Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Traditions

Four years ago, I gave you all the complete history of Christmas according to Dan.
I covered the history of Santa and his buddy Black Peter, the history of the Christmas tree and lights. This year, I thought I'd bring back that post, with some more classic traditions and terms and explain their history.

Yule Tide/ Yule Log
Yule Tide is basically an old word for Christmas. The Yule Log however... well, it's what it sounds like. It's traditionally a large log burned in the fireplace on Christmas Eve in Europe. This, like most Christian traditions, appears to have come from the Pagan tradition where there was a fire-festival to celebrate the winter solstice.

It seems the log is still burned fairly regularly in Europe, but in North America, it's been replaced by the Yule Log channel. It's a 2-4 hour video loop for a fire with Christmas music playing in the background.

Now if we could only get TV's that has smell-o-vision, we would have the full experience.

Chestnuts Roasting

Most likely, we all know Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire as one of the most classic Christmas songs created. Nat King Cole really nailed that feeling of sitting around the Christmas tree in your pajamas, watching a fire on Christmas Eve. But what does this mean? Is this one of Nat's family traditions? A marketing ploy by the evil Chestnut Growers Association of America?

The few articles discussing this seem to agree that this tradition started in mountainous regions where cereal grains couldn't grow. Like present day humans, who undo 11 months of dieting and working out by stuffing every sweet baked good offered into our mouths, chestnuts become sweet when they are roasted. Thus, these people just wanted a sweet snack around the holidays.

Elf on a Shelf

A relatively new tradition, parents position an elf around the house every night in order to keep their kids in line.

This was inspired by a book written by Carol Aebersold, Chanda Bell, and Satan himself. It's all about teaching children to give into Big Brother, and you'll be rewarded with Capitalist gifts. Just make sure you stay in line, otherwise Darth Elf will kill your parents.

I'm not the only one who thinks those blank, souless eyes are creepy. There's an entire Pinterest board dedicated to him being creepy. Tumbler is filled with Elf on a Shelf having sex with Barbies, murdering GI Joe, and writing creepy messages in sugar. In fact, just search "Elf on a Shelf Creepy" returns 426,000 results on Google as of 12/22/14.

Leaving Cookies and Milk for Santa

No one appears to know exactly when this started, but most people reference children leaving hay and treats for Sleipnir, Odin's eight legged horse, in hopes that the duo would stop to rest and leave treats for children.

Now it's an excuse for parents already high on ham and eggnog to cram a couple of cookies into their gullet, always leaving at least one half eaten cookie on the plate.

Some children would leave carrots for the reindeer as well and it wasn't until I was older that I linked having some sort of roast with carrots a few days after Christmas as the way to get rid of those carrots.

Christmas Caroling

I haven't had carolers to my house in nearly two decades, but I know it still happens. In fact, my cousin and his buddies have a few beers and spread holiday cheer to the suspecting neighborhood every year.

Pagans used to sing and dance for various rituals. The Winter Solstice has traditionally been December 22nd, so singing songs of praise that the days were going to get longer became tradition. Christians eventually took this idea, put a lot of Christ into the pagan songs, and took them as their own.

Christmas Cards

In the true spirit of marketing and Christmas being tied together, the Christmas card was thought up by Sir Henry Cole, who wanted to figure out a way to get the average person to use the post office.

He came up with the Christmas Card with John Callcott Horsley in London in 1843.

Now, any number of services will print up a collage of pictures of you and your dumb pets with the entire story of the past year on the back. These can be most often seen covering up refrigerators until January 3rd, where they are promptly stacked several inches high, and thrown in the trash can.