The holiday season is a magical time of year with many traditions. Many people don’t realize that some of the most popular customs originated many years ago with people and places that are long gone. Yet these rituals live on and continue to be passed down from generation to generation. From the decorated Christmas tree, to Grandma’s fruitcake…every tradition has a story. If you are in a newly married or living together, make sure and discuss which traditions are important to one another.
Here is a background on some popular holidays traditions, which also make great suggestions on Holiday Traditions to Start as a couple.
The origin of the Christmas tree goes back thousands of years to ancient times. Although each civilization gave their gods different names, most of them worshiped the god of the sun. The people believed their sun god became weak during the winter months. But on the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year, which falls on December 21 or 22, it was believed that, the sun god would become strong again. On the Winter Solstice the Romans honored their god of agriculture, Saturnus, by decorating their homes with evergreen boughs. In the middle ages the Germans and Scandinavians carried the tradition farther by bringing evergreen trees into their homes. Because of the controversial origins of the Christmas tree, it was looked on as a pagan symbol by puritan-influenced Christians in America until the mid-1800’s. When German Christian immigrants began coming to the U.S. they brought their traditions along with them and the Christmas tree began to be more accepted. Finally, in 1846 a sketch of Queen Victoria and her family standing by their Christmas tree appeared in the London News. Victoria was extremely popular with not only the British but American society as well. The Christmas tree was here to stay.
Holiday Traditions You can start that revolve around the Christmas tree: If you both want a Christmas tree, make it fun by going and picking out a tree together. Purchase ornaments for one another or write love notes in the shape of a heart and hang them on the tree for one another. Decorate the tree together. If you have time, while binge watching Christmas movies string popcorn or cranberry together to hang as garland on your tree. If you have a small living space and can only get a small tree go for it – in this case size does not matter…it’s just about the holiday spirit.
History of Kissing Under the Mistletoe
It is believed that mistletoe was used by the ancient Greeks at their festival called Saturnalia. Mistletoe was said to be a sacred plant which had the power to bestow fertility. It may have been considered mystical because it has no roots and stays green year round. The Celts also believed mistletoe had healing powers and people would carry it to protect themselves from evil spirits. The practice of kissing under the mistletoe can possibly be attributed to ancient Scandinavians who regarded mistletoe as a symbol of peace. If two enemies came upon mistletoe in a forest, they were required to lay down their weapons and call a truce–at least for the day! All of these beliefs revolving around mistletoe have evolved into today’s lighthearted tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. Poinsettias, holly and red amaryllis are popular plants around the holidays.
Holiday Traditions You can start: “12 Dates” of Christmas: Mistle toe around the house is a great excuse to stop and kiss, but take it further than that. How about 12 dates of Christmas? All dates don’t have to involve going out and spending a lot of money. How about binge watching Christmas movies? Make a time to go Xmas shopping together. Make a holiday play list. How about 12 days of “toasting” together with everything from spiked cider and hot chocolate to creating your own Holiday cocktail. If you can’t schedule 12 things to do in the month of December, then choose 12 dates – 1 for each month of the new year and schedule them on your calendar. How about a passport to love? A year of romantic date nights that involve different cultures from around the world. Example go out to an Italian restaurant or cook Italian accompanied with Italian wine. Have rum and a Caribbean dish the next month, followed by Greek, French, etc. You get the idea – be creative – the goal is to make sure you are setting time aside for one another.
In Europe during medieval times, “biscuits” (which we know as cookies) were made out of cinnamon, ginger, almonds and dried fruit–spices which had been newly introduced to the Europeans at that time. By the 1500’s many countries in Europe including Germany, Norway and Sweden, each had their own favorite biscuit recipes that they made during the holiday season. The Dutch and Germans are said to be responsible for the first cookie cutters and they were made available to American markets between the late 1800’s and the early 1900s. Cookies that were made using cookie cutters, were originally designed to hang on the Christmas tree. Many of the Christmas cookies that Americans make today originated in different countries around the world. Examples of these are English Toffee Squares, Russian Tea Cakes, Mexican Wedding Cakes, Linzer cookies from Austria, gingerbread from Germany and Biscotti from Italy. Leaving cookies for Santa is a tradition that started in America in the 1930’s. This tradition is also believed to have come from Western Germany when people decorated their trees with cookies and fruit and St Nicholas would eat cookies from the tree. Giving cookies as gifts as well as cookie exchanges at Christmas parties have also become another fun holiday tradition.
Holiday Traditions You can start: You are never too old to enjoy Christmas cookies with coffee, tea, milk or hot chocolate. The aroma fills the air and helps put you both in a holiday mood. If you don’t feel like baking, how about a Hot Chocolate bar? Have toppings such as whipped cream, marshmallows, candy canes, sprinkles, coconut, caramel, cinnamon sticks and even your favorite liquor in order to make the perfect cup of hot chocolate. If you are watching your waist line, then consider decorating a Gingerbread house together.
Christmas Stockings: Legend has it that there once was a father who was going to have to sell some of his daughters into slavery. St. Nicholas heard of their story and went by their house to help. He looked through the window and saw stockings that had been washed and were hung to dry by the fireplace. He threw 3 bags of gold down the chimney, and it is said the gold fell into each stocking, hence starting the tradition of stocking stuffers. There are many stories such as this about St. Nicholas who spent his life helping others and trying to inspire everyone to do the same.
Holiday Traditions You can start: Purchase stockings with your names on them or your favorite characters. Fill them with inexpensive candy, lip balm, a coffee mug, a framed photo of the 2 of you, a magazine subscriptions, love notes or hand made coupons good for something you will do for one another like coupons for kisses, hugs, massages or even a car wash. Remember it’s the thought that counts.
Keep Christ in Christmas: Let’s not forgot the true meaning of Christmas.
Holiday Traditions You can start: Volunteer your time together or go choose a child for the Angel Giving Tree and shop together. Engage in random acts of kindness. Help a neighbor, deliver fresh baked cookies to the local fire station. Donate to a favorite charity or cause. Clean out your closet and donate clothes to a local church. Include religious Christmas songs in your play list. Silent Night, Ave Maria, Away in a Manger, Joy to the World, O Holy Night, O Come All Ye Faithful, When Love Was Born are all good options available through various singers.
Other Holiday Traditions You can start:
- Wear matching Christmas pajamas.
- Plan Christmas breakfast together. It would be great if both of you cook a dish, but if you are short on time, you can do easy things. One popular option is to buy cinnamon rolls and stack them up like a Christmas tree and bake them in the morning.
- Visit a tree lighting in your city or town or drive around neighborhoods looking at lights.
- Roast marshmallows to make s’mores.
- Open one small gift on Christmas Eve.
- Take a picture with Santa together.
- Shop for ugly sweater or take an old sweater out of the closet with some glue and create your own.
Whatever you choose to do remember the key is to spend time with one another.
We wish you all a very happy and blessed holiday season.