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Christmas traditions are probably taken for granted by most of us! Christmas tree, Advent wrath and advent Calendar are simply part of celebrating Christmas properly. But why? And when did it all start?
Christmas tradition no.1: fir trees
Millions of firs are being dragged each year into our households. I am also always looking forward to the kitsch to explode at home when I take out my Christmas decoration. But this deep-seated tradition has only started 300 years ago it seems. Until then just the custom of celebrating the turn of the year with green branches was known. Christmas trees have developed out of tiny fir trees that were decorated with treats and were afterwards plundered by children.
From there slowly but surely Christmas tree decoration developed during the 17th and 18th century to how it is known today. But it used to be only a tradition in manorial estates! It wasn’t until the French/German war in 1870/71 that Christmas trees were easily accessible for the masses. They were introduced to the sick bays for the soldiers not to lose their courage.
So it was quite a labyrinthine path for the decorated Christmas trees to become part of our Christmas tradition!
Christmas tradition no.2: advent wraths
Advent wraths are even younger. First they were only found in the evangelistic North of Germany. There the Lutheran theologist Johannes Wichert introduced them in 1839. He took care of poor children during the upcoming industrial era in the so called rough house. These kids kept asking frequently when Christmas Eve was due!
Therefore the founder of the evangelic deaconry mounted a wooden wrath with 20 small and four big candles so the children could see how long it still took for Christmas Eve to take place. 100 years later this tradition was also introduced to catholic households and from there the Advents wrath developed which is known today and was finally established everywhere Christmas is celebrated.
Christmas tradition no.3: advent calendars
Advent Calendars have only become part of our Christmas tradition since the 19th century. Sometimes between 1902 and 1908 the first printed advent Calendar was introduced wich used to be named Christmas Calendar. Advent Calendars have the same function as Advents wrath: they are supposed to shorten the time until Christmas Eve.
I only know the calendarian version which starts on December 1st. But there are also advent Calendars which refer to the Church year. They count from the 1st Advent which can also be in November. Originally advent Calendars were only represented in Lutheran households but by now they belong everywhere.
I am always looking forward to the advent Calendar that I get from my husband and make one for him on my own, too!
Why celebrating on December 24th?
But why do we celebrate Christmas Eve at all? It is commonly known that Jesus Christ was born on the 25th of December. Christmas Eve doesn’t need any further explanation. But fact is that there is no proof for Christ’s birthday date.
But there is a transmission that the angel Gabriel informed Maria about her pregnancy on March 25th. And nine months later is December 25th. That that is not quite correct as a pregnancy usually takes round about ten months wasn’t taken into consideration it seems.
Never mind! As long as we are all looking forward to it and are spending a contemplative time with our beloved ones. In this sense: Merry Christmas!