History of Christmas Traditions

Christmas-TraditionsQuestion: Before the 16th century, tinsel was used for adorning sculptures rather than Christmas trees! What year was tinsel invented?

Answer: 1610 – Tinsel was originally made from extruded strands of silver, but because silver tarnishes quickly, other shiny metals were substituted.

Christmas trees, turkey, stockings… Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without all of the festive traditions. Let’s delve into the history of some of these traditions.

The tree:

The first festive fir tree was decorated by a German man named Martin Luther in 1510 and Queen Victoria’s German-born husband, Albert, brought the tradition to the UK in 1840. Artificial trees were invented in the 1930s and became really popular due to their convenience. It’s predicted that just one in five homes in the UK will have a real tree this Christmas.

Christmas cards:

Sir Henry Cole, head of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London sent the first Christmas cards back in 1843 because he was too busy to write letters. Instead he had an artist design 1,000 cards, illustrated with a festive scene on the front and printed with the greeting “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You”.

Mistletoe:

Ancient druids used to believe that mistletoe had magical abilities and could cure illness and protect against witchcraft.

The tradition of kissing underneath mistletoe originates from Scandinavia. A norse legend said that Loki, an evil god, made an arrow out of mistletoe and used it to kill Balder, the sun god.

The mistletoe repented and was then planted on a tree so it could do no more harm, eventually becoming a symbol of love.

Turkey:

Originally, the popular Christmas dishes were goose and cockerel or, peacock and swan for the wealthy. The turkey then took over and became the traditional Christmas dish after it was introduced to Europe from the New World in the 15th and 16th Centuries. Because turkey was inexpensive and quick to fatten, it rose in popularity.

Tinsel:

Tinsel was the first mass-produced Christmas decoration. It was made in Europe in the 1600s from sheets of silver alloy hammered until they became paper-thin. The sheets were then cut into strips. Tinsel was designed to reflect the light from candles and fireplaces.

Presents:

Believe it or not, we did not always exchange gifts on Christmas Day. In Roman times, they waited until New Year’s Day to hand out gifts, however as Christianity spread, people started giving on Christmas Day – despite efforts by church leaders to stop the practice.

Baubles:

We get the tradition of hanging fruit and baubles from green tree branches from the Romans. The decorations were used to symbolise the fruits of the Earth and the fiery sun.

Holly & Ivy:

Holy and Ivy are used as decorations on Chrsitmas because the plant represents Christ’s crown of thorns and the berries represent his blood. Holly and Ivy have been used to decorate homes since the 9th century. It is supposed to symbolise everlasting life.

Do you celebrate Christmas? If so, what is your favourite Christmas tradition?

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