Posts Tagged ‘christmas history’

Christmas Stocking History

rudolph christmas stockingThe stockings were hung by the chimney with care…” is a well-known line from Clement Moore’s famous Christmas poem, “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” But why do we hang stockings on Christmas Eve? Christmas stocking history can be traced back to very early times, and is also associated with legends about Saint Nicholas.

Although there aren’t written records that specifically detail the origins of this holiday tradition, some legends provide insight into the beginnings.

One legend about stockings is associated with Saint Nicholas, the fourth century bishop who helped create the character we now know as Santa Claus. According to this legend, a nobleman whose wife had died couldn’t afford to marry off his three daughters. Saint Nicholas saw the girls’ stockings hanging by the fireplace on Christmas and threw gold coins down the chimney to fill the stockings.

Some people believe this story about Saint Nicholas is the reason children started hanging their stockings by the fireplace, hoping that they might also receive presents from the generous gift giver.

Many cultures around the world now have traditions about leaving out containers to be filled at Christmas, but they’re not always stockings. In some countries such as Italy and France, kids leave shoes instead of stockings. And stockings no longer need to be hung by the fireplace (particularly since many modern homes don’t have them). Now many families use Christmas stocking holders instead.

Even though the exact origins of Christmas stocking history may always be uncertain, it’s clear that it’s a tradition that’s going to hang around for quite a bit longer.

– Revised from Squidoo: Why Do We Hang Christmas Stockings?

The Tradition of Christmas Carols

There are two beliefs about the origins of Christmas carols and caroling. The first is that caroling started in England when wandering musicians traveled from town to town to visit castles and other homes of the rich and give impromptu performances. The second belief is that singing carols at Christmas came from the group of angels, shepherds and wise men who visited Jesus at his birth, as they sang praises unto Him and then continued their proclamations in the street.

The origin of the word carol, however, doesn’t come from either of these traditions. Scholars believe the word derived from ‘caroller,’ which is a French word to describe a circle dance with singers.

christmas carolsFrom the twelfth through the fourteenth centuries, the carol was highly popular as a dance song. Carols later became part of festivals, where they were sung as processional songs, while others were used as part of religious plays in Europe. Traditional qualities of a carol included the idea that the words should celebrate a seasonal topic, the music should have have verses and a chorus arranged alternately, and the music should be suitable for dancing.

Many of the Christmas carols we still sing during the holidays are very old, but many others have been lost forever. During the 17th century Protestant Reformation, many Christmas carols were banned and never heard again. The ones that that survived didn’t become popular again until the mid-19th century.

Today, Christmas carols are popular throughout the Christmas season at shopping malls and other retail stores, and are sung by churches, schools, and other groups. And they still serve the original purpose of bringing joy during the holidays!

Greet the Season with Holiday Greeting Cards

It’s probably a fair statement to say that we all enjoy receiving Christmas cards, but sending them out can be quite a chore. For many of us in today’s fast paced highly technological world, it’s probably the only letter or note we’ll send out through the mail to friends and family the entire year. But have you ever stopped to wonder how the tradition of sending Christmas cards began?

The Christmas card is a Victorian creation, which began as a kind of stationery. The first card was produced by Sir Henry Cole who worked for the British Postal Service, and an artist he hired named John Horsley. This early card was a depiction of a Christmas scene framed in three panels. In the center panel was a homey table scene: children, parents and grandparents seated and some raising their glasses for a toast. On either side were panels depicting acts of Christmas charity: to the left, feeding the hungry; to the right, clothing the naked, and wished people a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Holiday greeting cards were actually preceded by notes sent home by English school boys to their parents called Christmas pieces. They not only told of how and what they were doing during their time away at school, but also served as a testament to their continually improving writing skills.

Today’s Christmas cards can be anything from humorous to religious, simple to ornate, small to large, and everything in between. They can include photos and letters about family milestones. They can even be used to decorate your home with during the holiday season. It’s a tradition that’s in danger of fading out in light of all the high technology communications options that are currently available.

So, encourage your children to sit down with you when you make out your yearly Christmas cards this season, and teach them the joy of sending them to friends and family.