Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Michelle Styles: Christmas Traditions

Now that I have sent my Victorian Christmas manuscript off to my editor, I can actually breathe again. I have a fewdays left to get ready for Christmas.

In my house, we combine both the British and American traditions for Christmas, so I am always very interested in finding about other people's Christmas traditions. For me, once is pleasant, twice is coincidence and three times is a tradition.

Many people do not realize that even the date 25 December is traditional. In approximately 323 AD, Pope Julius l formally declared 25 December as the feast day of Christ's birth. He said he was simply confirming the several centuries old tradition. However, the feast day did dovetail nicely with the pagan solstice celebrations such as Saturnalia. The Coptic Christians celebrated the feast of Christ's birth in May. So who knows... but it is a long standing tradition. Because the Eastern Christian church still follows the old Julian calender, they celebrate Christmas Eve on the 6 January or Epiphany. There is a tradition that the Glastonbury thorn which supposedly grew from Joseph of Armathea's staff blooms at midnight on Old Christmas Eve.

The early Christian church added many of the pagan solstice traditions to the feast of Christ's birthday to make it easier for people -- for example decorating houses with evergreens comes from the Roman tradition of Saturnalia, the Yule log from the celebration of Jule in honour of Thor.
Some can be traced back to certain people (or so legend has it) -- the multi-figured creche or crib that is popular in Italy was inspired by St Francis of Assisi. Christmas trees were popularized by Martin Luther. A choirmaster in Cologne in 1670 started handing out white boiled sweets in the shape of canes to those people attending living Creche services. Christmas crackers were started by Tom Smith in 1850. And so it goes.

Does anyone have any special family traditions?

There are many ways to celebrate Christmas, but I hope whatever your traditions you have a Happy Christmas and peaceful New Year.

Michelle Styles


Unknown said...

Wow. Didnt know about all these. Thanks for sharing =) to traditions, I guess we have a mix in my house (between Asian and American). There is a mix of food, families get-together, etc.

Although we also celebrate Chinese New Year as well (usually falls on February).

And Happy Holidays,

Anne McAllister said...

We always made cut-out Christmas cookies and then put a thread loop on them and hung them on the tree when the kids were young. Then we got a D.O.G. -- and that was the end of putting cookies on the tree!

Now we just bake them and eat them. And we're so happy with the dogs we don't miss them on the tree!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Michelle Styles said...

I think it is lovely to mix foods during the holidays.
There are so many ones from around the world. When I was growing up, my mother used to make Christmas cookies. But cookies are not so big the UK, so we have Christmas cake (I order mine from the Collins Street Bakery) but my mil makes hers complete with a layer of almond paste and hard sugar icing. Mince pies are also popular here (and contrary to popular US belief -- do not contain meat except maybe beef suet -- but I use butter).
I have recently discovered the wonderful Italian Christmas breads -- panetone and paneforte. Then there are the German stollens, the Scandanavian julekake, the French buch de Noel etc etc.
From my point of view, there are many reasons to go international at Christmas time. And it is wonderful that they can all combine together to make a special celebration.

Happy Holidays everyone!!!

Susan Rix said...

Great post! It's interesting to know that 25 Dec goes back such a long way.
For me, I don't care when Jesus was born, I'm just grateful that He was :-D!
The one tradition that happens in our house (no matter what), is the Christmas tree.
Merry Christmas and Peaceful New Year to you and other blog readers.
Sue :-)

alissa said...

We have the entire family over for a wonderful Italian feast in Christmas Eve. It is the best time of the year and everyone looks forward to this special night.