met some immigrants/refugees from Iran, they wanted to know all about our Christmas traditions. It was fun explaining to them things like the lights on the trees for Jesus, the Light of the world, etc. I could share the gospel without preaching. 😉

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    • Certainly Christians can give symbolic meanings to all the traditions, but many of them, like Santa Claus even, were borrowed from an earlier time. No doubt the candy maker did think these were perfect “candy sermons” but theirs wasn’t the first such candy used at the Christmas season. I don’t think that detracts in any way from the power of the message of the gospel carried in these traditions. In some ways, it’s sort of like nature declaring God’s creative power. We may not realize that God’s hand is in all these things, but it is.

      Becky

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