Discovering the origins of Christmas traditions
WHEN was the first Christmas card sent? Why do we kiss under the mistletoe? Learn the origins of Christmas and fun facts about some of our favourite Christmas traditions and symbols. There are Christmas traditions that are practiced by a number of countries all over the world during the holiday season. From the Old English “Cristes Mæsse” – meaning the “mass of Christ” – the story of Christmas begins with the birth of a babe in Bethlehem. It is believed that Christ was born on the 25th, although the exact month is unknown.
In Greece, he is the patron saint of sailors; in France, he was the patron of lawyers; and in Belgium, the patron of children and travellers. Thousands of churches across Europe were dedicated to him and some time around the 12th century an official church holiday was created in his honour.
The Feast of St Nicholas was celebrated on December 6 and the day was marked by gift giving and charity. After the Reformation, European followers of St Nicholas dwindled, but the legend was kept alive in Holland where the Dutch spelling of his name Sint Nikolaas was eventually transformed to Sinterklaas.