The History Behind Christmas Traditions

Santa Claus - Grand Rapids, MI
Christmas is a holiday rich with tradition.

Everything has to start somewhere, so have you ever been curious about the history behind Christmas traditions? Here’s the scoop on some of the most basic Christmas customs.

“Xmas”

Some people think it slanderous to shorten “Christmas” with “Xmas.” But contrary to a common belief, the “X” is not meant to remove the word “Christ” from the name. It’s simply portraying it in a different language. The X stands for the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter in the Greek word for Christ. Xmas has been used, essentially, as an alternate spelling for Christmas since the 16th century.

Christmas Tree, Wreath, and the Cause for Celebration

People were celebrating with feasts and parties in late December before Christianity was an established religion. Thus, many Christian traditions come from pre-Christian religions. Early Romans, for instance, celebrated the winter solstice around December 21. As the shortest day of the year, winter solstice represents a turning point in the cold season. Before electricity or heat, winter was especially challenging, and to know that spring and summer were coming was a cause for celebration. Evergreen trees and wreaths were brought inside each winter as a reminder that the earth would bloom again. These trees were also thought to ward off ghosts, witches, and sickness.

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