Christmas Traditions – The Stories Behind the Season (Part 2)

Following on from last weeks blog post, here’s another batch of interesting traditions at Christmas time.

shutterstock_353595911Kissing Under the Mistletoe

Everybody loves to be kissed at Christmas, but most of us have no idea why standing under the mistletoe gets us more than our fair share. A parasitic plant that attaches itself to a range of trees, mistletoe was first hung up in Druid households. They believed that it possessed mystical powers, which would bring good luck to those living there as well as ward off evil spirits. The Norse culture believed that mistletoe represented love and friendship, and they started the tradition of kissing under trees that the parasite was attached to.

During the medieval period, people began to hang the plant up in the house during the Christmas celebrations and then burning it afterwards. In England, a berry had to be picked from the mistletoe before a kiss would be given, and when the berries disappeared so did the kisses. Even though no longer requiring the picking of fruit, the custom continues and many people still find it an easy way to get a holiday kiss.

Boxing Day

After all the preparation that goes into celebrating Christmas, it is essential to have a day off to relax and recuperate. Even though it is not a public holiday in all countries that celebrate Christmas, Boxing Day is still mostly associated with the season. During the Middle Ages, churches would open their collection boxes on this day and deliver their contents to the poor. Servants were also given Boxing Day off, so that they could celebrate with their families. This ensured that all classes were able to enjoy the festive season, and the pleasantries associated with it.

shutterstock_154974956Red, Gold and Green

Even though there are other colours that are becoming very popular for use in decorating; including silver, white and purple, the traditional colours of Christmas celebrations are red, green and gold.

Green represents the plants, such as mistletoe, holly and pine that have become associated with the season and a symbol of eternal life.

Red is a part of Christmas for several reasons including the representation of Jesus’ blood, when he died on the cross. During the Middle Ages, ‘paradise plays’ were held at Christmas time, in order to tell bible stories to those members of the public that were unable to read.  In these plays a pine tree with red apples tied to it was used to represent the ‘paradise tree,’ under which Adam was tempted. In addition to the apples, Christmas plants normally have red berries or leaves.

Gold was one of the presents that the wise men gave to the baby Jesus shortly after his birth, as well as the brilliance of the star they used to guide them to the manger where he lay. It also represents the colour of the sun, which is an important part of most winter celebrations when everybody is looking forward to the return of spring.

I hope you’re all having a great Christmas and I wish each and every one of you the very best New Year. Thanks for your support during 2016.

Tim

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