The Junior Age


Category: Festivals

Popular Christmas Traditions and Their Origins

Where Did Advent Calendars Originate?

In the mid 1800s, the advent calendars started in Germany, when people marked the countdown to Christmas with chalk marks on doors or by lighting a candle. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that paper calendars were made and the idea spread around the world. Initially, advent calendars were illustrated with images from the Bible. Advent calendars are used from December 1 until Christmas Day.

Did You Know?

Advent is a Latin word meaning “the coming”. It was officially established by the church in the 6th century.

Also Read, Why Do We Have A Christmas Tree?

How Did We Start Singing Christmas Carols?

Carolling is an ancient practice of dancing or singing songs of praise and happiness.

Thousands of years ago in Europe, carols were written and sung during all four seasons. Originally Pagans (non-religious people or those that believe in more than one God) sang carols to celebrate the winter solstice around December 22, but then early Christians took over the practice and began to sing Christian songs at this time of year.

The earliest recorded Christmas hymns can be traced to 4th century Rome. These hymns were in Latin and some of them are still sung in churches. Subsequently, centuries later in the 1800s, carols written in English became popular.

Why Are Stockings Hung In Christmas?

According to legend, St. Nicholas, a bishop known for his kindness and generosity, had discovered a family that was struggling financially and he decided to deliver them an extravagant gift. On Christmas Eve, St. Nicholas tossed three bags of gold coins down the family’s chimney, where they landed in the socks that were hung above the fireplace to dry.

Why Are Bells Associated With Christmas?

Bells, whether sleigh bells, church bells or jingle bells, are a very important part of Christmas. The association of bells with Christmas is both symbolic and practical. Bells in both Pagan and Christian traditions supposedly ward off evil spirits. In addition, church bells are rung to signify an important event, such as Christ’s birthday, or even to let churchgoers know it’s time for service.

Why Are Stars Used As Tree Toppers?

According to legend, stars on the top of the Christmas tree represent the Star of Bethlehem. Christians believe that the Star of Bethlehem guided the Three Wise Men to find baby Jesus.

Why Are Candy Canes Associated With Christmas?

In 1670, a German choirmaster (a person who leads a choir) in Cologne, Germany asked a local sweet shop to make sweets (in the shape of a shepherd’s hook) for the children at his church to keep them quiet during the long Christmas service.

Why Are Christmas Crackers Shaped Like A Giant Sweet?

Taking inspiration from the French bon bon, Tom Smith in 1847 in London, invented the Christmas crackers. His rival confectioners in London started copying his bon bon. This led him to create a bigger packaging and the addition of a message within. Eventually, the bon bon was dropped altogether and a token put in its place, leading to something which seems very much like the Christmas crackers we have today.

Did You Know?

Bon Bon was a sugared almond sweet wrapped in twisted tissue paper.

What Does Holly Symbolise?

There is nothing as Christmassy as a holly! However, long before holly got associated with Christmas, it was considered a lucky charm. Holly was used to ward off witches and bad spirits, especially at farms where there were fears of losing livestock to curses. Eventually, Holly got associated with Christianity. The spiky foliage represents the crown of thorns worn by Jesus Christ at the Easter crucifixion and the berries of his blood. Although Christ died at Easter, it became a tradition to bring sprigs into the house at Christmas.

How Did Tukey Appear On The Christmas Menu?

Initially, turkey was not a part of the traditional Christmas dinner. Turkey didn’t appear on the Christmas menu until Henry VIll of the UK introduced it in the 1500s.

When Did Kids Start Leaving Milk And Cookies For Santa?

Since mediaeval times in Germany, during the Yule season children left out food at night in hopes of getting presents from a different white-bearded guy: Odin, the all-powerful Norse god who travelled on his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir.

Who Started The Tradition Of Sending Christmas Cards?

In 1843, Sir Henry Cole was behind the first printed Christmas card. He asked John Callcott Horsley to design it. It had the words ‘A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year To You’ printed on it. About 1,000 cards were made and it cost a shilling, which was actually a lot of money at the time (5p in today’s money).

How Did The Tradition Of Santa Claus Start?

The tradition of Santa Claus is said to come from St. Nicholas, a Christian bishop living in (what is now Türkiye in the 4th century AD. Nicholas had inherited a great deal of wealth and was known for giving it away to help the needy. When he was sainted, he became the protector of children.

The Dutch figure Sinterklass is also based on St. Nicholas. His legend evolved across northern Europe, and he finally assumed his now-familiar form.

Watch Full Video On, Christmas Traditions Around Worldwide | Fun Facts About Christmas

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

Origins of the Legendary Santa Claus

Legend has it that Santa Claus lives in the North Pole with his wife, Mrs. Claus. As we all know that on Christmas Eve, Santa travels all over the world on a sleigh pulled by his famous reindeers and delivers toys to each child’s house. But do you know the story of Santa Claus?

Also read, Fascinating Christmas Traditions From Around The World

Introducing Saint Nicholas

The origins of Santa Claus can be traced to Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas was a real person. He was born 280 years after Christ in the 4th century in a small Roman town in modern day Turkey. He was much loved by people because of his generosity and his many acts of kindness, and thus Saint Nicholas became associated with gift giving.

In many European countries like Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Hungary children still receive gifts on Saint Nicholas Day or the Feast of Saint Nicholas, which is celebrated on December 6. Some other countries had similar traditions of children receiving presents around Christ-mas. It is believed that Europeans brought these traditions to the US with them when they settled in the American colonies. The Dutch in particular are said to have brought the story of Saint Nicholas to the US. The name Santa Claus comes from Sinterklass, the Dutch word for Saint Nicholas.

Celebrating Saint Nicholas Day

In many European countries, children put up their shoes with carrots and hay for the Saint’s horse the night before Saint Nicholas Day, hoping that Saint Nicholas would exchange them for gifts.

Saint Nicholas showed kindness to young children and used to give a lot of gifts to poor and young children, even by selling his own belongings. Once, he even left golden coins in stockings for poor children. Since then, it has become a tradition to hang stockings to celebrate Saint Nicholas Day. While a lot of similarities exist between the traditions of Christmas and Saint Nicholas Day, both are different. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. The similar traditions include leaving gifts in socks and stockings and exchanging Gifts.

Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated in various places but everyone celebrates it with their own set of unique traditions and feasts.

Did You Know?

The night of December 5 is known as Krampus Night. Krampus or the Christmas devil is a creature from German legend centuries ago. It is believed that naughty children are visited by Krampus instead of Saint Nicholas.

Watch Full video, Christmas Traditions Around Worldwide | Fun Facts About Christmas

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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The Festival Of Lights Diwali

Diwali is the biggest and most important religious festival in India. It is not only a Hindu festival, but it is also celebrated by Sikhs and Jains. Diwali, the festival of lights, symbolises the ‘victory of light over darkness’, ‘knowledge over ignorance’, and ‘good over evil’. This year, Diwali will be celebrated on November 12, 2023.

Also Read, Diwali Legends And Stories

When Is Diwali Celebrated?

Diwali is celebrated every year and marks the start of the Hindu New Year. Diwali usually falls within the Hindu lunar calendar month of Karthik and it falls on Amavasva, which means moonless night. The exact date varies each year as the Hindu calendar is based on the Moon.

How is Diwali Celebrated?

Diwali celebrations are spread over five days. On each day certain specific rites and rituals are performed and a specific god or goddess is worshipped. However, the common traditions are cleaning one’s homes and workspaces, decorating these with lamps and flowers, and making rangolis.

Meaning Of Diwali 

The word Diwali or Deepavali means “row of lights” in Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language. Diwali is known as the ‘festival of lights’ because houses, shops, and public places are decorated with small oil lamps called ‘diyas.

Did You Know?

Diwali is an official national holiday in many countries like Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji, Mauritius, Guyana, Ma-KNOW? laysia, Singapore, Nepal, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.

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