The School Newspaper of Vista Ridge High School

The Word

History Behind Christmas Traditions

Brianna White, Marketing Manager

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Today, we know Christmas as a time when families gather around a tree to exchange gifts, while children dump their stockings to see what Santa Claus left the night before. But the meaning of those Christmas traditions comes from the stories and legends passed down through generations.

What’s behind the name?

Meaning the “Mass of Christ,” the story of Christmas began with the birth of a babe in Bethlehem. It was believed by most that Christ was born on Dec. 25th although it is unknown. However, some believe it was a date chosen by the Catholic Church due to its closeness to the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere.

Who was the inspiration behind Santa?

Santa Claus was inspired by the Bishop of Myra, Saint Nicholas during the 4th century. He was known for his kindness and had a reputation for generosity. To honor his death and carry on his legacy, he was given “The Feast of St. Nicholas” that was to be celebrated on Dec. 6th. And in honor of his generosity, this celebration was marked by the giving of gifts to charity. And although this event was celebrated everywhere, it was the Russians who depicted him for his red cape, and flowing white beard, which then lead to how we picture him today.

How did the Christmas tree come to be?

The first Christmas tree was decorated in Germany during the 16th century. Decorated with apples, roses, candies, and colored paper, it was to symbolize the Garden of Eden’s “Paradise Tree.” However, it was the Protestant reformer Martin Luther who put the first lights on a Christmas tree. It is said that he came up with the idea one night while walking home and catching a glimpse of the stars through the branches of the fir trees.

Why do we hang stockings?

As the legend goes, a nobleman grew depressed after the death of his wife and left his daughters to fend for themselves. Saint Nicholas heard of this and wanted to help but still remain anonymous. So he rode his horse by the nobleman’s house and tossed coins down his chimney, which were luckily caught by the stockings that the girls had hung by the fireplace that night to dry.

 

Fun Facts:

  • Each year, 30-35 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States alone. There are 21,000 Christmas tree growers in the United States, and trees usually grow for about 15 years before they are sold.
  • From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was outlawed in Boston, and law-breakers were fined five shillings.
  • The first eggnog made in the United States was consumed in Captain John Smith’s 1607 Jamestown settlement.
  • Rudolph, “the most famous reindeer of all,” was the product of Robert L. May’s imagination in 1939. The copywriter wrote a poem about the reindeer to help lure customers into the Montgomery Ward department store.
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