Our Favorite Christmas Traditions And The Meaning Behind Them

Trees, Cookies, and Candy Cane are popular for Christmas holidays, But some people don’t know  where these symbols exactly originated. Are you excited to explore hidden meanings about Christmas? Let’s discover now !

Christmas Tree

The tradition of decorated trees can be traced back to Germany in the 16th century. It's said that Protestant reformer Martin Luther first thought to use candles to decorate the branches with light after being inspired by the sight of stars twinkling through the evergreens while walking home one winter's night. Queen Victoria and her German husband Prince Albert popularized the Christmas tree with their own displays in the 1840s and the tradition found its way to the U.S., too. The first Christmas tree lot popped up in 1851 in New York and the first tree appeared in the White House in 1889.




Wreaths have been used by different cultures for various reasons over the centuries: the Greeks handed out wreaths like trophies to athletes and the Romans wore them as crowns. Christmas wreaths were originally believed to be a bi-product of the Christmas tree tradition begun by northern Europeans in the 16th century. As the evergreens were trimmed into triangles (the three points meant to represent the holy trinity), the discarded branches would be shaped into a ring and hung back on the tree as decoration. The circular shape, one without an end, also came to symbolize eternity and the Christian concept of everlasting life.


Candy Cane

Kids have always loved candy, and legend has it that candy canes got their start in 1670 when a choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany handed out peppermint sticks to keep children quiet during the Living Creche performance. He asked a local candy maker to shape the sticks into hooks resembling a shepherd's crook, a reference to Jesus as the "good shepherd" who tends his flock. The first person credited with placing candy canes on a tree was August Imgard, a German-Swedish immigrant in Wooster, Ohio, who decorated a blue spruce tree with sugar canes and paper ornaments in 1847 and displayed it on a revolving platform people traveled for miles to see. Originally only available in white, the candy cane's classic red stripes were added around 1900 according to the National Confectioners Association, which also says that 58% of people prefer to eat the straight end first, 30% the curved end, and 12% break the cane into pieces.



The tradition of kissing beneath mistletoe dates back thousands of years. The plant's connection with romance began with the Celtic Druids who saw mistletoe as a symbol of fertility. Some think the Ancient Greeks were the first to pucker up beneath it during the festival of Kronia, while others point to a Nordic myth in which the goddess of love, Frigga, was so happy after reviving her son beneath a tree with mistletoe she declared anyone who stood beneath it would receive a kiss. No one's exactly sure how mistletoe made its way into Christmas celebrations, but by the Victorian Era it was included in "kissing balls," holiday decorations hung from the ceilings and said to bring good fortune to anyone who had a smooch beneath them.



Nowadays Christmas cookies come in all manner of festive flavors and shapes, but their origin stems from Medieval Europe when ingredients like nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and dried fruit were beginning to appear in recipes for special biscuits baked during Christmastime. While early Christmas cookie recipes in the U.S. made their debut in the late 18th century, the modern Christmas cookie didn't emerge until the turn of the 19th century when a change to import laws allowed inexpensive kitchen items like cookie cutters to arrive from Europe according to William Woys Weaver, author of The Christmas Cook: Three Centuries of American Yuletide Sweets. These cutters often depicted ornate, secular shapes, like Christmas trees and stars, and as new recipes to go along with them began to be published, the modern tradition of cooking, baking and exchanging was born.

Santa Cookies and Milk

Like many Christmas traditions, this one harkens back to medieval Germany when children left food out to try and coax the Norse god Odin, who traveled around on an eight-legged horse named Sleipner, to leave them presents during the Yule Season. In the U.S., the tradition of milk and cookies for Santa got its start during the Great Depression when, despite hard times, parents wanted to teach their kids to show gratitude and offer thanks for any blessings or gifts they'd receive.