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  • Writer's pictureArwen Rasmussen

Origin of Christmas Traditions



By Ken Anderson, The Mayberry Guru, themayberryguru@gmail.com


We are into December, with cold days, snow, early darkness, and Christmas. Christmas brings with it holiday traditions that date back many years. Everything from the familiar Christmas tree to the foods we eat often has fascinating origins from all parts of the globe.


One prevalent tradition, and perhaps my least favorite, is eggnog. When I was a young boy, I suffered severe third-degree burns. Part of my daily treatment was to drink several glasses of eggnog. To this day, I cannot bring myself to toast in the holiday cheer with a cup of eggnog.


As a rich and often alcoholic drink, eggnog became a familiar fixture during the holiday season across the colonies and, eventually, the new country of the United States in the 1700s. Initially, people made eggnog without alcohol, and each region would adapt the drink to its taste. According to a popular legend, George Washington devised his recipe, and only the most courageous guests would partake.


Another old Christmas tradition I prefer over eggnog is the tradition of being kissed under the mistletoe. I especially enjoyed this tradition while attending Christmas dances during the holidays when I was in high school. The romantic aspect of the mistletoe most likely started with the Celtic Druids. Because mistletoe could blossom even during the frozen winter, this first-century group came to view it as a sacred symbol of vivacity, so they administered it to humans and animals alike in the hope of restoring fertility. Over time, however, its use changed dramatically and eventually became a means to get an innocent kiss during the holiday season.


Sending Christmas cards is another holiday tradition that goes back many years. According to historians, in 1843 England, Sir Henry Cole and his friend John Horsley designed the first cards and sold them for 1 shilling each. At the same time, the first post office opened, and letters could be sent anywhere for one penny, allowing even the poor people to begin sending letters and cards through the mail.


There is one Christmas tradition that often is the brunt of many jokes. And that is the Christmas fruitcake. According to The Buffington Post, the traditional fruitcake is the most hated cake. Yet over two million of these dense, heavy cakes are sold in the United States yearly. And if stored properly, they can stay edible for up to twenty-five years. And I just might have one that old in the bottom of our freezer. I will have to check.




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