Origins of Many Christmas Traditions

While starting to find the best Christmas gifts for friends and family, have you ever taken the time to think about the various Christmas traditions and why they are practiced? This article seeks to get to the bottom of how certain Christmas traditions started. Many of these Christmas traditions started with Europeans and usually developed out of their common traditions.

Mistletoe and Holly

Commonly found amongst Christmas decorations are mistletoe and holly that are usually found in garlands and wreaths. The mistletoe tradition was started by the Druids over 200 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. Mistletoe was used by the Druids when celebrating the winter season and these plants would be used to decorate their houses in order to ward off evil and invite good fortune into the home with these plants. Mistletoe was also used by them for various healing practices as well as for increasing fertility.

Mistletoe and Holly

The Scandinavians believed that mistletoe brought harmony and peace and was tied to the goddess of love, Frigga that they worshiped. This probably led to the common practice of kissing under the mistletoe.

During the Victorian age, mistletoe would be hanging from doorways and ceilings during the Christmas holidays and if someone was standing beneath the mistletoe, he or she would be kissed by someone else in the room.

Many Christian leaders banned or sought to ban the use of mistletoe because they associated it with various pagan practices. Holly was then suggested as an alternative to the use of mistletoe.


Another decorative piece at Christmas is the use of poinsettias. Native to Mexico, these plants are named after the first US ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett who brought poinsettias to America in 1828.

The people of Mexico believe that the plants are symbolic of the Star from long ago in Bethlehem that announced the birth of Christ and led the wise men to the manger. There is an old story about a lad who decided to go see a Nativity Play that was playing at a church but did not have a gift for Baby Jesus. The boy gathered some green branches and after placing the branches close to the manger, the story goes that bright red poinsettia flowers began to sprout on each of the green branches which caused poinsettias to become a Christmas tradition.

Candy Canes

For most, finding the best Christmas gifts 2019 will not be complete without also getting candy canes. These did not become a Christmas tradition because of the red and white stripes which matched the colors of the Christmas season but because they are associated with discipline.

They were first distributed to well behaved German children that remained well mannered during the duration of church sermons. As time went on, candy canes became associated with important Christian beliefs such as the Holy Trinity and the blood of Christ. Jesus is an important symbol of how Christians ought to behave and he embodies purity, holiness, self control, etc, and is the Good Shepherd. The candy cane represents the three qualities – red stripes, white stripes and the shape of the candy cane.

Greeting Cards

Greeting cards are the most popular Christmas tradition and is one of the traditions that are celebrated all over the world and are customary to be sent with the best Christmas gifts or on their own to friends, family, acquaintances, etc.

This tradition of sending Christmas cards began in Britain in 1840 when the “Penny Post” postal delivery service began. The tradition became hugely popular from 1860 onwards when large numbers of Christmas cards began to be produced. Their popularity was also aided by the fact that the postal service would send them for one half penny which cost 50% less than standard mail. Traditionally, Christian figures such as Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, shepherds, angels, wise men, etc, were predominantly used on the greeting cards.

Today, many Christmas greeting cards still feature these Christian symbols but others also show Santa Claus, gifts packages, wintry scenes, etc.