Every family has their particular holiday traditions that are practiced, and enjoyed, year after year. We bundle up and head get to the same place to get the tree. We bake cookies from the same family recipes. We watch the same holiday specials on television. My family drives around the city on Christmas Eve looking for the best light displays. But there are some time-honored traditions that everyone practices. Have you ever wondered how some of them got started?
Let’s start with the origin of the decorated Christmas tree as its story is well documented. The modern version originated in Germany and spread to the United States in the 1820s with the influx of European immigrants. No one really went all out with decorations though until Prince Albert married Queen Victoria in 1840. She wanted him to feel welcomed in his new home, so a tree was adorned with small gifts, candies and candles. A photograph of the royal holiday tree was published in a London newspaper and the rest is history.
The tradition of playing hide-and-seek with the Christmas Pickle ornament is one of the strangest modern holiday customs and no one is really sure how it began. As decorating the tree became more common, the American Woolworth stores began selling glass ornaments imported from Germany. Those that represented fruits and vegetables were especially popular. Perhaps the pickle-shaped ones weren’t moving, so a salesman got a little inventive.
Hanging our stockings by the chimney with care is another familiar holiday ritual. Children without fireplaces find all sorts of creative spots for their stockings, from doorknobs to bedposts to banisters. The stocking is often the first gift that’s opened on Christmas morning and I know many adults who are still hanging their childhood stockings. While there isn’t any definitive account that explains this custom, there are several legends that may shed light on the mystery.
The most popular is the Dutch story of Sinterklass who traveled through the countryside on his white horse. Children would leave bits of hay and carrots in their wooden shoes. In turn, Sinterklass re-filled the shoes with treats and small gifts in gratitude for their kindness. Over the years, the shoes have been replaced, first with real hosiery, and eventually with decorative stockings.
Johnny Carson was joked that the worst gift to receive was a fruitcake. I’ve had some delicious ones and many that were perfectly dreadful. Fruitcake dates back to the 16th century when it was discovered that fruit could be preserved by soaking it in a sugar solution, allowing for shipping. By the early 1800’s people were combining all kinds of candied fruit into an even easier to ship cake.
Whatever traditions you celebrate with your family, everyone at the Bruce Company wishes Peace and Happiness for you this Holiday Season. Merry Christmas!