On Christmas, believers attended church, then celebrated raucously in a drunken, carnival-like atmosphere similar to today’s Mardi Gras. Each year, a beggar or student would be crowned the “lord of misrule” and eager celebrants played the part of his subjects. The poor would go to the houses of the rich and demand their best food and drink.
A Pioneer Christmas Christmas, 1876 By the mid-1800s the American Christmas tradition included much of the same customs and festivities as is does today, including tree decorating, gift-giving, Santa Claus, greeting cards, stockings by the fire, church activities and family-oriented days of feasting and fun.
Medieval Christmas wasn’t quite the all-encompassing celebration it often is today, so relax a little. Christmas, the Feast of Jesus’s Nativity, was important, but more significant was Easter, and perhaps also the Annunciation – that moment celebrated on 25 March when God was supposedly conceived in Mary’s womb.
Popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. December 25—Christmas Day—has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870. How Did Christmas Start?
What are some modern day Christmas traditions?
There are lots of modern day Christmas traditions – the tree, stockings, mistletoe, etc. However, there are several Christmas traditions that died out with time. Which ones do you think we should bring back?
An old Victorian tradition was to hide a glass pickle in the Christmas tree the night before Christmas. Whoever found the pickle would either get a special gift or get to open the first gift. The story behind this tradition goes back to medieval times. A horrible innkeeper stuffed two kids into a pickle barrel. St. Nicholas happened to stroll by the inn later on and heard of the kids’ dilemma. He tapped the barrel with his staff and freed the kids, who ran home for Christmas dinner.
Estonians had the same tradition for both Christmas and New Year’s Eve. They would prepare their house for a large feast and celebration then go to the sauna. The steam bath was usually visited before the Christmas Eve service. For the first Christmas surprise, children would get festive new clothes and shoes to wear to the Christmas Eve service.