Have you ever wondered where your favorite Christmas traditions come from? The history and reasoning behind various traditions is fascinating and I believe that they are the things that give this holiday its depth of meaning to so many people. Here at 3 Winks Design, our religious beliefs are at the center of our holiday traditions. As my children were growing up, I tried to teach them that everything that we did to celebrate the holiday, from Santa to candy canes to gifts and to Christmas trees, all pointed to the main reason we were celebrating. That reason is the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. So, today, for this 43rd Friday Fave, we are going to share our favorite traditions and their history AND how they point towards Jesus Christ.
The tradition of the Christmas Stocking reaches way back to the time of a rich bishop named Saint Nicholas who lived in the 4th century in an area near Turkey. He was known for the kind generous deeds he did for the less fortunate. One story tells of how he dropped gold down one family's chimney into the young girls' socks. This led to the tradition of hanging socks by the fireplace for St. Nick to put gifts in them. The stories of his gifts to the poor are of course what points this tradition to the Savior. True acts of love and kindness are given at Christmas, reminding us of the love and kindness He has shown to us.
In our family, the gifts in the stockings are usually small things, along with candy, nuts and fruit. There is always an orange and an apple down in the toe of the stocking!
If you aren't quite up to crocheting or sewing or knitting stockings at this point for your family, Minted has some beautiful personalized stockings that are sure to become keepsakes. For example, I love these two.
My husband and I lived in Germany when we were first married. I remember the truck that came to the village where we lived. It was loaded with trees. We were able to choose a tree right off of the truck. It was fresh and fragrant.
The first person to bring a Christmas Tree into a house, in the way we know it today, may have been Martin Luther in the 16th century. A story is told that, one night before Christmas, he was walking through the forest and looked up to see the stars shining through the tree branches. It was so beautiful, that he went home and told his children that it reminded him of Jesus, who left the stars of heaven to come to earth at Christmas.
Another story from Germany goes like this, " Once on a cold Christmas Eve night, a forester and his family were in their cottage gathered round the fire to keep warm. Suddenly there was a knock on the door. When the forester opened the door, he found a poor little boy standing on the door step, lost and alone. The forester welcomed him into his house and the family fed and washed him and put him to bed in the youngest sons own bed (he had to share with his brother that night!). The next morning, Christmas Morning, the family were woken up by a choir of angels, and the poor little boy had turned into Jesus, the Christ Child. The Christ Child went into the front garden of the cottage and broke a branch off a Fir tree and gave it to the family as a present to say thank you for looking after him. So ever since them, people have remembered that night by bringing a Christmas Tree into their homes!" (Source)
When we lived in Germany, I actually saw some of the older native Germans' trees with real candles on them! It was beautiful, but dangerous! I am thankful for modern lights!
I have been told that Christmas tree needles and branches point towards Heaven, which is another symbol of the true meaning of Christmas.
I grew up with real trees from the tree lot and for years, that is what we did for our children as well. But, about 10 years ago we broke down and got an artificial tree. It is about time to get a new one as this one is starting to wear out. Target has quite a selection to choose from, as well as ornaments and lights, etc.
From before the middle ages, Christmas Carols were written to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. St. Francis of Assisi is often credited with incorporating Christmas Carols into religious services.
Feeling the Spirit of Christmas is so easy when carols are playing. When we gather together as a family to sing together, not only are we singing praises, even when we sing the fun songs about Santa, there is just so much love and fun in the room, you can almost tangibly feel it!
Our family loves the old favorites and some newer versions as well. One of the best CDs that my girls and I love is a collection of Amy Grantsinging Christmas carols! Emmanuel and Oh Little Town of Bethlehem are two of her arrangements that we love to belt out!
Epiphany: It is always great to have the holiday last a little longer. Lindsey came back from her mission to France with a great tradition that is observed in many countries, but not as much in America. It is known as Epiphany, or 3 Kings Day.
When we read the story of the Birth of Christ in the Bible, we realize that the Wise Men didn't get to Bethlehem on the night of his birth. They came to find him much later. Thus, the symbolism of Epiphany.
Traditionally, in France, a King Cake is made and a little toy or favor is hidden inside of it. Lindsey wrote about it on this post a couple of years ago! (Our blog has evolved quite a bit since then!) Lindsey was given a tiny doll (or feve) from a sweet lady in France that she uses to put in her King Cake. One child in the family decides who gets what piece of cake. The cake is slices so that there is one extra slice, just in case some poor person comes needing food. Whoever gets the little toy in their slice, gets to be the King (or Queen) for the day.
If you weren't lucky enough to go to France and have someone give you a little feve, Dollar Tree or Oriental Trading may be good places to check out.