The Origin of Christmas Traditions
Christmas is the time of year when Christians around the world begin to celebrate the birth of Christ, the very word Christmas comes from the Old English Cristes Maesse which translates as “Christ’s Mass”. Have you ever wondered where the rest of our timely traditions come from? Here are a few answers to the questions of Christmas.
Xmas is a well-known abbreviation for the term Christmas, but where does this abbreviation come from? The term Xmas stems from two prominent languages, the “X” translates from the ancient Greek letter Chi, which means Christ, whilst the term “Mas” is derived from the Latin Old-English word for mass. The belief that Xmas was brought about as an attempt to remove religion from Christmas by removing the word “Christ” is thus a myth.
Christmas cards have been designed and sent throughout England since the first card was designed in 1843 by John Calcott Horsley and issued by Sir Henry Cole. However, the first Robins (Erithacus Rubecula) began to appear upon Christmas cards in the early to mid-1800s. This was due to the unmistakeable scarlet uniforms that Postmen wore at the time, and their increasingly frequent visits around the festive season, the Postmen became known as “Redbreast”, and with the Robin’s real name being a Redbreast, the tradition of producing Christmas cards with Robins on began.
In this modern day and age the majority of mince pies, also known as mutton pies or Christmas pies are now suitable for vegetarians and contain mixed fruits with spice, however, traditionally, mince pies were filled with either lamb or beef, fruit and spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon or cloves. The first mince pies were made in an oval shape that symbolised the manger that Jesus slept in as an infant, with the top of the mince pie depicting his clothes.
Contrary to assumptions over Coca-Cola’s role in Father Christmas’ (St. Nick, Santa, or Grandfather Frost) appearance, his actual appearance is said to be taken from Nikolaos of Myra, a 4th century saint who originally wore robes of red. The Bishop of Myra (Nikolaos) is respected amongst Christians as he had a reputation for leaving money with poor citizens, and made a habit of giving gifts in secrecy.
Elves were first mentioned in Old English and Old Norse folk lore, but are also revered in European and British folk lore. Elves or “Nature folk” were originally believed to be of either light or dark nature, with the light natured looking after you if you were good to them, whilst the dark natured would play tricks on the household and administer relentless nightmares. It’s this good v bad nature that inspired Louisa May Alcott to depict them as Santa’s helpers in 1856.
The majority of Christmas traditions hold only a small amount of truth, although the truth can become distorted over time until the meanings behind the tradition are obscure, so next time you hang up a stocking, or place an angel at the top of the tree, give a thought to the significance behind it.
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