Christmas Traditions

Page 2

Here’s what you’ll find on this second page:

Candles in the Window
Carols
Christmas Cards
Garland
Holly – Decorating with it


Candles in the Window

For centuries the light of candles has symbolized the enlightenment that Jesus brought to the world. From the early Christians there’s the legend that the Holy Christ Child wanders through the streets of the world on Christmas Eve.

He is seeking shelter. And lighted candles in the windows guide Him to a house where He is welcome.

Carols

Some of our most popular carols were written so far away and so long ago that their origins are lost in history. Some songs even have a pagan origin which were adopted by early Christians and given new words.

Others started as folk songs, shepherds’ songs or even lullabies. Their melodies so easy to sing perhaps, that long ago jubilant Christmas words were set to them. A good tune is worth keeping.

Several countries claim to be the birthplace of caroling. But actually all that is known with certainty is that music in honor of the birth of Jesus has been part of church festivals from the beginning of the Christian era. The word “carol” was associated with dancing until the 14th century. It’s derived from the Italian carolare, a medieval ring dance accompanied by singing.

There are some folks who claim caroling originated with Wassailing but this isn’t strictly accurate. Although the door-to-door aspect of wassailing may have led to door-to-door caroling as we often think of it today.

Then in the 14th century carols became a very popular religious form of song. And the period between about 1350 to 1550 is considered by many to be the golden age of English carols. They almost all followed the verse-refrain pattern.

As we moved through the 15th century the arrangements became more elaborate; they were considered “art music.” But as the Puritans gained influence the popularity of carols declined and almost disappeared completely. They were saved by the revival of Christmas in the middle of the 18th century.

Christmas Cards

1st commercial Christmas card - 1843

In 1843, in England, the first commercial Christmas card was created. Sir Henry Cole arranged to have an illustrator named John Calcott Horsely design a card especially for the day. It was printed in lithography and tinted by hand. Two batches totaling 2050 cards were printed and sold that year for a shilling each.

Early English cards were printed with drawings of flowers, fairies and other fanciful designs that reminded people that spring was approaching. Other popular themes included both humorous and sentimental images of children and animals. And the cards became increasingly elaborate in their shapes, decorations and materials.

Louis Prang was the first printer of Christmas cards in America in 1875. Unfortunately as the popularity of his cards grew, so did the number of cheap imitations. This drove Prang from the market. Then in the very late 19th century when anyone was allowed to print postcards (up till then only the U.S. Postal Service could), the inexpensive competition ended the reign of elaborate Victorian-style cards. But cards with envelopes came “roaring” back by the 1920s.

All things Christmas: Stories, more traditions,
olde-time crafts & recipes, games
and more.

Garland

Who knows when garland was first used?

Garland on an English Christmas tree - 1900

We do know, however, that the Romans used it as a type of crown made out of a variety of materials. Some were flowers and leaves or feathers, while others were precious metal and jewels.

In ancient times (even preceding the Romans), people are believed to have used garland at festivals. They wore it on their heads, around their necks, or hung it from various objects as a decoration.

Today our homes and Christmas trees are adorned with garland of popcorn, cranberry, evergreens, fruits and other berries, miniature toys, tinsel-like material, lights, and on and on and ON it goes.

Some are made of real food and foliage, while most are artificial.

Rule of thumb: For every 1-foot of vertical tree height you’ll need about 10 linear feet of garland.

Holly – Why do we decorate with it?

Holly remains green throughout the winter, and is therefore a logical choice for Christmas ornamentation. Its use goes far back to ancient peoples who took its greenness as a promise that the sun would again return to the earth for another year.

Over the centuries many legends have surrounded it with Christian implications. The early French and English hung a piece over the door to indicate a house in which Christ abided.

Some say the Crown of Thorns was wound with holly, whose berries turned from white to red after the Crucifixion.


Go Here to read about the Traditions of lights, mistletoe, and Christmas seals,

or Return to the main Traditions page.
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