The season of happiness and forgiveness is almost here, and slowly it comes to our memory about all the interesting traditions and symbols that are associated with Christmas. How many of us really know what they mean and symbolise? Do we know where they took their roots from? If you don’t, do not worry, as we are going to be unraveling some of those secrets right here!
We all know that whoever stands under the mistletoe together has to kiss, that is no surprise to us after watching this tradition shown in movies year after year. But do we also know that, by tradition, the mistletoe should never touch the floor in between being cut and its disposal? It is considered bad luck if that is done, as the mistletoe should be the last of anything green to be taken out and thrown away from our homes after the Christmas period has come to an end.
The mistletoe is to be hung every year to mainly guard the house from any fires. Any man and woman who meets under the mistletoe has to kiss! Moreover, after each kiss, a berry from the mistletoe’s bush has to be plucked out. Once all the berries are gone, no one needs to kiss if they are standing under the mistletoe anymore, that is the catch.
The first ever time a mistletoe was used during Christmas was way back in the 18th Century and it has become something very common and in fact a compulsory part of the decoration for Christmas these days.
The origin of using Christmas trees during the festive season began somewhere in Germany and soon people started developing plenty of practices around the usage of a tree. This included decorating the tree with edibles like Apples and candies, using lights to brighten up the tree and choosing other variations of the tree types to use for Christmas.
Although the usage of Christmas trees started as a habit of the town to have a single centerpiece in the city centre, the introduction of Christmas trees into people’s homes was somewhere in the 16th Century by Martin Luthur.
Soon after, the practice spread all around Europe and even the United States of America, with the changing trends in the types of trees and decoration year on year since then.
There has been plenty of debate and confusion around where the origins of the usage of Christmas stockings came about. There are many legendary tales around this topic and we too can’t decide which is the real story. Many people have tried to explain it with their own knowledge on these stories.
One such popular story is of an old man who had three gorgeous daughters. They had no money to pay for dowry to get married off, so they remained single at home. St Nicholas, who was riding on his horse through this small town heard about the girls and their story. He knew that their father, the old man, will never compromise on his integrity to accept any form of charity – therefore, St Nicholas went down the chimney of the old man’s house that night and found a few pieces of stockings the girls had left to dry by the fireplace. To be discreet, he quietly left a big bag of gold in each of the girls’ stockings.
The next morning, the girls were filled with joy after discovering that they magically grew gold in their stockings overnight. Soon, the girls were married off happily.
This is how the Christmas stockings tradition is commonly said to have come about! Since then, both adults and children gladly hang stockings by the fireplace or at the end of their beds (especially in places like Singapore where we don’t have a fireplace normally) and wake up to find them filled with presents. This is in fact a great family activity to do when the children are asleep for them to wake up to find some goodies hidden in their Christmas stockings!
A very popular story from history says that, in the late 1600s, a German singer who was in charge of a choir wanted to get the children in his group to remain silent during ceremonies around Christmas eve and Christmas day. After trying countless methods to get them to keep quiet, he gave up and realised the only way the children will succumb is by getting their sweet tooth satisfied.
He asked a local candy maker to make really sweet and tasty sticks for the children to eat during service. In order to rationalise the serving of dancy during service and church, he made the candy maker add a crooked tip to each sweet. This was to symbolise the crooks that the shepherds used. He also made sure the candy maker only made these sweets in Red and White, to symbolise the colours of Christmas. The colours Red and White are also told to be the reflection of the sinless life of Jesus.
These delicious candy canes then spread all across Europe amongst both children and adults, and it became a ritual to give them out during plays of the Church about Christmas the Jesus. Now there are countless variations of the candy canes and they also come in different colours. The traditional flavour was in peppermint, but now of course there are plenty of other flavours that you can try!
This is a famous plant associated with Christmas, and it roots from Mexico. This too is linked with a story! It starts with a young girl who was too poor to get a present to celebrate Christmas and the birth of Jesus. Angels lured her to pluck weeds from the roadside to put in front of her Church altar and they changed these weeds to become Poinsettias. The gorgeous crimson-coloured flowers bloomed in front of her and she could then present this to Jesus for his birthday.
Since then, specifically from the 17th Century, people in Mexico have made it a custom to involve these beautiful flowers in their Christmas celebrations. The leaves of this plant are shaped like a star and it is believed to resemble the Star of Bethlehem. The red in the flowers is supposed to represent the blood that Christ sacrificed during his crucifixion.
These flowers have become a very well-used decoration for Christmas worldwide, and there is even a National Poinsettia Day in the USA on December 12th every year!