The Origins of Christmas Trees, Mistletoe & Candy Canes

Posted on October 20, 2016

Christmas time is full of weird and wacky traditions… many of which we don’t even question because they are engrained in our commercial Christmas traditions… but do we really know why we do some of the things we do when Santa comes knocking…?

Uncover the origins of some of our Christmas Traditions below:

Christmas Trees

 

christmas tree

The history of the first Christmas tree is fiercely debated between the capital of Estonia, Tallinn, and the capital of neighbouring Latvia, Riga. Both lay claim to the first publicly displayed and decorated Christmas Tree, supposedly erecting by the same “Brotherhood of Black Heads” – an ancient guild of unmarried merchants in the late 15th/early 16th century.

Whilst Riga seems to be winning the battle of the Baltic’s with a permanent plaque and memorial erected in 2010, the first individual to bring a Christmas tree in to his home is believed to be the famous 16th century German preacher Martin Luther. Luther is said to have bought a beautiful tree in to his home because it reminded him of Jesus coming from the stars of heaven to join us on Earth, which consequently became a household tradition throughout Germany.

The tradition spread to the UK when the German Prince Albert (Queen Victoria’s husband) had a Christmas tree set up in Windsor Castle in 1841, depicted in the drawing of “The Queen’s Christmas tree at Windsor Castle” published in the Illustrated London News in 1848.

Mistletoe

 

mistletoe

The Mistletoe plant has always been revered amongst many cultures as a magical and mystical plant. The plant’s romantic connotations trace back to as early as the 1st century A.D, when the Celtic Druids worshiped mistletoe as a sacred symbol of vivacity and vitality, for its ability to blossom even during frozen winters.

Ancient Nordic mythology makes mention of mistletoe as the plant used to bring down the otherwise invincible son of Odin, Baldur, at the hand of Loki. According to some version of the myth, the Gods were able to resurrect Baldur from the dead, after which his delighted mother declared mistletoe a symbol of love and vowed to plant a kiss on all those who passed beneath it.

Though just how Mistletoe was incorporated into Christmas traditions in the 18th century is unknown, its origins of mystique, fertility and love seem a natural fit.

Candy Canes

 

candy canes

According to popular belief, a German choirmaster back in 1670 wished to find a way to keep the children quiet during his Christmas Eve ceremonies. He asked the local sweet maker to make sweet sticks for the children to suck on, but in order to justify the giving of candy during worship he designed the sweets with a crook to the end (to resemble the crocks of the three shepherds) and in red and white (to reinforce Christian beliefs in the sinless life of Jesus). These delicious candy canes then spread through Europe while being given out at Christmas ceremonies.

 

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