What are some things that come to mind when you think about Christmas? A Christmas Tree?( probably) carolers? eggnog? There are certainly symbols that are synonymous with the holiday (think - wreaths, lights, mistletoe, ect., ect.) You might be surprised to know that many of the things we associate with a "traditional" or "American"Christmas didn't actually originate in America. Many of the classic components of Christmas were adapted from other cultures and incorporated into our holiday in the United States. So who do you have to thank for your favorite parts of Christmas?? Take a look and find out!
Christmas Tree - Germany
In Germany, the winter solstice celebration included decorating evergreen trees - which then adapted into "Christmas trees" in the beginning of the 27th century. These original "Christmas trees", named and decorated explicitly for the Christian holiday, first appeared in Strasbourg and Alsace. In 1750, Christmas trees began showing up in other parts of Germany and grew in popularity after 1771, when the author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe visited Strasbourg and included a Christmas tree in one of this novels. Christmas trees showed up in the US in the 1820s in the homes of German immigrants in Pennsylvania. The Christmas tree was introduced to England after Germany's Prince Albert married Queen Victoria. Then, the custom spread to just about every home in America in 1848 after an American newspaper published a picture of a Christmas tree.
Yule log - Norway
The red and green poinsettia - now a universal symbol of the Christmas holiday, was brought to the US from Mexico in 1828. The American ambassador to Mexico (and also the flowers namesake), Joel R. Poinsett (get it now?) brought the plant to America because he thought the flowers' colors were perfect for the Christmas holiday. In Mexico, the flower is known as Flores de Noche Buena or Flowers of the Holy Night, due to a Mexican legend about the flowers blooming on Christmas. Before poinsettias became an emblem of the holidays, they were used by the Aztecs for decorative and healing purposes.
Christmas Cards- EnglandOur friends across the pond are to thank for the popularity of Christmas cards in America. A man from England, John Michael Horsley, kick started the tradition of sending holiday cards when he began making small cards with festive scenes and holiday greetings in the 1830s. Newly efficient post offices in England and the United States made the cards nearly overnight sensations. Today, over 2 billion Christmas cards are sent in the US each year and around 500 million e-cards (I bet Horsley never imagined that!)
What else is England responsible for? Plum pudding! Plum pudding is an English dish dating back to the Middle Ages. This dish consists of suet, flour, sugar, raisins, nuts, and spices tied loosely in cloth and boiled until the ingredients are “plum,”or large enough to fill the cloth. It is then unwrapped, sliced like cake, and topped with cream. Plum pudding is similar to figgy pudding (think plum pudding but made with figs), which also originated in Medieval England. For we all like figgy pudding so bring some out here...Caroling began in England too! Wandering musicians would travel from town to town visiting castles and homes of the rich, hoping for a hot meal or money in return for their performance.
And of course, this would not be a blog about Christmas symbols if we didn't include mistletoe - which also came from England. During the holidays in the Victorian era, the English would hang sprigs of mistletoe from the ceilings and in doorways. If someone was found standing under the mistletoe they would have to be kissed by someone else in the room -*gasp* a very shocking behavior for members of Victorian society. Perhaps the English got the idea of hanging mistletoe from their Celtic and Teutonic ancestors, who believed the plant had magic powers. Mistletoe was said to have healing powers and terefore they would hang it in their homes to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.
Eggnog - USA!
OK so eggnog may have first been created in England, but it was not tied to the Christmas holiday until it became popular in America. American colonies were full of farms (chickens and cows aka eggs and milk) as well as cheap rum, so naturally this drink became widely consumed. According to reports by Captain John Smith, the first eggnog made in the US was consumed in his 1607 Jamestown settlement. "Nog" comes from the word "grog" which refers to any drink made with rum.