Christmas Traditions

There’s no festival on earth like Christmas. None so vital or universal. None celebrated by so many people for so many centuries in so many lands. Around this season – exulting its meaning and demonstrating its joyfulness – hundreds of customs, legends, traditions, and rituals, both religious and secular have emerged.

Some are as old as the pagan rituals which celebrated the sun. Specifically they celebrated its closer approach to the earth after the shortest and coldest days of the year.

Some are much newer such as the singing of “White Christmas” or the lighting of a giant Christmas tree in the middle of town. Others are newer yet . . . how about the animated lawn ornaments that light up the night or the inflatable snow globes?

And have you ever wondered what candles in a window mean? Why children hang up their stockings? And when did we start kissing under the mistletoe?

Sometimes we can’t be sure of the facts; sometimes we can. I believe it makes Christmas richer if we understand what is known of its glorious history.

Speaking of history: I recommend you also read our History section because the history and origins of Christmas traditions includes the history of the holiday itself.  After reading the history of Christmas and the traditions on the pages that follow below you’ll have a rather complete picture of this splendid celebration.

Let’s begin . . .

Traditions found on this page (scroll down):

Advent Calendar
Advent Wreath
Bubble Lights

Traditions found on page two (2):

Candles in the Window
Christmas Cards
Holly – decorating with it

Traditions found on page three (3):

Seals – Christmas seals

Traditions found on page four (4):


Tradition found on page five (5):

Tree – Christmas Tree

Traditions found on page six (6):

Yule Log

Want more Christmas traditions?  Click here for 7 more traditions along with fifteen delightful Christmas stories, crafts, games, recipes, and more.

Advent Calendar

This is traced back to the Germans and the early 19th century. At first they simply counted down from 24 by marking the door each day with chalk beginning on December 1st. Others kept track by lighting a new candle each day or putting a small religious picture up on the wall.

Rathaus - In each window is a date in lights

The first known handmade calendar appeared in 1851. And there’s some debate over who printed the first Advent calendar sometime between 1902 and 1908. In any case Gerhard Lang gets credit for the style of today’s calendar.

He was a printer who created and marketed at least 30 designs before his firm went out of business in the 1930s. At about this time another printing company began producing religious Advent calendars with Bible verses.

The calendars continue to evolve; some are quite elaborate. For example: In the town of Gengenbach in the Black Forest of German, the Rathaus (town hall) becomes a spectacular Advent calendar each year. An artist paints or sets a scene in each of the 24 main windows. They are revealed one by one as Advent progresses. (See the photo above.)

Advent Wreath

This is a tradition used by Christians to mark the passage of the 4 weeks of Advent. The concept is traced back to pre-Christian times when people gathered evergreens and lit candles to chase away the darkness of winter. It also served as a sign of hope that spring would return again next year.

Then as the 16th century rolled around, Catholics in Germany were using the wreath as a sign of Christ’s coming. From there the tradition slowly spread throughout the world as Germans immigrated to various countries.

The symbolism is extensive: The circular wreath represents the fact that God has no beginning and no end. The evergreen branches stand for everlasting life.

Four candles-representing Christ as the light of the world-adorn the wreath. Traditionally in the Catholic Church three of the candles are purple, a sign of penance. (Sometimes the three candles are blue.) These candles are lit on the first, second and fourth weeks of Advent.

On the third week a rose (pink) candle is lit. This week is known as “Gaudete” Sunday, Latin for “rejoice.” The rose candle symbolizes joy. In addition to these four candles, many people place a white candle in the center of their Advent wreath. This candle is called the Christ candle and is lit on Christmas Day to represent the birth of Christ.

For more Christmas fun, read about this collection of 15 delightful stories I have for you . . .

Bubble Lights

Christmas bubble lights were introduced to the United States in 1946 by NOMA Company – one of the largest American manufacturers of Christmas lights.

These unique lights have a liquid-filled vial that is heated and lit by an incandescent light bulb. The liquid is usually methylene chloride which has a very low boiling point. This makes it possible for the minimal heat from the bulb to make the liquid boil and “bubble up” from the base of the vial.

They were very popular in the 50’s and 60’s.  Today I think using them is considered a “retro” look.  They are kind of fun to watch.

Go Here to read about the Traditions of candles in the window, carols, cards, garland and holly.

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