Putting up a Christmas tree and adorning it with colorful ornaments, hanging stockings by the fire with care and filling them with gifts galore, and hanging mistletoe on the bough and kissing beneath it are all time-honored Christmas decorating ideas/traditions that many people adhere to. But have you ever thought about why we do these things or where the traditions began? We have! So come with us and explore the history and the “why” behind some of our most popular Christmas decor.
Christmas Decorating Ideas and Their Origins
In an interesting turn of events, many Christmas decorating ideas have pre-Christianity/pre-Christmas beginnings. Christmas trees, stockings and mistletoe date back to ancient times. Of course, the modern-day idea of Christmas decorations is quite different than their ancient past. Here’s what we discovered about the “why” behind it all.
Why Do We Put Up A Christmas Tree?
Evergreen trees remain green all year. For ancient civilizations, those trees symbolize life and were believed to hold mythical powers. The origins of the Christmas tree trace back to Ancient Egypt and Rome. Egyptians celebrated the winter solstice with green palm decoration to honor the sun god, Ra. It symbolized life over death and that the sun would return after the long winter, and with him, return life to the other plants and trees. At the winter solstice, Romans celebrated Saturn, the god of agriculture. The solstice meant farms and orchards would soon begin to bloom so Romans decorated with evergreen boughs in their homes and temples as a sign of everlasting life.
However, these traditions are a far cry from today’s modern Christmas tree. Sixteenth-century Germany stakes claim to popularizing the Christmas tree as we know it today. Devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes during the Christmas season. Martin Luther, a well-known minister at the time, is the first person to decorate his Christmas tree with candles. While walking home, he noticed the stars twinkling among the evergreen trees and was awed. He wanted to recreate the beauty for his family and wired his tree’s branches with candles, paving the way for today’s LED Christmas tree lights.
Why Do We Hang Christmas Stockings?
A Christmas stocking hanging from a mantel awaiting gifts to be stuffed inside? It may seem a bit strange when you stop to think about it. But the origins behind the Christmas mantel decoration demonstrates what the season is all about! (And if you’ve seen “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” a 1970s classic, this story may seem familiar.)
There are many different versions of this tale, but they all start with laundry hanging by the fire to dry, a poor family and a gift from a man known as Saint Nicholas. Folklore states that a widower and his three daughters were very poor but very proud and would not likely accept gifts. Saint Nicholas knew help was needed so he decided to toss three bags of gold coins down the family’s chimney. Their laundry was hung up to dry and the coins landed in the girls’ stockings. On Christmas morning, the girls found the gold gifts and a tradition was born. It’s popular for some cultures to symbolize the golden gifts by placing oranges in their children’s Christmas stockings.
Some people believe the tradition of hanging stockings as Christmas decorating ideas has nothing to do with this tale at all. Its roots rest in Norse mythology. To celebrate the winter solstice, children left shoes with carrots, straw, and sugar for Sleipnir, the eight-legged horse of god Odin. He would reward their kindness by filling the shoes with gifts and candy.
No matter where this Christmas decorating idea began, it remains popular to this day!
Why Do We Hang Mistletoe?
Norse mythology strikes again! Frigga, the goddess of love and marriage, made all of the plants and animals of Earth promise not to hurt her son, Baldur. But she forgot to ask mistletoe. Loki, the god of mischief, used a spear made of mistletoe to kill Baldur. Frigga’s tears became mistletoe berries and she vowed that it would never be a weapon again but rather a symbol of love. She also promised to kiss anyone who passed under it. Mistletoe is hung in doorways so that it is never forgotten and kissing underneath it symbolizes love.
Another mistletoe origin story begins with the ancient Celtic priests known as Druids. They believed mistletoe had mystical powers because it would thrive in winter when other plants would die. To bring good luck, they would hang it in their homes.
Doorways often still adorn this plant during the Christmas season.
Christmas Decorating Ideas: Now You Know the “Why”
Now that you know the reason why we decorate with trees, stockings and mistletoe, get ready to dress your home with them!
Whether you believe the stories or not or have your own importance or tale for your favorite Christmas decorations, it is the time of year to decorate. We have plenty of Christmas decorating ideas to get you started!