History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

05 December 2008

Winter Holiday Traditions

The Season is upon us! Wishing everyone the best, but I know the economy may make the winter holidays a little less festive this year.

This year my family will be very conservative about gift giving. We've tried to donate where we could to food banks, wish-trees, and toys-for-tots more often than we ever have before. At home, we are focusing on traditions...my kids and I are dragging out all those old Christmas decorative doo-das and putting them everywhere. I had to look up a little info about the tradition behind mistletoe, holly, stockings, and Christmas cards so I could answer my kids many questions, so I thought I would share what I learned:

" Mistletoe was used by Druid priests 200 years before the birth of Christ in their winter celebrations. They revered the plant since it had no roots yet remained green during the cold months of winter. The ancient Celtics believed mistletoe to have magical healing powers and used it as an antidote for poison, infertility, and to ward of evil spirits. The plant was also seen as a symbol of peace, and it is said that among Romans, enemies who met under mistletoe would lay down their weapons and embrace. Scandinavians associated the plant with Frigga, their goddess of love, and it may be from this that we derive the custom of kissing under the mistletoe. Those who kissed under the mistletoe had the promise of happiness and good luck in the following year.

In Northern Europe Christmas occurred during the middle of winter, when ghosts and demons could be heard howling in the winter winds. Boughs of holly, believed to have magical powers since they remained green through the harsh winter, were often placed over the doors of homes to drive evil away. Greenery was also brought indoors to freshen the air and brighten the mood during the long, dreary winter.Legend also has it that holly sprang from the footsteps of Christ as he walked the earth. The pointed leaves were said to represent the crown of thorns Christ wore while on the cross and the red berries symbolized the blood he shed.

According to legend, a kindly nobleman grew despondent over the death of his beloved wife and foolishly squandered his fortune. This left his three young daughters without dowries and thus facing a life of spinsterhood.The generous St. Nicholas, hearing of the girls' plight, set forth to help. Wishing to remain anonymous, he rode his white horse by the nobleman's house and threw three small pouches of gold coins down the chimney where they were fortuitously captured by the stockings the young women had hung by the fireplace to dry.

A form of Christmas card began in England first when young boys practiced their writing skills by creating Christmas greetings for their parents, but it is Sir Henry Cole who is credited with creating the first real Christmas card. The first director of London's Victoria and Albert Museum, Sir Henry found himself too busy in the Christmas season of 1843 to compose individual Christmas greetings for his friends. He commissioned artist John Calcott Horsley for the illustration. The card featured three panels, with the center panel depicting a family enjoying Christmas festivities and the card was inscribed with the message "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You."

The above came from:
http://www.allthingschristmas.com/traditions.html. There's more there on the nativity, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Santa Claus, and other, but I've written mistletoe into a 13th century Christmas story I'm working on now and was glad to see that tradition has been around a long, long time.

I am hoping my kids will remember helping us hang goofy colored lights from our porch, setting up our ceramic Christmas city scene on the dining room table, and building the train set around the base of the Christmas tree long after they've forgotten which Lego set they got, or which character doll from High School Musical they didn't get!

What's your holiday tradition? Please spread some cheer and share!

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Blogger Unknown said...

My friends and I are continuing our joint holiday donation scheme. Last year we all brought our favorite book of the year for a present swap and donated whatever we felt like to the kitty for OxFam (we ended up buying a camel!). This year we're swapping our favorite $10-or-under bottle of wine and donating to a bank that does micro loans for the third world (can’t remember the name of the org, since I’m not the one in charge this year).

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fantastic idea, Kalen. I think I am going to do set this up for our RWA's chapter holiday party.

Cool. Thanks for posting.

1:44 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Hi Kathrynn, our chapter has decided instead of our usual secret santa, that each person would donate a favorite book or two and then everyone would pick one.

5:01 PM  
Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Traditionally Santa Claus comes through my Mom's neighborhood on the top of a firetruck with a police escort on Christmas Eve. Every year she makes fudge, divinity, and potato chip cookies for the police department and the fire department and when they come around my niece and nephews run the tins of sweets out to the police and fire vehicles. After her neighbors found out they joined in so it takes a long time for Santa to make his way down Mom's street! She said they do so much all year and she just wants them to know they are appreciated.

My late DH and I started donating children's books to the local library every Christmas from our first Christmas together. I have continued the tradition and it is so much fun to shop for the books!

6:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



11:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Susan! Thanks for posting...keep visiting. Stop by often and tell us what you read/right about, what you love about history! Happpy Holidays!

11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, Lousia, I want to live in your neigborhood! ;-)

And BTW, do I owe you a book from a random draw (you won)? If I do and I haven't sent I apologize and I will send right away. Would you mind sending your snail mail to kathrynn dot dennis at gmail dot com?

I swear, the older my brain gets the harder it is to keep it in shape. Memory fails and then out of the blue, facts appear!

11:29 PM  

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