Traditions are important in our society. They help pass important values through ceremony from generation to generation. Probably none of the major events in our lives have more traditions than the celebration of Christmas.
According to Better Homes and Gardens, there are a number of holiday traditions honored across America, if not the world. In reading them, I was delighted to find that my family embraces most of them!
The list started with using an advent calendar to make the countdown to Christmas part of the daily routine. I know we had a wonderful time filling a special advent calendar with small chocolate treats for my mother-in-law the last seven years of her life. I learned that the advent calendar dates back to the early 19th century, when families would make a chalk line on their front door for each day in December.
Second on the list was sending out holiday letters. We don’t send letters, but we do send personal cards to dozens of friends each holiday season. The first greeting card for Christmas was designed by John Horsely in England during the Victorian period. It’s a nice tradition that has lasted centuries.
Putting up Christmas trees in the home was originally a German tradition and was not embraced by Americans until the late 1880s. Today, approximately 25-30 million real trees are sold each year. Our family debates a little each year, but we end up with at least three decorated trees by the end of the discussion.
There’s an entire legend about the origin of the Christmas stockings. I’m glad it’s a tradition that has endured over the years. Some of the best gifts have been tucked into those pretty red stockings hanging from the mantle.
In 1882, Edward H. Johnson invented the first string of electrical light bulbs, which were displayed on the White House in 1895. The next 122 years has proven that decorating our homes, trees, shrubs, and fences are another way we show extra sparkle during the holidays. Touring displays of outdoor lighting has become a tradition for many.
Poinsettias are said to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem and folks display them in homes, business, and churches. This festive flower rakes in more than $200 million in sales a year, with much of that in December.
The nativity scene is one of the oldest Christmas traditions and it’s said that St. Francis of Assisi introduced it to the world in 1220. We have a nativity set of some size and material in every room of our home during the holidays.
The earliest Christmas carol was written in 1410. Today, there are hundreds of carols and going caroling in local neighborhoods has become an endearing tradition.
There were many more traditions on the BHAG list, including hanging mistletoe, making a gingerbread house, reading Christmas books, setting out milk and cookies for Santa, baking Christmas cookies, and of course, spending time with family and friends.
Whatever traditions you celebrate this year, I hope they bring you joy and peace.
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Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at the Hospice store (For All Seasons) in Troy and teaches part-time at Urbana University. She keeps busy taking care of husband, house, and pets. She and her husband have an adult son who lives in Troy.