The Junior Age

Tag: Festive customs

Why Do We Have A Christmas Tree?

History Of Evergreen In Winter Festivals

For thousands of years, people have decorated their homes in winter with evergreen plants. The Ancient Egyptians would fill their houses with conifer trees  to worship the sun god, Ra. Ancient Romans and Pagans (those who didn’t follow a religion or believed in more than one god) believed the trees signalled the “return of life” and “light” after a long winter. The trees formed part of their celebrations for the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year.

Also read, Fascinating Christmas Traditions From Around The World

The Modern Christmas Tree

The modern Christmas tree is believed to have originated in the Alsace region of Germany in the 16th century. This region is now a part of France. According to some historical records, a Christmas tree was raised in the Strasbourg Cathedral in 1539. This tradition grew so popular throughout the region that the city of  Freiburg banned felling trees for Christmas in 1554.

Some historians believe that the Christmas tree was inspired by the paradise tree, a symbol of the Garden of Eden that featured in a mediaeval play about Adam and Eve. According to ancient myths and stories, Adam and Eve were the first man and woman on Earth.

Did You Know?

Christmas trees are normally evergreen conifers, such as spruce, pine, and fir trees.

Traditional Christmas Tree Decorations

Traditionally, these were decorated with flowers, dried fruit, paper flow-ers, and lit candles.

Martin Luther, the German scholar and priest, is often credited with being the first to decorate Christmas trees with candles. Legend has it that he was inspired by the stars on a walk home, one winter’s night.

German emigrants took these traditions with them as they resettled in other countries.

Why Are Trees Decorated With Tinsel And Baubles?

Tinsel was invented in Nuremberg, Germany in 1610. At that time, Christmas trees were decorated with real candles and tinsel was made from shredded silver to reflect the candlelight. Only rich people had tinsel-wrapped trees because silver was expensive. Eventually, tinsel was made with cheaper metals such as copper and tin.

A common decoration on the tree branches was red apples, which is believed to have sparked the modern tradition of hanging coloured baubles on our trees today.

In the 16th century, a glassblower called Hans Greiner, was the first to invent bau-bles. Since Hans couldn’t afford apples to decorate his tree, he made his own. Fruit and nut-shaped glass became an accessible Christmas tree dec-oration, and glassblowers started to make all sorts of shapes.

Tinsel and baubles are now made from a shiny plastic called PVC, which is sustainable but is not always recyclable.

Did You Know?

The Christmas tree was introduced to the UK by Queen Victoria’s German-born husband Prince Albert in the 1840s. At that time, Christmas trees would be hung from the ceiling or placed on tables and decorated with nuts, fruits, sweets, homemade decorations, and small presents.

Also Watch, Santa’s Favourite Pal Reindeer | Interesting Facts About Reindeer

Fascinating Christmas Traditions From Around The World

There are many exciting and unique Christmas traditions all over the world. You probably already know that every country has its own way of celebrating Christmas. Travel the world with us and discover these traditions from different cultures and parts of the world.

Also read, Top 10 Interesting Facts About Christmas

Christmas Traditions In Italy 

Along with the Christmas tree, the Italians set up the nativity scene. which was invented in Italy in the Middle Ages. Naples is famous for its Nativity scene called Presepe Napoletano.

In Italy, children not only believe in Santa Claus, but also in La Befana. Children in Italy receive gifts on the night between 5th and 6th January from a witch known as La Befana. It is believed that La Befana flies around on a broomstick. She brings candy to good children and charcoal to the bad ones. She puts these in a sock that is hung on the night before. In modern Italy, La Befana is known as the Christmas Witch.

Norway Christmas Traditions

Say hello to Nisse! Nisse is a mythological creature from Scandinavian folklore similar to a gnome. According to tradition, Nisse protects the house and the family and brings presents for the children. Norwegians leave a bowl of oatmeal for Nisse under the Christmas tree. If Nisse does not get his bowl of oatmeal, it will get naughty and break things in the house. On December 23 which is celebrated as Little Christmas Eve, Norwegian families decorate the tree together and make a sweet gingerbread house. The main celebrations are on Christmas eve, rather than December 25.

The Netherlands Christmas Traditions

Sinterklass (St. Nicholas) brings children presents in the Netherlands on 5th of December. Children usually leave a shoe out by the fireplace or window sill, filled with carrots for Sinterklass’s horse.

It is popularly believed that Sinterklass lives in Spain and every year arrives at a different harbour in the Netherlands. Children play treasure hunt games to follow the clues to find their presents.

Christmas Traditions In Greece

In addition to decorating the Christmas trees, the Greeks also decorate Christmas boats. Greece is a

country of sailors and in the olden times men were often sailing for several weeks in winter. When they returned home, small boats were decorated inside the house to honour their courage.

Iceland Christmas Traditions

Modern equivalent of Santa Claus in Iceland is known as the Yule Lads. In Iceland, Christmas is celebrated for 13 days and the celebrations start on December 12. Each night before Christmas, children are visited by 13 Yule Lads. Children leave their shoes under the window, hoping to receive sweets from 13 mischievous trolls called the Yule Lads. If they have been good, they will receive sweets but if they have been bad, the Yule Lads leave them a rotten potato.

Christmas Traditions In Japan

Even though Christmas is not a religious holiday in Japan, it is celebrated and gifts are exchanged.

The Japanese have found an interesting and innovative way to celebrate Christmas. Rather than gathering around the table for a turkey dinner, families head out to their local Kentucky Fried Chicken. The tradition originated in 1974 after a successful marketing campaign called “Kurisuma-su ni wa kentakkii!”, means Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas.

Germany And Austria Christmas Traditions

People in Germany and Austria celebrate St. Nikolaus Day on December 6. St. Nikolaus and his companion Krampus come and visit children to reward those who have been good and punish those who have misbehaved. On the previous evening, children put their polished shoes outside the front door and St. Nikolaus fills them with sweets, fruits, and small presents.

The main presents will be given to the children on Christmas eve. Traditionally, Christmas gifts are brought by the Christkind (child of Christ). Santa Claus also exists in Germany and is simply called the Christmas man (Weihnachtsmann).

Catalonia, Spain Christmas Traditions

Old Caga Tió or Tió de Nadal (Christmas log) is a cheerful character known for his generosity in offering gifts and treats to small chil-dren, despite their poor treatment of him.

Basically it is a small wooden log covered in a blanket with a warm smiley face. Caga Tió usually arrives at homes in early December and families take care of him until Christmas day, by feeding him dry bread, orange peel or dried beans. However, for Caga Tió to produce gifts, children are instructed to beat him with a wooden stick and sing to him, ordering him to poop presents.

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