SEASONAL STORIES - It’s interesting to take a look at the histories of some of the traditions of Christmas that folks enjoy today.

Histories of our treasured Christmas traditions

A closer look at why we do what we do during the holidays

There are all kinds of Christmas traditions that folks hold dear, but sometimes little is known about when or where they originated from.

“The celebration of Christmas is accompanied by numerous traditions and customs which have developed in many parts of the world over a long period of time,” writes Rudolph Brasch in his book Christmas Customs & Traditions. “No other festival has produced such a wealth and variety of customs, and each one has its own fascinating story.”

First of all, the word ‘Christmas’ is derived from ‘Christ’s Mass’ – the first religious celebrations which honoured Jesus Christ’s birth. Pinpointing a date for the celebration didn’t come until AD 350, when Pope Julius I designated Dec. 25th as Christmas Day.

“He did so mainly to counteract the effect of the popular feast held in honour of Saturn – Saturnalia – which occurred at the time of the winter solstice.”

Christmas trees took a long time to become part of holiday celebrations in English-speaking countries. Royalty was responsible for helping to establish the tradition in Britain.

“Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s German-born husband, had a Christmas tree erected in Windsor Castle in nostalgic remembrance of his homeland. The royal example was soon copied by the general public, and the custom then spread throughout the world.”

Although Christmas cards may not be as common as they once were, it’s still a popular tradition with many during the holiday season. According to Brasch, the Christmas card was invented by Sir Henry Cole in 1843. “He was a well-known London art dealer who aspired to improve the general public’s taste.

“He came up with the idea of the first Christmas card, a simple yet attractive token of friendship which, he felt, would further enhance this special day.”

Still, it took about 20 years for the idea to really catch on. But by the 1860s, stationery companies were producing thousands of cards and during the following three decades, printers in Britain supplied a whopping 163,000 varieties of Christmas cards.

Poinsettia plants’ connection to Christmas dates back to Joel R. Poinsett, who served as the United State’s first ambassador to Mexico from 1825 to 1829.

“During that time, he came to admire a beautiful indigenous plant with large scarlet leaves encircling small, greenish-yellow blossoms, which the Mexicans had adopted as their Christmas flower. He liked it so much that he sent specimens back home, where they soon flourished.”

As for the presentation of nativity scenes, this custom stretches back centuries to the time of St. Francis of Assisi. “After receiving permission from the Pope, he erected the first one during Christmas of 1224 in a cave outside of the Italian town of Greccio.” Live animals were included of course, and it was a “Novel and eye-catching way to celebrate the memory of the child who was born in Bethlehem.

“When people gathered to view the spectacle, Francis stood in front of the manger and recited the Gospel related to the scene, then he delivered a sermon.”

As for St. Nick, the original Santa Claus was St. Nicholas, a fourth century bishop of Myra which is now part of Turkey. The Dutch, in particular, came to love the legend of Nicholas. In their language his name became Sinter Klaas.

“The British eventually anglicized his name, thus creating the modern Santa Claus.”

Of course, music is an enormous part of the Christmas season from traditional carols to modern classics. White Christmas, one of the most well-known holiday hits, was written in 1942 by Irving Berlin. “He composed if for the film Holiday Inn, a musical which starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.”

White Christmas went on to receive the Academy Award for Best Song of 1942, and according to Brasch, the sale of its sheet music has neverbeen surpassed by any other single song.

On the traditional side, few carols have resonated quite like Silent Night, first sung on Christmas Eve in 1818 in the Austrian village of Oberndorf. According to tradition, Father Josef Mohr was preparing for his midnight mass, and found that the organ was out of order thanks to some pesky mice.

“Father Mohr felt that the service would lose much of its beauty and warmth if there was no music. Something had to take the place of the organ.”

He had penned a Christmas poem which he took to the local school master, Franz Gruber who also composed music on an informal basis and played the guitar.

“Mohr asked him whether he could quickly set this poem to music so that it would be ready that night. He should do so for two solo voices to be accompanied by guitars.”

It only took a few hours for Gruber to come up with the simple yet elegant tune, and the song was sung that night for the first time. Its popularity spread quickly across the country and eventually throughout Europe. A century passed and singer Bing Crosby, as he had done with White Christmas, lent his golden voice to the melody and a truly global classic was born.

“Almost 100 years later, Bing Crosby gave it world fame.”

news@lacombeexpress.com

Just Posted

Jesse Todd hat trick leads Lacombe Generals over Innisfail

6-5 victory puts Lacombe in first place heading into Rosetown matchup

WATCH: Remembrance Day in Lacombe fills LMC

2018 marked 100 years since the end of First World War

Rural crime task force results released at Agri-Trade luncheon

Report cites problems with police not being able to keep up with crime and justice system issues

Adopt-a-Grandparent returns to bring cheer to Lacombe seniors

75 Lacombe seniors to receive gift bags from the community

CAEP’s Kim Worthington to speak at Burman Business Speaker Series

Talk will focus on connecting entrepreneurs to economic development strategies

WATCH: TSN’s Michael Landsberg speaks in Lacombe about mental illness

Landsberg lends his voice to the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta

Feds dropped ball with WWI anniversary tributes: historians

Wrote one historian: ‘Other than the Vimy Ridge celebration … I think they have done a very bad job’

Sides ‘far apart’ in Canada Post talks despite mediation, says union

The lack of a breakthrough means rotating strikes will resume Tuesday

Feds’ appeal of solitary confinement decision in B.C. to be heard

Judge ruled in January that indefinite such confinement is unconstitutional, causes permanent harm

Nunavut urges new plan to deal with too many polar bears

Territory recommends a proposal that contradicts much of conventional scientific thinking

Tentative deal reached in NHL concussion lawsuit

More than 100 former players accused the league of failing to better prevent head trauma

Grim search for more fire victims; 31 dead across California

More than 8,000 firefighters battled wildfires that scorched at least 1,040 square kilometres

Politicians need to do better on social media, Trudeau says

Prime minister suggests at conference in Paris some are trying to use technology to polarize voters

Bells of Peace toll 100 times in Castor

Commemorates the 100th anniversary since the end of the First World War

Most Read