Though it would be interesting to share with you all, a History of Christmas, I thought it rather fitting to learn the origins, or the stories behind some of the traditions we find ourselves repeating year after year. I am from a fairly young country, and we are yet to find our own identity when it comes to Christmas Traditions, so we tend to follow the same example as that of the British Settlers, who arrived in Australia in the 1700’s. Unlike our ancestors from the Northern Hemisphere, we don’t celebrate Christmas in the Winter, but in the scorching heat of the Summer, so there is very little use for Stockings, and Winter Jumpers in our parts, there are also no naturally grown Christmas Conifer Pine Tree’s, as our bush is harsh, and hardy, so our Gum Tree’s are marked with the black ash, left behind from the last bush fire it survived. We embrace traditional Christmas Culture, despite having a different climate, and being heavily culturally influenced by our larger and older ancestors, and perhaps one day, our own traditions of Family Picnic’s at the Beach or lunch under the Air-conditioning, could be perhaps more embraced by the commercial culture that surrounds us. But seen as that is not happening anytime soon, I thought I would do a little research into a few questions I wanted answered, about some Christmas Traditions we still currently include. So please continue reading, to learn through a brief summary, about the origins of Christmas traditions.
Origins of the Christmas Stocking
There are many different versions of the story of the Christmas Stocking, but they all seem to include the same characters, a wealthy man named Nicholas, another Male Figure (usually a father, but sometimes an Innkeeper and other times a Butcher), and Three Children (the gender varies depending on the story). The most popular version of the Story goes; That a poor widower (who unfortunately goes unnamed) whom has 3 daughters, grew increasingly worried about their futures, as he didn’t have enough, or no wealth to offer as a wedding dowry to future marriage prospects for his daughters. It is said that Nicholas, an only son of wealthy parents, whom had no one else to share his fortune, decided he would surprise the widower, and every year for three years at Christmas time, he would drop a bag of gold into the widowers home, so that the father could have a dowry to present at the time of marriage for his three daughters. Different articles suggest that it was a chimney that Nicholas would use, but the most popular theory is that the gold was supposed to be placed on the floor, but because it was so dark, Nicholas made the mistake of dropping the bag of gold into one of the daughters socks drying by the mantle piece as they were sleeping, thus the tale of the Christmas Stocking. There are more gruesome tales of butchery, and theft, although I think this depends on where you are hearing the tale.
Origins of the Christmas Card
With the ever-growing wonder of technology, and the popularity of sending each other a message directly from our mobile phones via one of the many social media platforms available to us worldwide, it is a curious thought as to why we still enjoy the sending and receiving of a Christmas Card. It is said that the Christmas Card originated in the United Kingdom in 1843, by Sir Henry Cole, because he was too busy to write his family and friends a formal Christmas greeting, so instead sent them a card, portraying a happy family, sharing in charitable acts, with the words “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You”. While it was created originally by a male, and then expanded into a business, before it became a Christmas Tradition, Christmas Card Sales now tend to be focused towards female customers, and if you browse the many platforms used for online businesses you can find or even customise your very own Christmas Cards.
Origins of the Christmas Sweater
While I have never in my life sent or received or thought about wearing a knitted Christmas Jumper, due to the temperature in our parts during Christmas time, I did always wonder where the tradition came from? I found out it was popularised in the 1980’s due to British television shows portraying extravagant Christmas Jumpers being worn, and has since turned into a common joke known as the “Ugly Christmas sweater”, in fact it was the most popular result that kept appearing during my research on this topic. It is also a possibility that they became a tradition, due to the heavy knitted sweaters worn during the winter, which also happens to be Christmas time in the Northern Hemisphere. I wanted to know if the Christmas Sweater, was something given as a gift further back than the 1900’s, and the furthest I could find was sweaters worn as skiing jumpers, which became popular in Hollywood due to famous actors wearing them on film. As someone who idealises a winter Christmas due to advertising in my country, I was fairly disappointed to learn the Christmas Sweater was nothing but a fashion symbol, but I hope it is a fashion symbol that continues to amuse us for many centuries to come.
Origins of the Christmas Carols
Nobody asks why, but we all associate Christmas with Christmas Carols, even though some of us enjoy the merry songs all year through, others would have away with them if they could. The Christmas Holiday is celebrated around a similar time to the pagan holiday “Winter Solstice” and the early church wanted to create a Christian Holiday to celebrate at the time of the pagan celebration, not necessarily because it was the time of birth of Jesus. There were plenty of songs and traditional activities done at this time, and Christians would mirror this, instead focusing on celebrating the birth of Jesus. It goes to say that Christmas Carols originally were about Jesus’ Birth, and the whole event surrounding it, but now they have a more casual tone, adopted from the Victorian Era, this was known as Wassailing, and Wassail was a form of Mulled Wine, thus linking it to festivals and winter celebrations. There was once a time where I couldn’t enjoy Christmas carols, it was the saddest time of my life, but slowly and surely, I was able to enjoy them again, and the past is there to remind me about the joy singing a Christmas Carol can bring.
I hope you enjoyed this post… I am about to board a flight to Hong Kong, and then another to the United States of America, 36 HOURS OF TRAVEL! I will see you again next week with another blog post, as I rush off to board my flight! Below you can find some references I used for my research, in case you wanted to do some further reading on these fun Christmas traditions.
Forbes, B. (2007). From Saint Nicholas to Santa Claus, In Christmas: A Candid History (pp 67-96) Berkley; Los Angeles; LONDON: University of California Press
Parachin, Victor M (2010) Stories behind our Christmas Traditions. The Priest, 66 (12), (pp 20-23)
Brown, Ellen F., Christmas, Inc: A Brief History of the Holiday Card, Arts & Culture, JSTOR DAILY (2015) https://daily.jstor.org/history-christmas-card-holiday-card/
Cooper, B. (2008). Christmas Carols. In Whiteley S. (Author), Christmas, Ideology and Popular Culture (pp. 88-97). Edinburgh University Press. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3366/j.ctt1r1xq8.10