The Story of Our Christmas Traditions

Elie Yates, Staff

We all know the story of Christmas from thousands of years ago, Jesus was born on Christmas night in the town of Bethlehem and the holiday arose to celebrate his birth. But, have you ever wondered were our modern traditions come from? Things like the Christmas tree, giving gifts, or even Santa Claus were never part of the original Christian holiday. So why did these common practices come around to our society?

Christmas is a big deal in America, 90% of the population celebrates Christmas and over 1 trillion American dollars are dedicated to the holiday. But, Christmas wasn’t even created a national holiday until 1870. What took so long? Before even Jesus was born, many people celebrated the Winter Solstice as an end to the darkest days of the year. In the fourth century, church officials decided they should celebrate Jesus’s birth, they just didn’t know when it was.  Pope Julius l, decided to choose December 25th and the tradition had spread across Europe by the 6th century. When the pilgrims came to America, they did not bring Christmas over with them. In some places the holiday was even outlawed, like Boston. Some other towns such as Jamestown celebrated, but it wasn‘t until the mid 19th century when Christmas really caught on in America. Americans changed Christmas into a peaceful festival all about family. 

The Christmas tree is an iconic part of Christmas,  77% of the Americans celebrating Christmas had a tree in there home last year. We decorate with ornaments, lights, tree toppers, and possibly anything else you could think of. Christmas Tress are grown in all 50 states, even Hawaii! Christmas trees began in Germany, when they would bring large evergreen trees into homes and decorate them. In the mid 1800’s germans brought the Christmas tree to America, but the Americans saw it as a pagan symbol. But, in 1846, the Christmas tree arrived in the states. Ornaments, candles, popcorn, berries, and candles were used to decorate before the rise of electricity brought lights. And soon enough, the Christmas tree was a American tradition. 

Almost every child in America has heard of jolly old Saint Nick, also known as Santa Claus. Saint Nick was actually a real person though, and his figure was turned into the bright red suit we know today. Nick was the protector of children and there is a feast honoring his death in Europe. Santa first made his mark in America in New York, where Dutch immigrants brought their customs over. Santa quickly became a big part of our modern Christmas celebration, he began appearing in advertisements, movies, and even large department stores. Nowadays he is famous for keeping a naughty and nice list and flying his reindeer on Christmas Eve to bring all the good children of the world toys and gifts.