There are many Christmas traditions and instead of writing about my favourite Christmas or my favourite aspect of Christmas, I decided to explore the stories of a couple of Christmas traditions and how they were brought to North America.
One of these traditions is decorating the Christmas tree. Although artificial trees are an increasing trend, many families still go out and cut down their own Christmas tree. Decorating the Christmas tree is a German tradition and goes back at least three centuries. People say that the idea belongs to a famous German churchman, Martin Luther. The story is that, one night, while walking in the woods, Martin knelt to pray. As he raised his eyes, he saw the twinkling reflection of the stars on the snow-covered fir trees. Martin cut down a tree, dragged it to his church, and decorated it with lit candles as a symbol of the sight of heaven he had seen in the woods. The idea eventually became popular and decorated trees began to appear in German homes in 1605. The Germans brought this tradition to North America in the 1800s.
Another big Christmas tradition is to hang stockings for Santa Claus to fill. This tradition is believed to have started in Holland. According to Dutch folklore, St. Nicholas, the protector of children, brought treats to all good girls and boys on December 6th (St. Nicholas Day). The night before this, Dutch children left a pair of shoes on their doorsteps for him to fill with goodies. One year, St. Nicholas heard of three girls who were so poor they did not have shoes. Instead of giving them toys, he threw three bags of gold down their chimney. The gold fell into their stockings, which hung by the fire to dry. When Dutch families immigrated to North America, they brought the story of St. Nicholas and the stockings with them and made it part of Christmas. Ever since, people who celebrate Christmas have hung stockings on Christmas Eve for St. Nicholas to fill with presents.
There are many more traditions that have interesting stories but that would require more time and paper than I have, but these stories are a big part of what Christmas is and what it will continue to be for years to come.