Ho, Ho, Ho and Merry Christmas! We celebrate this joyous Season of giving so many ways. Family traditions highlight our happy activities. Many have strong historical foundations for the real meaning of our happiness.
Santa Claus, Decorations, Lights, Ornaments, Cards, Songs, Mistletoe and Pies are among the most notable. The time and nature of Gift giving, and getting, has also varied. Our smiles and warm hearts during the Holidays have grown by the many Christmas Spirit customs.
Saint Nicholas, the original Santa Claus, was a Bishop in modern day Turkey. In the 4th century he used his family inheritance to help the poor and sick. Our modern image of Saint Nick is attributed to Thomas Nash, a political cartoonist. In 1881 he created Saint Nicholas for Harper’s Weekly magazine as a round cheerful man with white beard, big belly and a sack full of toys. Legends of his red colors can be traced to a large Coca-Cola advertising campaign in the late 1800s. Santa’s Reindeer are of Norse origin, known as Caribou. In Australia his Sleigh of toys is pulled by Kangaroos. In the South Seas he arrives by outrigger canoe. Santa is 1749 years old, although he stopped counting after 550. Mrs. Claus helps the Elves and bakes cookies. You can even call her at 1-319-527-2680 or send a letter to the North Pole.
In America we leave cookies and milk for Santa under the tree. In England it is sherry and beer. Other countries leave fruit and nuts for his reindeer. The Christmas tree was originally branches or tree twigs brought inside and decorated as reminders of the coming spring. Christmas trees became popular with the 1840 marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. They brought a tree from Germany and used it in the background of their portraits. The influence of Royalty. This marriage also began the custom of engagement rings.
Stockings were hung with care by the fire to dry. On Christmas Eve muslin socks were used to catch gold coins dropped by Saint Nick down the Chimneys in the 14th and 15th centuries. In Norway you hide your brooms on this night so witches and evil spirits cannot use them to fly. Names were added to stockings to identify where St. Nick should leave his presents. Coal was originally considered a good gift in stockings. It was used to burn for warmth in the cold winter. Stocking presents are unwrapped for quick use. The tree plant Mistletoe with red berries was also hung. Plucking a red berry was cause for a kiss.
In 1847, Hans Greiner, a glassblower in Germany did not have the money for apples to decorate his tree. He created glass ornaments of fruits, nuts and balls, which represented the gift of birth, love, and good luck from Christ. The balls were also eyes to protect against evil spirits. Mr. Woolworth of the 5 & 10 cent retailer store brought these ornaments to America in the 1880s. The White House ornament has become cherished by collectors since 1989. It comes in a box with a pamphlet describing its history.
Lights outside our homes became accepted symbols of Christmas when Thomas Edison decorated his Menlo Park Laboratory in New York. In 1880 Edward Johnson hired the young Edison to light a tree outside his townhouse with 80 bulbs that became the Miracle of 36th Street. A string of 16 flickering bulbs were sold to the public costing $360 dollars today.
The original ‘Presents’ of Christmas were Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh, oils from trees used for healing the sick. These were brought by the Three Wise Men for the birth of Christ. Presents were first given to the Saints of the Christian religion on December 6th. This day is still celebrated as Christmas in many countries. The idea of giving presents was begun in the 14th century by King Wenceslas of Bavaria in Germany. He sent a fairy princess to the village below his Castle to deliver presents of food and wine in the winter. Boxing Day, December 26th, in England is celebrated since the 1800s as giving of present boxes to the servants and others. Today the busiest day to buy presents is not Black Friday after Thanksgiving. It is Saturday before Christmas getting all the forgotten last minute gifts. In America the average family spends over $700 dollars on Christmas. More than 160 countries celebrate Christmas.
We send over 2 billion Christmas cards each year in America. The first cards were status symbols created in 1842 by Sir Henry Cole in England. He had 1000 created costing a Shilling (equivalent of about a penny today). The card pictured a group of people holding a glass of wine, not socially accepted in that era. The record for the most Christmas Cards sent by one person is over 62,000 established in 1975 in San Francisco. Most expensive card known cost more than $28,000 dollars. The average family in America receives almost 150 Christmas cards each year.
“All I Want For Christmas Is You”. This is the most popular Christmas song today by Mariah Carey. “Silent Night” has almost 400 versions. The earliest songs of Christmas were hymns. Christmas Carols began in the 12th century used by St. Francis of Assisi. They were banned by Oliver Cromwell in 17th century England. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ is an 1823 poem by Clement Moore often sung to children before bed. “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby is the best selling Christmas song and single of all time. Over 50 million copies have been sold. “Jingle Bells” was originally written in 1857 for the sleigh races in New England. There are over a million Christmas songs. The “Twelve Days of Christmas” has 364 gifts, the number of days in a year.
Like Santa how do we make our bellies happy at Christmas? Christmas dinner feasts in Japan feature Kentucky Fried Chicken. In Greenland men serve the women whale blubber. Raw and cooked fish is the main course in many countries. Mince pies are popular. Originally mincemeat pies were enjoyed by the wealthy 1800s Victorians in England. They were shaped as a manger or star. Candy Canes were sticks of peppermint that were bent into a staff. In the late 1800s they were curved by Mr. Woolworth in Massachusetts with a machine used to bend canes for walking.
Thus, Sarasotians and All about the world enjoy your Christmas time and celebrate the Traditions with the real Spirit of the Holidays.
Photos from Deposit Photos