Trees, Cards, Crackers, Carols...
Do you really know the mysteries behind our most popular Christmas Traditions? We try to explain the reasons behind why me drag trees into our living room, send Christmas Cards, Pull Crackers and Sing Carols. Also, Get in touch , we want to hear your special traditions, stories, experiences and Christmas photos :-)
At Christmas we decorate our homes with an array of ornaments and foliage the most dominant of which is the Christmas Tree. The first Christmas Trees are believed to have dated back to the 7th Century and originated as a symbol of Christianity. The sign that the Fir would remain evergreen was taken as a symbol of life and would spring hope that the winter would pass and be shortly followed by the better weather that spring and summer would bring.
So why do we decorate our Christmas Trees? Well legend has it that in the mid 16th Century a German Monk and Church reformer was returning home one Christmas night, his journey took him through a start lit forest of which the site of the twinkling stars through the tree tops amazed him. Upon arriving home the German Monk wanted to share this experience with his family, so to help them understand this amazing site he used candles against their fir Christmas tree. From this point onwards the custom spread throughout Germany and then the world!
The popularity of Christmas Tree decorations had an impact on the local German Christmas markets which had to expand to cope with the demand for extra Christmas items. These magical markets would supply everything from gifts, goose, candles, decorations, souvenirs and tinsel.
The Christmas Tree custom spread around the world arriving in England in 1841 when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert (who was German) he set up a Christmas Tree in Windsor Castle to remind him of his homeland. The English were not fond of the German Monarchy at the time so this new fashion was not warmly received. The Christmas Tree custom spread across Europe and eventually further a field to America.
The tradition of sending christmas cards to a loved one or a friend started in the mid 19th century and even before a common postal system. Traveling friends were asked to take Christmas notes between family members, the form of the day was to write a poem or paint a picture to accompany the early Christmas Card. Christmas Cards gradually became more commonplace especially after the introduction of the penny post in 1840 which made the sending of letters easy and reliable.
The first recorded Christmas Card was sent in 1843 when Henry Cole, an important and well known London business man did not have time to write letters to all his friends, family and business acquaintances, so to solve this problem Henry asked a local painter to depict a festive Christmas scene of an English Victorian Family enjoying Christmas and other bystanders performing charitable acts. With this picture Henry asked local printer John Calcott Horsley to print 1000 copies, he signed them and sent them to his friends and family. The amount of Christmas Cards Henry had left he sold for one shilling each and made a healthy profit!
By the end of the 19th century Christmas card sending was commonplace and with the further improvements in printing technologies and the postal service it was a sure sign that a new tradition was here to stay. Today millions of Christmas cards are sent every year typically depicting Nativity scenes with Mary, Joseph, Jesus, Father Christmas, Rudolph or Jokes.
The Christmas Cracker is a popular accompaniment to the Traditional Christmas meal across the world.
The story has it that the Christmas Cracker was invented in 1847 by the Englishman Thomas Smith. When visiting Paris in 1840 Tom saw a sweet wrapped up in some twisted colorful tissue paper. He loved the idea of this so much that he returned to his London based sweet factory and made a similar design wrapping up Sugared Almonds.
These little parcels proved exceptionally popular however Tom wanted to stay ahead of his competitors so he was constantly involved in developing his product. He felt a crackle or pop would greatly add to the excitement of his cracker so in 1847 after many different Chemical experiments Thomas Smith had perfected the small pop needed for each parcel, so the Christmas Cracker was born!
Carols date back to around the 16th / 17th Centuries or the Middle ages. They were originally written to accompany performances of religious dances and dramas which would typically depict the birth of Jesus Christ. In many European countries the poor used to take song on the streets in the way of caroling going from door to door in return they would be rewarded either food, money or a hot drink.
Traditionally Christmas Carols, also called Noel, were only sung in the build up to Christmas which is the 21st December or St Thomas’s Day until the morning of the 25th December or Christmas Day, however today Christmas Carols can be heard from the beginning of December right through to Christmas Day.
Examples of Christmas Carols are as follows:
Away in a Manger carol
Joy to the World
O Come All Ye Faithful
O Come O Come Emmanuel
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Once in Royal Davids City
Silent Night carol
The First Noel carol
The Holly and the Ivy
The Wassail Song
We Three Kings of Orient are
Christians Awake salute the Happy Morn
Deck the Halls carol
Ding Dong Merrily on High
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Good Christian Men Rejoice
Good King Wenceslas carol
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
There are many stories and myths as to where the name Christmas Carol came from however the strongest belief is that the word Carol translates from the ancient Greek word choros meaning to dance in circles!