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  • Writer's pictureAmy Trudell

Amy's Angle>

Let's Chat About...Christmas Traditions

Along with the Holiday Season comes many Christmas Traditions! Each family has their own and everyone's is a little different. One of my favorites is the gift giving, putting special thought into each person, and trying to give just the right thing!

Christmas Tree: Decorating evergreen trees dates back to Germany in the Middle Ages. In was introduced to America in the early 19th Century by the European Settlers. A man named Mark Carr, who was a woodsman from New York, is credited for opening the 1st US Christmas Tree lot in 1851. The American Christmas Tree Association conducted a survey in 2019 which predicted that 77% of American households display a Christmas Tree in their home. Among the trees on display, 81% were artificial and19% were real.

*We put up an artificial tree every year. Our tree is pre-lit, which comes in very handy. I also like to decorate with garland wrapped around the tree from the top down. When it comes to the ornaments, I get very sentimental! Most all of our ornaments were either gifts or ones that the kids made in grade school. The Star on top is a must, this reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas! And last but not least comes the Candy Canes, no tree is complete without these sweet treats (in my opinion anyway....)

Eggnog: This holiday beverage is often served at Christmas celebrations. The yuletide cocktail stems from posset, a drink made with hot curdled milk and ale or wine from medieval England. In more modern times, the American colonists get credit for making it popular by adding rum. Even George Washington had a special recipe penned out himself some time after 1789:

“One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, pint rye whiskey, pint Jamaica rum, pint sherry — mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of 12 eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.”

--Old Farmer's Almanac

Poinsettias: "America's Christmas Flower" These plants are native to Central America and date back to the1820's when Joel Roberts Poinsett, the country's first ambassador to Mexico, introduced the plant to the United States. However, it was a Paul Ecke, a horticulturist from California that brought this red and green plant to popularity 100 years later. According to the Los Angeles Times, the poinsettia became the country's best selling potted plant by 1986.

Christmas Stockings: "An empty sock or sock shaped bag that is hung on Christmas Eve so that Santa Claus (St. Nicholas) can fill it with small gifts referred to as stocking stuffers, when he arrives."

The origin of this tradition is thought to have come from the life of Saint Nicholas of Rome. Legend has it that St. Nicholas was living with a poor family, and the father was going to sell his 3 daughters to spare them from starvation. St. Nick knew that the man would not accept charity, so on the Eve of Christmas, he snuck a bag of gold into each of the girls' stockings which were hung by the fireplace to dry. Christmas morning, the girls found the bags of gold and were saved from their sad fate.

Christmas Stockings were first mentioned in an1823 poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas". In some Western cultures, children are threatened to receive a lump of black coal in their stocking if they behave badly.

The tradition of hanging Christmas Stockings continues today, although there are many variations, and each household has their unique practices.

Sitting on Santa's lap dates back to the 1890's. It began when James Edgar of Massachusetts dessed in a Santa Suit, custom made for him, and sat in his "dry goods" store as a jolly old fellow. He believed this to be a marketing stradegy to get customers into the store. The gimmick caught on and in the following years, Santa's where found sitting in department stores around the country. Some say that Edgar is the original "Store Santa", but Macy's in New York claims it has been hosting Santa since 1862.

Gift Wrapping: The idea of wrapping gifts stems back to the 1300's and the first recorded gift wrap was actually fabric. It was believed that wrapped items were a symbol of protection and good luck. In time the use of fabric gift wrap transitioned into printed tissue paper wrap.

Hallmark is actually credited with the invention of wrapping paper. In 1917 the Hall brothers were busy printing cards and tissue paper from their Stationary Store in Kansas City. When they began to be run out tissue paper, they decided to print on actual paper. Within 2 years they were printing and selling wrapping paper all over the country.

Another tradition that has begun is having an organization wrap your gifts for you. Generally, it's for a good cause or charity. In our community volunteers help our Social Services to wrap gifts for the less fortunate.

Although now days there is another option with gift bags, I still prefer to wrap all my gifts. There is just something about tearing off the paper, especially for the children! Some in my family like to unwrap slowly and carefully, trying to preserve the paper and others just rip it off as fast as they can. Our tradition of opening gifts on Christmas Day is special. Each person opens a gift one at a time so we can all see what they received, starting in order youngest to oldest.

Christmas Cookies: Christmas just wouldn't be the same without the cookies! I'm not sure what's more fun, baking them or eating them? I have started a Christmas Cookie baking day with my daughters and it has turned into a very special event! My favorite Christmas cookie is the spritz cookies. Some other popular favorites include Sugar, Snickerdoodles, gingerbread, peanut blossoms, rugelach and peppermint meringues.

This history of Christmas cookies dates back to the medieval times. Winter solstice festivals were common across the world. Solstice is associated with the first frost, so the animals could be slaughtered and preserved safely for the winter. This is also the time when their fermented beverages such as beer and wine that they would brew in the Spring, would be ready to drink. This feast of meat and drink was not complete without a dessert. The first cookies were similar to the ones we still enjoy today, consisting of ingredients such as sugar, butter, spices and nuts. Fun Fact: The Gingerbread Man cookie is credited to Queen Elizabeth I of England, who had the cookie molded into the shape of her favorite courtiers.

As the list of Christmas traditions goes on and on, I just can't go into them all. Here is a list of some of the others I missed:

*Advent Calendar / Candle

*Gingerbread Houses

*Nutcracker Ballet

*Charlie Brown’s Christmas

*Yule Logs

*Fruit Cake

*Candy Canes

*Christmas Cards

*It’s a Wonderful Life

*The Twelve Days of Christmas

*Christmas Lights

*Twas the Night Before Christmas

*Elf on a Shelf

*Ugly Christmas Sweater

*Christmas Wreaths

*Salvation Army Bell Ringing

*Christmas Movies

*Christmas Caroling

*Gift Giving

*Christmas Pageants

*Christmas Decorations

Please share your favorite Christmas Traditions in the comments below!

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