The traditions are a big part of what makes Christmas well, Christmas. Many families have their own little unique traditions whether it’s a walk on Christmas day before opening presents or allowing the children to open one present on Christmas Eve. Whatever your traditions whether they are sentimental, handed down or quirky and different, have you ever wondered where some traditions come from?
The first documented use of a tree as part of Christmas celebrations is in the town square of Riga, the capital of Latvia in the year 1510. The tree may have been a ‘Paradise Tree’ (a wooden pyramid design) rather than a real tree as we would know them today.
It wasn’t until 1584 also in Riga that the historian Balthasar Russow wrote about a tradition of a decorated fir tree in the market square where the young men “went with a flock of maidens and women, first sang and danced there and then set the tree aflame”. The first case of a Christmas tree being bought into a house, in the way we know it today, may have been the German preacher Martin Luther.
In Germany, the first Christmas trees were decorated with edible objects, such as gingerbread and gold covered apples. Then glass makers made special small ornaments similar to some of the decorations used today. In 1605 an unknown German wrote “at Christmas they set up fir trees in the parlours of Strasbourg and hand thereon roses cut out of many coloured paper, apples, wafers and sweets”.
“In Germany, the first Christmas trees were decorated with edible objects, such as gingerbread and gold covered apples.”
It wasn’t until the 1830s when the first Christmas trees came to Britain. They became very popular in 1841, when Prince Albert (Queen Victoria’s husband) had a Christmas tree in Windsor Castle. In Victorian times the trees were decorated with candles to represent the stars.
Whether you like a minimalist tree with colour co-ordinated baubles, or you love to adorn your tree with metres of tinsel and slithers of lametta the history of the Christmas tree you know and love came from simple beginnings.
Although a lovely thing to receive, Christmas cards in modern life can sometimes be forgotten. With people’s time coming at a premium more and more the tradition of sending Christmas cards has waned. Whether you create your own, buy them in large assorted boxes, or buy personal ones emblazoned with ‘Mum’, ‘Dad’, ‘Nan & Grandad’ and even ‘from the cat’ there are plenty of ways to continue this relatively ‘new’ Christmas tradition.
This is also something that we can claim a bit of national pride for too! Started in the UK in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole who was a civil servant, Christmas cards are British through and through. Sir Henry was very interested in the new ‘Public Post Office’ and wondered how it could be used more by the ordinary people. Along with his friend John Horsley, who was an artist they designed the first card and sold them for 1 shilling (5p in today’s money). The card was made of three panels; the outer two panels showed people caring for the poor and the centre panel depicted a family having a large Christmas dinner.
Although only just over 170 years old Christmas cards have become a big tradition in celebrations. There’s still time to make your cards with us for this year too!
Advent is the period of four Sundays and weeks before Christmas. Advent means ‘coming’ in Latin. This is meant to signify the coming of Jesus into the world. Christians use the four Sundays and weeks of Advent to prepare and remember the meaning of Christmas.
There are several ways that Advent is counted down but the most common is by a calendar or candles. The most common in the UK are the use of chocolate Advent calendars but many people use a paper or card calendar as well as other items such as an Advent train or sleigh. These usually use a drawer to hold a treat of some shape or form. With traditional paper Advent calendars scenes from the Christmas story and other Christmas images were used. Some European countries such as Germany use a wreath of fir with 24 bags or boxes hanging from it. In each box or bag there is a little present for each day.
Here at KAE we are making the most of the countdown to Christmas with our own Advent calendar. Each day throughout December you could win either a place on a course starting in 2016 or a KAE Gift Voucher. All you have to do is login or create an account and then visit our Advent page every day to see if you are a lucky winner!
Advent Calendar – Click to Win