SAN ANGELO, Texas – With his overnight sleigh ride around the world to begin soon, Santa Claus takes a moment before his trip to talk with Heath Bradberg about his journey to deliver gifts to all the good boys and girls around the world.
Every year on December 25th, over 2 billion people around the world celebrate Christmas Day. Traditionally, Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Nonreligious people and those of different faiths celebrate the day as a cultural event.
Also known as Christmas Day, this holiday is derived from the Old English Crīstesmæsse which means Christ’s Mass. Today, Christmas is a public holiday in most countries. Only about a dozen countries do not recognize Christmas as a public holiday. Christmas traditions vary around the world and have evolved over time. They borrow from other traditions and cultures, too. Over time, beliefs and customs blended as peoples migrated and attitudes changed.
One of the most popular Christmas customs is gift-giving. This custom has its roots in the Magi who brought gifts to Jesus shortly after his birth. Unfortunately, the gift-giving aspect of Christmas has led to its commercialization. On average, Americans spend $700 on Christmas gifts and goodies. Altogether, this equals $465 billion. In recent years, there has been a call to simplify the holiday and to get back to the “reason for the season.”
While plain, unflavored candy sticks and canes existed as early as the 1600s, it wasn’t until 1920 that the hooked version became exceptionally popular. Bob McCormack of Albany, Georgia took the peppermint candy, gave it a red and white striped twist. His handmade candies were given a manufacturing boost when his brother-in-law and priest, Gregory Keller, invented the machine that launched Bob’s Candies into mass production. However, Keller’s invention wasn’t the first of its kind.
Another tradition that blossomed in the United States during the 1920s, the poinsettia’s legend takes place in Mexico. According to the legend, a girl wanted desperately to celebrate Jesus’s birthday. Worried, the girl feared she would have no gift to offer because she was so poor. An angel tells her to give any gift with love. After gathering weeds from alongside the road, the young girl placed them in the manger. Miraculously the weeds bloomed into beautiful red stars.
Evergreens, fir trees, and other plants have been a part of the winter festivals and traditions since ancient times. The first person to place a tree in a house for the purposes of Christmas may have been the German preacher Martin Luther in the 16th century.
Legendary stories about the third century St. Nicholas later become part of the inspiration for the modern-day Santa Claus.
In Victorian England, sending Penny Post was inexpensive and frequent. Not responding to it was equally inexcusable. Being popular and busy led Sir Henry Cole to invent a holiday card nearly out of necessity. In 1843, he asked his friend, J.C. Horsley to illustrate a design he had in mind. Soon, Cole was off to the printer and the first Christmas card mailed in the Penny Post.
Wassailing and caroling history go hand in hand. Originally, wassail referred to a mulled, sweet drink. It came to be known as going from house to house during winter months and eventually as caroling. The carolers are often given hot beverages to drink to keep them warm as they travel.
A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was published on December 19, 1843, and tells the story of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge. So popular was the novella, the first theatre production took place within weeks of its publication. Since then, films, stage, and novels have presented a variety of adaptations much to the audiences’ delight.
The American tradition of eating – or giving – fruitcake at Christmas is somehow connected to the Victorian tradition of serving Christmas pudding. Both are molded, but that’s about where the similarities end.