Did You Know? Bonnie Donovan
Did you know Christmas is celebrated in over 160 countries?
Billions of people around the world celebrate with their own traditions. Did You Know? researched a few popular Christmas traditions in America.
Watching Christmas movies like some old ones such as “It’s A Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street,” both from the 1940s. The classic children’s animated TV specials like “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” as well as the 2004 movie “The Polar Express.” Other movies include “Home Alone, “Elf” and “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” (which, long before the live-action movie adaptation, was an animated TV special).
One of the oldest Christmas traditions dates back to the 15th century. That is, of course, decorating a Christmas tree. Each year, 30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the United States alone. Whether you go and cut down your own tree, buy one or use an artificial tree, decorating a tree is one of the first signs that the Christmas holiday season is upon us.
Holiday decorating is not just the tree, decorating your home with Christmas lights, and some displays even coordinate the lights to turn off and on in unison with Christmas songs. While you are decorating your home, don’t forget to hang stockings for each of your family members, even that special pet.
The tradition of hanging mistletoe in the house goes back to the 18th century. Mistletoe was said to bring good luck to homes by getting rid of evil spirits. More commonly, it was also used as a sign of love and friendship. This is where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe originates.
Of the many Christmas traditions celebrated around the world, the most common is having a Christmas meal with friends and family. While we all love a good meal, the actual process of baking together is often a family tradition in itself. Making cookies, baking pies or building gingerbread houses falls in line with the holiday spirit that it is better to give than receive. Don’t forget to set a few cookies out with a glass of milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer.
Gift giving is one of the most beloved traditions of Christmas, and it goes back to when the Three Wise Men offered gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to baby Jesus in the manger.
At work, one popular tradition of exchanging presents is through Secret Santa. This is when each person is given another’s name in the group and is responsible for getting them a gift without them knowing who their Santa is. A fun twist on the Secret Santa tradition is known as White Elephant. In this tradition, all gifts are placed on a table. Numbers are drawn so each person can choose a gift. Recipients have the option to take a previously opened gift from another person or test their luck by selecting from the table of gifts.
The tradition of gift-giving is centered around showing how much we appreciate others. As you go about your holiday shopping, remember Christmas is a time to think about others and the joy of giving rather than receiving.
Sending Christmas cards is a great way to communicate with friends and family and express that you are thinking of them. Did you know that in the United States alone, more than two billion Christmas cards are sent annually?
The Elf on a Shelf became a family Christmas tradition back in 2009. It is derived from a children’s story about Santa’s elves watching over children and reporting back to Santa if they were good or bad that day.
The tradition has become extremely popular amongst adults and kids, as the elf hides in a new spot every morning around the house and the kids try to find it. The elves are said to have magical powers from being adopted and loved by a child. However, the kids must follow one simple rule, and that is to not touch the elf or the elves may lose their magic. If touched, the elves cannot report the children’s Christmas wishes back to Santa.
Music plays a large role in many Christmas traditions around the world. We listen to holiday favorites songs, such as “O Holy Night,” “Let It Snow,” “Jingle Bells” and many others.
One Christmas tradition that has been passed down from many generations is caroling, in which a group of people shows up to homes and sing holiday songs to them. This tradition of caroling dates back to the 13th century and is still practiced in many countries to this day.
Now for some truly unique and somewhat strange traditions that are practiced in different places around the world.
Here are just a few:
— The tradition of wearing over-the-top holiday sweaters will most likely stay strong and continue to bring people together for some laughs.
— How would you like to take a nice dip in freezing cold water on Christmas morning? This may not be for you but hundreds of people in Brighton, England schedule a Christmas day dip every year with just a swimsuit and their Santa hat. The thought of jumping in frigid waters on Christmas morning is not for everyone!
— One of Norway’s Christmas Eve traditions that date back centuries is the act of hiding all the brooms in the house. This act deprives the witches and evil spirits of finding something to ride on.
— Numerous cities throughout the U.S. and Europe host a Dickens Fair. San Francisco has been hosting one annually since 1970. Attendees will feel as though they have traveled back in time to a Victorian London setting where old-timey vernacular is used, vintage clothing is adorned, and bangers and mash are served.
— One of the scarier traditions takes place in Austria.
While St. Nicholas rewards nice little boys and girls with presents, his evil accomplice, Krampus, is said to capture the naughty children and take them away in a sack. Krampus is described to be a half-man/half-goat, and young men dress up in costume to frighten kids during the Krampus Parade, which has grown in popularity across Europe.
— In Sweden, they construct a giant straw goat, known as The Yule Goat, which is over 42 feet high, 23 feet wide, and weighs over 3 tons. Every year, the goat is built in the same spot.
— The Rink at Rockefeller Center has to be one of the most iconic outdoor ice skating venues in the world. The seasonal rink starts to really lure in skaters once the Rockefeller Center tree is lit in early December.
— If roast turkey or ham does not seem appetizing for Christmas dinner, then how about fried caterpillars? This delicacy can be enjoyed in South Africa at Christmas. The Pine Tree Emperor Moth, also known as the Christmas caterpillar. It is covered in different colors and is said to give a little extra luck in the New Year to all those who eat it. We’ll stick to Black eyed peas!
No matter what Christmas traditions you practice during the holiday season, it is always a fun time of the year to celebrate with family and friends.