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Enjoying Christmas Traditions from the Past

Christmas decorations at Cecils

Christmas is such a special time. It caps off the end of each year like a beautiful present tied up with a bow!

There are many lovely traditions that we look forward to enjoying each Christmas. There are also some older traditions fallen by the wayside that are worth reviving.

One of my favorites is the tradition of singing Christmas carols, and more specifically the act of “caroling”. For generations Christmas carolers were welcome visitors in the evenings leading up to Christmas. The image of carolers with their lanterns and songbooks, bundled up against the cold, singing on street corners or strolling through neighborhoods is classic Dickens Christmas stuff.

This year, December 20th has been designated “Go Caroling Day”. What better way to wrap yourself in holiday spirit than to gather together a group of friends & relations and serenade your neighbors with carols? You may even be treated to hot chocolate, candy treats, or a monetary token (as was tradition) by a grateful audience. Regardless, the joy of singing Christmas carols with loved ones is a memory that lasts a lifetime.

Oranges and Christmas date back to a much simpler time when Christmas gifts weren’t battery powered. During the Great Depression money was tight and gifts were scarce. A delicious orange tucked in the toe of a stocking was a welcome treat. In those days, strawberries were only available in spring, apples in autumn, and the gift of an orange, this exotic fruit from warm southern lands, came at Christmastime.

The idea of an orange in the stocking is also a nod to an old legend about St. Nicolas – the real man, not the modern-day Santa Claus. According to the legend, he heard about a man who had no money to pay the dowry for his daughters, so one night Nicolas threw bags of gold through the window (or down the chimney) into the man’s house. The gold landed in the girls’ stockings drying by the fireplace and by morning had melted into balls of gold. The orange in the toe of the Christmas stocking represents the balls of gold.

Another tradition that our grandparents enjoyed was Santa setting up the Christmas tree. Until the early part of the 20th century, Christmas trees rarely went up before Christmas eve. While some families decorated trees together, many children went to bed on Christmas Eve without a tree. When they awoke Christmas morning, not only had Santa delivered presents but also a fully decorated, beautiful Christmas tree to place them under. Talk about magical.

Finally, what Christmas would be complete without the traditional reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas”?

Written nearly two hundred years ago, and first published in New York’s Troy Sentinel newspaper as "A Visit from St. Nicholas" this holiday poem has been read, re-read, and published countless times. The simple act of reading a time-honored Christmas story to children symbolizes the spirit of Christmases past and present, filled with love, joy, and family. It is traditions like these that remind us to treasure the blessings of the season.

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