Feeling festive and up for more Christmas spirit? Check out our holiday series.

It’s officially Christmas season, ladies, so you know what that means, it’s time for all things holiday-themed. Whatever you celebrate, chances are you have some traditions, and I’m about to tell y’all all about the Christmas traditions that you’ve either indulged in yourself, heard of before, or seriously said to yourself: “wtf.”

Ready to find out when and where they originated?

Christmas trees

[Snow falling on top of a lit up tree in front of a house] Via Giphy.
Ah yes, the time of Christmas, where we quite literally bring an actual tree into our homes. Cute, right? Christmas trees are believed to have started with the use of evergreen trees decorating the home year-round to ward off evil spirits. Germany is actually credited with bringing the conventional ideas of trees into our home. It was believed that Martin Luther, the 16th-century protestant reformer, added lights to a tree before a sermon just because he wanted to, and was so taken by the look, he recreated the scene in his own home, just to, ya know, spice up their life. Thanks, Martin Luther.

Presents

[Little boy holding a present then throwing it near the Christmas tree] Via Giphy.
Presents are said to date back to Roman times, in which those who were poor and struggled during cold winter months, would go from house to house to beg for gifts from the gentry due to severe desperation and fear of death and illness in their own families. It then became customary for gifts to be exchanged through social classes as a religious ceremony during winter, and then in the 1800s, was brought to America where we, of course, capitalized it.


Gingerbread houses

[Parks and Rec episode in which Rob smashes his gingerbread house] Via Giphy.

Cookies and milk

[Cookie monster eating cookies from people’s hands] Via Giphy.
Back in the ole’ Great Depression in the 1930s, a movement began where parents wanted to teach their kids about charity during trying times, so it became common for upper-class families, who could actually afford pleasantries during this time, to bake cookies for Santa for him to take.

Candy canes

[Mean girls quote: “So are you gonna send any candy canes?”] Via Giphy.
In the 1960s, a choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany started handing out sugar sticks that would soon be known as the candy cane to keep the boys from being so fidgety. Just because kids are so. Fucking. Loud. 

Christmas lights

[House lights up covered in snow] Via Giphy.
Back to the pagan days. Before the winter solstice, when the days got shorter and the sun started leaving so early in the day, people wanted to recreate the sun in any capacity they could, thus the birth of lights decorating the household during the winter months.


Advent calendars

[Mr. Bean crossing off a December calendar] Via Giphy.
The first advent calendar was invented for a little kid in Germany in the early 20th century, Gerhard Lang, by his mother. It actually resembled pretty much exactly what the advent calendar looks like today. Lang would then go on to capitalize off of the advent calendar and bring them to the world.

Christmas cards

[Buddy the Elf saying “you should be on a Christmas card”] Via Giphy.
Christmas cards were said to have started in the late 1600s by noblemen to add a little personal touch when their friends and families were far away. Many couldn’t afford them so it wasn’t until the 1800s when they became associated with Christmas and were spread publicly.

Christmas carols 

[Gremlins sing Christmas carols] Via Giphy.
No shocker here, but carols, similar to the beginning of gift-giving, started in pagan times. In which carols were actually liturgical songs in church.

Poinsettias 

[Nutcrackers’ jaw drops] Via Giphy.
Poinsettias are native to an area of Southern Mexico, where it is rumored that a young girl, by the name of Pepita, was sad that she didn’t have a gift to give Baby Jesus, so she picked a poinsettia to leave to him, and there began the association with poinsettias at Christmas. 

Elf on the shelf

[Elf on the shelf brings hand to it’s mouth] Via Giphy.
The elf on the shelf is pretty new, starting in 2004 by a stay at home mom in Georgia because she had two antsy kids at Christmas. She just started moving the elf around the house, the kids loved it, completely took to it, and then it soon became their brainchild.

There ya go, folks. Whether or not you like the holiday season, you’ve probably wondered about at least one of these Christmas traditions. I know I have, especially because I have an absolute disdain for elf on the shelf. It’s literally the embodiment of a stalker, you can’t tell me that it’s cute, I won’t and will never accept it. I guess I can blame it on a bunch of kids, because they were the ones who brought all of these Christmas traditions upon us.

Whether or not that’s a good thing, you can decide for yourself.

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Aliza Schuler

By Aliza Schuler

Editorial Fellow