Christmas Traditions: where did they come from?
Posted on December 17 2017
With Christmas just days away we begin to look forward to the traditions and customs that have become synonymous with this magical time of year. Our Christmas Delights collections features illustrations of some of the most popular festive traditions, however since most of these started long before our time few of us know where they originate from.
Thousands of people around the world hand mistletoe in their homes during Christmas celebrations, all accepting that we will be expected to kiss the person standing under it. The word itself is Anglo-Saxon and the custom of kissing under the mistletoe originated in England. During the 19th Century each kiss required a berry to be plucked until none remained and no more kisses could be given.
Hanging mistletoe in the home is an ancient pagan tradition, it is supposed to possess mystical powers bringing good luck and warding off evil spirits. Celtic Druids found it to be a fascinating plant because it could blossom during the cold winter and was known for its liveliness and spirit, and during the Middle Ages mistletoe was believed to enhance fertility.
In Norse mythology it was used as a sign of love and friendship. Norse, the goddess of love and fertility, was worried when her son Frigg dreamt of death and died from an arrow made of mistletoe. He later came back to life and believed no one could be harmed by mistletoe, and if they were standing underneath it they should receive a “token of love”, a kiss.
Today, the mistletoe is known and used all around the world.
Another traditional that originated from the UK is the Christmas Cracker. Usually a cracker is placed on each plate at the dinner table on Christmas Day and pulled apart with the help of the person next to you. Inside you will find a crown, toy and festive joke.
In the 1940s a London sweet-maker Tom Smith came across the French bonbon sweet, an almond wrapped in pretty paper. When Smith came back to London, he tried selling similar sweets that also included a small riddle written in the wrapping paper. Originally Smith struggled to sell these new sweets until one night, sat by the fire he was inspired with the crackling sounds. He found a way to make them ‘crack’ as their fancy wrappers were pulled a part. Eventually, the cracking, beautifully wrapped candy became filled with gifts and jokes and was then adopted as a traditional festive custom.
Christmas Pudding, also known as plum or figgy pudding, has been part of British Christmas Dinner since the 14th century. This festive dessert was first known as ‘frumenty’ and had been classified as a porridge. The porridge was made of beef, raisins, prunes, wines and spices. Instead of the pudding being seen as a dessert it was classified as more of a soup that was eaten as a fasting meal before Christmas dinner. In 1565 the porridge was then converted into a plum pudding by thickening it with eggs, breadcrumbs, dried fruit, and more, it then became a Christmas dessert tradition.
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