Have you ever wondered why people decorate Christmas trees, or why Christmas cards are sent to friends and loved ones? Many Christmas traditions have meaningful origins which have gotten lost in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season; leaving most with little or no knowledge about why they do certain things to celebrate Christmas on December 25th. Every tradition you hold near and dear got its start somewhere.
The Christmas Classics: Decorations
Popular culture espouses a very specific brand of Christmas each season, with its local mall Santa Claus, multi-colored Christmas trees, and raucous neighborhood snowball fights pit against the backdrop of ornately decorated houses. While you don't have to check the box on all of these classic Christmas traditions, chances are high that you've participated in one or two of these at some point in your life.
- Hanging Christmas Stockings - Introduced in earnest in the late 19th century, you can find all different sorts of stockings to hang on your mantel; you can even challenge yourself this year to make your own homemade stocking to show off to family and friends.
- Sending Christmas Cards - Take inspiration from the very first Christmas cards ever commissioned in 1843, and put a little Victorian flair into your family's typical Christmas card.
- Decorating a Christmas Tree - Stemming from pagan spiritualism and adopted by the western world in the 19th century, no two Christmas trees are the same.
- Picking Out the Perfect Toy - There's nothing quite like seeing the rapturous joy of children opening their Christmas gifts, and surprisingly, it's only been a western practice since the mid-19th century and the subsequent rise of Industrialism.
- Stringing Up Christmas Lights - Ever since the carbon filament allowed for the development of conventional light bulbs, people have been bringing a little twinkle into their holiday decorations.
The Christmas Classics: Music
Your favorite part of the Christmas season might be singing along to the vast canon of beloved Christmas songs that play on rotation in late-November and December. Or perhaps you're always the first one to join your local Christmas choir. Either way, celebration through song has always been fundamental to the Christmas spirit, and you should enjoy the musical merriment in whatever way you like best.
- Hark! Hear the Bells - If you haven't seen a handbell performance before, this Christmas season is the perfect time for you to go. Let the tinkling sounds of the large bells put you in the Christmas mood.
- Carol Around Town - Whether you prefer more conventional Christmas carols or you like jamming out to modern iterations, going caroling should definitely be something you enjoy during the holiday season.
The Christmas Classics: Food
Second only to receiving presents on Christmas morning, the sweet treats and savory suppers that are cooked during the Christmas season will make anyone swoon. Thankfully, you have an entire month to pack in as many Christmas goodies as you can.
- It's a Candy Cane Christmas - There's nothing more emblematic of the Christmas season than the red and white striped candy cane, which people have been enjoying since the late 17th century.
- Put Your Own Spin on Christmas Dinner - Pull a page out of someone else's Christmas cookbook and give a new dish a try this Christmas, like Greenland's kiviak or Norway's smalahove, for instance.
- Personify Your Christmas Cookies - Take your cookie baking to a new level by figuring out what your favorite Christmas cookie says about you. Are you fun-loving like the meringues or a seasonal recluse like the powdery snowballs?
Christmas Traditions Around the World
Western colonialism and the growing global interconnectedness facilitated by the technological age have allowed cultures around the world to invent their own custom Christmas celebrations. How they choose to come together and enjoy the end of their year may look different from how you and your family celebrate yours, but they're incredibly interesting to learn about. Maybe they'll inspire you to try out something new this winter.
- Australian Traditions
- Canadian Traditions
- Chinese Traditions
- Dutch Traditions
- English Traditions
- German Traditions
- Italian Traditions
- Mexican Traditions
- Puerto Rican Traditions
- Venezuelan Traditions
Everyone Keeps Christmas Alive in Unique Ways
No two people's Christmas traditions look the same. Some people have an annual cookie decorating bake-off, while others may break out the big box of decorations and adorn their tree while sipping a glass of eggnog. If you're just starting to build your own Christmas traditions, there's an endless list of unique and joyful ideas for you to incorporate into your festivities.