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History of Christmas Traditions

The History of Christmas Traditions

Christmas is one of the most popular Christian holidays, as it is a celebration of the birth of Jesus. Christmas celebrations generally consist of nearly two days of revelry. The celebration of Christmas often begins on the evening of December 24th (Christmas Eve) and continues throughout the entire day of December 25th each year. The weeks and months leading up to Christmas for Christians are filled with great preparation, decorating, and planning. One of the biggest holiday traditions for Christians in the United States is the decorating of the Christmas tree, while Christians around the world celebrate the holiday in many different ways.

Evergreen trees are cut down and brought into Americans' homes, where they are decorated with ornaments and colorful lights. The tradition of bringing trees indoors for Christmas celebrations, however, did not begin with Americans. In fact, the roots of the Christmas tree are usually traced back to Germany, though some argue that its roots lay in Latvia many years prior. Germans, however, are the first to have brought the trees indoors in celebration, as other accounts feature trees outdoors being the focal point of celebrations.

Today, Germans still celebrate Christmas with Christmas trees; however, not all countries that celebrate Christmas use trees. Most people in France, for instance, have never embraced the Christmas tree tradition and instead display Nativity scenes in their homes. The people of France do share some of the same traditions as those in the United States, such as Santa Claus, although they refer to him as Père Noel instead. Christians in China are not very numerous; therefore, the Christmas holiday is not very popular, although there is a small number of Chinese Christians. Christians in China decorate their homes with paper lanterns, and they also embrace the Christmas tree tradition with decorated trees they refer to as "Trees of Light." Christmas in Italy is similar to that of France, as they generally display more Nativity scenes than Christmas trees and they also refer to Santa Claus by a different name: La Befana is the name known by children in Italy for Santa Claus. Although there are some Christmas traditions that are similar in each country, the main principles are all the same. Christmas celebrations are a way to embrace the spirit of giving, peace, and love.

History of the Christmas Tree
  • History of the Christmas Tree - This resource discusses the history of the Christmas tree from the very first Christmas trees all the way up to modern Christmas tree farms.
  • Trees of Christmas Past - Forest resource experts from the University of Georgia explain how evergreen trees came to be a vital symbol of the Christmas celebration.
  • Christmas Tree Facts - Various facts about the history of Christmas trees, including the first Christmas tree and tree traditions across the globe, are outlined on this website by the University of Illinois.
  • Christmas Tree History (PDF)- In this document, the first Christmas tree traditions in various areas of the world throughout history are addressed.
  • The Christmas Tree - Professionals at Utah State University have compiled the history of Christmas trees into a comprehensive lesson plan.
  • The History of Christmas (PDF)- Within this document, readers are able to learn about all of the history behind the Christmas holiday, including the origins of the use of trees in Christmas celebrations.
  • The First Christmas Tree - A story of the first Christmas tree is told by educators at North Dakota State University.
Christmas Symbols and Traditions
  • Christmas Carols - The true meanings behind old Christmas carols such as "The Twelve Days of Christmas" are explained.
  • Christian Christmas Symbol Meanings - Devout Christians embrace Christmas symbols and view them as reminders of the principles of their religion. The true Christian meanings behind various Christmas symbols and traditions are explained at this site.
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas - Christmas has been celebrated in Christian tradition as a 12-day holiday, and this piece looks at that and at the Christmas carol of the same name.
  • Christmas: Pagan or Christian? (PDF)- The origins of the Christmas holiday are often debated; however, this article discusses the Christian meanings of traditional holiday symbols and traditions.
Christmas Around the World
  • Christmas in Poland and Polonia - In Poland, Christmas is known as "Gwiazdka." The name for Christmas in Poland is just one of the many differences between Christmas in the United States and Poland. Readers of this article can develop a better understanding about Christmas traditions in Poland.
  • Christmas Around the World - On this website, users are able to discover Christmas traditions around the world, including in countries such as Sweden, Germany, Mexico, and France.
  • St. Nicholas Across the World - Here, readers can learn fascinating traditions associated with the beloved jolly St. Nick from all around the world.
  • Holiday Traditions - Not all countries celebrate the Christmas holiday in December. This website details other winter holidays comparable to Christmas for those in other countries.
  • Winter Holidays (PDF)- Winter holidays that are frequently celebrated worldwide are detailed in this document.
  • Kwanzaa - On the official Kwanzaa website, readers are taught all about the winter holiday of Kwanzaa, which is celebrated instead of Christmas by some African Americans and the African world community.
  • Hanukkah - The world is full of people that have different religious beliefs. Jewish people, for instance, celebrate Hanukkah as a winter holiday instead of Christmas. Experts at the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews explain the basic principles of Hanukkah as well as traditions in this article.

DIY Christmas Crafts and Recipes

  • Symbolic Lights and Fires of Christmas - Here, a simple crafty activity is explained to readers to provide them with an easy way to incorporate symbolic lights and fires into their Christmas celebrations.
  • Christmas Crafts - Detailed instructions and material lists are provided by California State University to assist Christmas crafters with creating three very simple crafts: Christmas puzzles, golden ornaments, and a "stained glass" decorative window.
  • Favorite Christmas Recipes - Holiday favorites are listed and recipes are included on this website to ensure that they become favorites for many others as well.
  • Christmas Dessert Recipes - Three holiday dessert favorites are featured here: sugar cookies, caramel corn, and almond butter crunch.
  • Fruitcake Recipe - Fruitcakes are an extremely popular Christmas staple, and following the instructions and recipe provided by this resource will ensure that users have one of the best fruitcakes around.
  • Holiday Cooking (PDF)- This guide to holiday cooking features many traditional favorites but focuses on popular holiday recipes that are famous in the Virgin Islands.
  • Christmas Crafts for Kids - Children especially enjoy creating Christmas craft masterpieces. Using this website as a guide, parents and educators alike can assist with very simple crafts such as felt stockings.
  • Seasonal Crafts for Kids - This website is the ultimate resource for creating Christmas crafts with children of all ages.
  • Christmas and Holiday Recipes - Here, a huge list of Christmas recipes is provided. Each item includes a photograph of the finished product along with a list of required ingredients and instructions.