Two of our decorations that remind me of two little people I know.
Yay it’s December! Let the madness commence! I need a bit of a breather already, luckily I was offered the sort of guest post I quite like at this time of year, but don’t seem to find time to write…ready to get festive with me? This post reminds me that Christmas is a lovely mingling of so many traditions. It gives me the inspiration to tidy up and get the decorations out of the loft.
Why are trees, stockings and mistletoe all so closely associated with Christmas?
Christmas is an exciting time packed full of symbols and traditions – a colourful
occasion for the whole family, and there’s a story behind many of our favourite
Christmas traditions – here are a few:
Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a triangular tree with a pile of
presents at its foot taking pride of place in the family living room.
Living rooms would look very bare at Christmas time if the Germans hadn’t
started decorating evergreen trees during 16th century.
Legend has it that the Protestant reformer Martin Luther first started the
tradition of lighting Christmas trees with candles while he was trying to
duplicate the beautiful sight of starlight shining through the branches of a
small fir tree outside his home.
In 1808, a countess became the first person in Denmark to light a Christmas
tree. Just over 57 years later the same lady recounted the story of lighting the
tree to Hans Christian Andersen; a famous children’s author who had written a
story about the fate of a fir tree being used as a Christmas tree (The Fir Tree) in
Britain was slow to adopt the Christmas tree, although a delighted Queen
Victoria, writing when aged 13, recounts her joy of seeing two Christmas trees
hung with “lights and sugar ornaments” on the Christmas Eve of 1832.
After Victoria married her cousin, Albert, decorating Christmas trees became
a more common tradition in Britain. Albert was of course from Germany; the
home of the Christmas tree.
Did you know that the early church banned the use of mistletoe in Christmas
celebrations because of its pagan associations? Instead church figures
suggested holly as a more religious alternative to mistletoe. The church’s
advice was partially followed; holly is a popular Yuletide decoration. But so,
still, is mistletoe.
The Scandinavians associate mistletoe with peace and harmony – making it the
ideal Christmas plant. Kissing under the mistletoe is certainly an expression of
It is best though to take care before hanging up mistletoe. An old custom
dictates that mistletoe must not touch the ground from the time it is cut to the
time it is removed at Candlemas (on 2nd February). It is feared that you can kiss
goodbye to your good luck unless you observe this custom!
Children love to hang stockings at the end of their beds on Christmas Eve
before waking the following morning to find them filled with toys.
No one seems to quite know how this tradition started but it is such a great
custom that few people seem to mind!
One popular explanation has Saint Nicholas secretly putting gold coins in the
stockings of the three daughters of a man who did not have enough money
to marry them off (the newly-washed stockings were hanging up over the
mantelpiece, being dried). The gesture, the legend states, was Saint Nicholas’s
way of making the proud old man accept his charity and ensure that the
daughters could be married as they wished.
Saint Nicholas’s act of kindness gave him a reputation as a giver of presents
and has resulted in many more acts of generous gift-giving over the years.
Viv Egan writes for Yellow Moon. If you’re stuck for stocking gift ideas then
bear in mind that Yellow Moon has lots of inspiring ideas!