Christmas Traditions and Their Origins

Christmas Traditions and Their Origins

Renee Chua

With Christmas right around the corner, many families already have their houses decorated and ready for the holidays. Some of the popular traditions include putting up a Christmas tree, hanging stockings on the mantle and elf on the shelf. Children all over the United States have grown up with these traditions, but does anyone know where they originated?

Christmas trees are a staple for many families because of the significance they have. Christmas trees create a warm, cozy feeling that everyone can enjoy. It is estimated that over 94 million American households will have a Christmas tree up this season. This special tree dates back to Germany in the Middle Ages and it was popularized when Europeans moved to the United States. The first Christmas tree lot was introduced by Mark Carr in 1875. For centuries, the trees used to be decorated with various types of fruit, but now it has evolved into ornaments of all colors.

Christmas stockings are typically filled with candy or small gifts. Western tradition dictates that when children are naughty, they will receive coal in their stocking instead. This tradition dates back to St. Nicholas, who used his riches to help those in need. Nicholas loved giving back to people in his community, but he delivered presents to children late at night in order to keep his identity a secret. Because of this, children were told to go to sleep early or else he would not visit. St. Nicholas would put the gifts into the kids’ stockings for a Christmas surprise.

The elf on the shelf tradition consists of a toy elf that moves to a different location each day causing mischief. Since 2005, over 13 million elves have been adopted by families. This tradition began after Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell published a book titled “The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition,” which comes with a toy elf that matches the one in the book. Social media has played a role in this because new, creative ideas are being shared in order to create a magical experience for all children.

Christmas traditions involve a variety of customs, and many of them vary depending on the region or country. These diverse traditions have been celebrated for years, and the origins of them are significant to their meanings. Over time, these traditions have evolved, and often times, families put their own spin on it.