Whether you see yourself more as one of Santa’s elves or the Grinch himself, there’s no denying that the trappings of Christmas are everywhere at this time of year. No matter where you look, you are likely to see the symbols of the Christmas season, from holly and garland decorating streetlights and twinkle lights lighting up front yards. The origins of some of these traditions may surprise you. Here are 7 super fun facts about holiday traditions.
1. The Christmas Tree
One of the most identifiable symbols of Christmas is the Christmas tree, usually an evergreen tree such as spruce, pine, or fir. Though evergreen trees have been used since ancient Roman and Egyptian times as a symbol of life during winter, the Germans are credited with the first association of the evergreen tree with Christmas in the 16th century. The story goes that Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, was so enamored with the sight of stars twinkling through the boughs of an evergreen tree that he hurried home and added candles to their tree. Modern electric strings of light are much safer and just as beautiful.
2. Holly and Mistletoe
Holly and mistletoe are two other species of plants we often associate with Christmas but that have long histories in ceremonies that pre-date Christianity, ranging from ancient Greece to Ireland. Holly, with its evergreen foliage and bright red berries, was a symbol of fertility and eternal life to the Irish druids. When Christianity spread through Europe, it became a symbol of Jesus, the red berries symbolizing Jesus’ blood, and the pointed leaves the crown of thorns. The druids also believed that mistletoe brought good luck and helped ward off evil spirits. The custom of kissing under it began in England and was first recorded in the 1700s, but it has been linked to a Norse custom.
3. The Candy Cane
Few symbols are more iconic or delicious than the red and white stripes of the candy cane; however, at the beginning, they were only white and didn’t taste like peppermint. Legend says that the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany bent sugar sticks to look like shepherds’ staffs to hand out to the children in the late 1600’s. The oldest known recipe for red and white peppermint sticks was published in 1844.
4. Gingerbread Houses
Gingerbread houses, like the Christmas tree, originated in Germany. Germans began making them and decorating them in the early 19th century, though gingerbread constructions are recorded in ancient Greece and China. When the Brothers Grimm published “Hansel and Gretel” in the 1800s, the popularity of the gingerbread house increased. Gingerbread had long been associated with Christmas in Europe because it contains exotic spices that most people only splurged on for the most special of holidays. The association of gingerbread houses with Christmas naturally followed.
5. Christmas Stockings
Though there is no written record of the origin of Christmas stockings, some legends say they originated during the time of St. Nicholas. Supposedly he threw 3 bags of gold in through the window of a family and they landed in stockings that were hanging by the fireplace to dry. The gold enabled the daughters of the family to be married and brought much happiness to them and their father. No matter the origin of the story, though, it has been adopted by cultures all over the world. In some countries, the only presents that come from Santa Claus are those inside the stockings. Some children put their stockings or shoes out for St. Nicholas on the 5th of December and others hang their stockings on Christmas Eve in hopes that Santa will leave them some treats.
6. Poinsettia Plants
Poinsettia plants are almost synonymous with Christmas in the United States today, but unlike many of our Christmas traditions, using poinsettia plants to decorate for Christmas originated in Mexico. Franciscan monks used the poinsettias to decorate their nativity scenes, possibly due to a legend surrounding the plant and the birth of Jesus. The story states that a young girl, having nothing to offer the baby Jesus, gathered weeds, and when she presented them to the infant in the nativity scene, they bloomed into red flowers, hence the name Flores de Noche Buena or Flowers of the Holy Night.
7. The Cranberry
The Cranberry is another bright red symbol of Christmas. Though the history of how the association began is unclear, its festive color and versatility make it the perfect holiday berry. Cranberries are healthy for you, look beautiful in garlands and bouquets, and taste delicious in sauces, baked goods, and cocktails.
No matter how you choose to celebrate this holiday season, embrace the sights, sounds, and flavors of the season. Consider using Superberries Frozen Aronia Berries in your baking or a splash of Aronia Concentrate in your punches or cocktails to not only make them more nutritious but also enhance the flavors and colors that are so important to the holidays. Also make delicious snack mixes with our antioxidant treat, Aroniaberry Gummy Chews as part of the mix. Aronia berries work perfectly in almost any recipe that calls for cranberries. You can even create a new tradition this year.