Being the sentimental time that it is,often during Christmas we find ourselves doing things that don’t necessarily make sense or we can’t remember how they got started. Here are a few of these things with their origins explained, so now you can impress your friends and family with your newfound knowledge 🙂
Advent is a season of preparation. It’s a time to make yourself ready for Christ and Christmas. Advent is celebrated on each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas and is represented with 5 candles. Traditionally there are three purple, one pink, and one white. The candles are usually placed in a wreath with the white in the center. The first Sunday you light the first purple candle. It is known as the Prophesy candle or the Candle of Hope. The second Sunday of Advent you light the first candle again as well as the second purple candle which is known as the Bethlehem Candle. The third Sunday, light the first two candles as well at the pink candle which is known as the Candle of Joy or the Shepherd Candle. The fourth Sunday light the first three and the last purple candle which is called the Angel Candle or the Candle of Love. Finally on Christmas Eve, light all 5 candles with the white candle being the Christ Candle.
The idea of hanging out stockings comes out of a famous story of the real St. Nicholas. It was said that there were three daughters of a poor family who had no dowry for their marriage, so they couldn’t marry. Nicholas heard of this and in the middle of the night, threw bags of gold coins down their chimney. The bags landed in the girls stockings, which they had hung out to dry and paid the girl’s dowry and saved them from slavery.
Boxing Day: In England it was customary for churches to open their alms boxes to the poor on the first workday after Christmas in an attempt to cheer up those who couldn’t afford a merry Christmas. It evolved into what is now known at Boxing Day, on which service people would collect money or other gifts from their employers.
Holly is renown as a seasonal decoration as much for its beauty as its symbolism. The leaves that stay green all year serve as a reminder of out everlasting life with Christ, while the red berries remind us of the blood spilled for out salvation. Holly begun as a decoration in Celtic cultures where it was used as a sign of hospitality and kindness because they believed that fairies and other small beings would come and use the holly leaves as shelter from the snow (as weird as this sounds, I’m not making this up!). As Christianity became more popular, Christians adopted the tradition of using holly as a decoration and they made the connection and symbolism with the story of Christ.
The word “Carol” means a song or dance of joy. Because of this, it makes perfect sense that “Caroling” would take place at Christmas time when we are celebrating the joyful arrival of our Savior. The singing of these joyful songs was pretty rare until about 1223 when St. Frances of Assisi started his Nativity Plays in Italy. The characters in the plays would sing carols which told stories of what was happening. These songs were occasionally in Latin but most were sung in the native language of the audience so that they could join in. Fast forward to the Victorian period and we come to official groups of carolers called “Waits” because they preformed publicly on Christmas Eve (also known as waitnight or watchnight) at celebrations. Now carolers go door to door singing these traditional songs of joy and celebration all through the Christmas season 🙂