As the yuletide period and the holiday of Christmas arrive, there are many traditions that seem to make this age-old holiday's celebrations more enjoyable.
Although a very religious holiday, many traditions have been handed down through the years. Most of those traditions are quite secular; nevertheless, they exhibit much happiness in also celebrating the birth of the Savior.
Ohio itself has gained notoriety in, of all things, the Christmas tree. You see, back in the mid-1800s, a German immigrant by the name of August Imgard set up his first Christmas tree in Wooster in 1847.
The story itself appeared in most newspapers as a holiday feature.
He was enormously homesick after arriving in America, so he cut the top off of a spruce tree and brought it indoors and decorated it with candles and homemade paper ornaments. Later on, he visited a tinsmith to make a star for atop the tree, and they say he even used candy canes as tree decorations.
Thus, the first Ohio Christmas tree.
We have always heard that the Christmas tree got started in England during the reign of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the middle 1800s, as Prince Albert was German also. The idea itself of bringing in boughs of evergreen clippings and shrubs was to promote good cheer and hope.
Christmas was established to be in the winter month of December, and everything else was dead and dormant at that time. But the greenery of mistletoe, holly, yews and Christmas trees still looked alive and promised better things to come. They also looked very attractive inside.
We must be reminded that not all plants during the yuletide and Christmas traditions are evergreen. Yes, the poinsettias have really become as closely associated with the holiday season as the evergreen. It is hard for some to believe that the poinsettia is actually a subtropical plant and is native to Mexico. Sometimes they even suffer from our cold Decembers.
Oh, those many Christmas parties and kissing under the mistletoe are such holiday traditions. Mistletoe is also a very fascinating plant.
From Washington Irving: "The mistletoe is hung up in farm houses and kitchens at Christmas, and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the mistletoe bush. When the berries are all plucked, the privilege ceases."
We seem to have forgotten about the berries which are white and poisonous. The mistletoe used at Christmas is a native to North America and grows as a parasite on trees in the west and also in the east from New Jersey to Florida.
There are other mistletoe plants grown in Europe, usually on oak trees. Kissing under the mistletoe was first associated with the Greek festival of Saturnalia and with marriage rites. One belief was that it has power to bestow fertility.
Santa Claus himself, or Saint Nicholas, was a fourth-century bishop from Asia Minor and gave gifts to children. In Holland, he is known as Saint Nikolaas. Colonists in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam in New York called him Santa Claus, simply because they couldn't pronounce the Dutch name.
Kris Kringle, another name for Santa Claus, developed in Germany around 1600. German Protestants recognized Dec. 25th as the birth of Christ child, Christkindl, as the time to give gifts. That name evolved into Kris Kringle.
The custom of sending Christmas cards started in jolly old England in Victorian times. It seems that it took too long to write letters. London printer Charles Goodall and Sons became the first mass producer of Christmas cards in 1862.
Some say that the candy cane was developed to represent Jesus. The shape of the "J" was for Jesus or perhaps the shepherd's staff. The white color represents purity, while the red stripes indicated blood.
Holly is most popular at Christmas time. Its sharp edges are symbolic of the crown of thorns worn by Christ. The red berries represent his blood.
Just some of the many yuletide traditions we have come to enjoy.