Christmas Symbols and Traditions

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Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas Everybody! Yes, Christmas has long past, but since we are still in the month of January as well as still being in the season of winter let us learn a thing or two about the joyous holiday.

Santa Claus

  • According to the traditional stories, Santa Claus lives at the North Pole with his wife, Mrs. Claus.
  • He owns a toy shop run by magical elves who make toys for girls and boys around the world.
  • Santa keeps a list of children who have been "Naughty" or "Nice".
  • On Christmas Eve, he travels around the world to bring all the good boys and girls Christmas presents.
  • The first drawings of Santa Claus showed him wearing many different colored robes - green, blue, brown, and purple.
  • The modern image we have of Santa Claus comes from the book, A Visit From Saint Nicholas better known as 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.
  • His red suit and white beard were also made famous by a Coca - Cola ad from the 1930s.

Christmas Trees

  • The Ancient Egyptians started the tradition of bringing evergreen trees into the home to celebrate the winter solstice.
  • The first decorated Christmas tree was found in Riga, Latvia in the year 1910. It is believed they burned the tree following the ceremony.
  • German preacher, Martin Luther, is famous for bringing the first, small Christmas tree into a church service.
  • The Christmas tree did not become popular in the United States until the late 1800s. Unlike the small German trees, American trees reached floor to ceiling.
  • People decorated their trees with brightly colored strings of popcorn, fruit, and nuts. They also used candles.
  • Candles are were very dangerous and were replaced with lights because of the flames from the candles kept on burning the trees.

Santa's Sled

  • Santa's sled is carried by 9 flying reindeer. It weighs over 660 million pounds from all the toys!
  • Because of time zones, Santa has 3 hours to make it all the way around the world on Christmas Eve.
  • Santa's sled travels at an average speed of 650 miles per second to make it around the world.
  • The total trip is 75.5 million miles!
  • Since 1955, the American military department has tracked Santa's sleigh on its yearly Christmas Eve trip around the world.
  • You can follow him yourself at: www.noradsanta.org or on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+ by typing @noradsanta.
  • There is also an app available so you can track Santa from your tablet or smartphone!

Visiting Santa

  • In the first department store, Santas were introduced in America in the late 1800s.
  • Department stores like Macy's started inviting children to meet Santa so their parents would go shopping in the store.
  • Santa would sit on a big throne, and the children would sit on his lap and tell him all of their Christmas wishes.
  • Did you know there is a town called, Santa Claus in Indiana? Santa makes special appearances there throughout the month of December!
  • Some children would bring their letter's directly to Santa himself.
  • In 1918, stores started offering photos with Santa.
  • Today, getting a picture with Santa is a special holiday tradition for many families.
  • The tradition is so popular, some people even bring their dogs and cats to get their pictures taken with Santa!

Candy Canes

  • The first candy canes were made over 350 years ago in Europe. People used then to decorate their Christmas trees.
  • The original candy canes were straight and white. They tasted like sugar.
  • They were passed out to keep children quiet during a long Christmas church service.
  • The candy cane came to America in 1847. A German Immigrant named, August Imgard used them to decorate his Christmas tree.
  • About 50 years later, peppermint flavoring and the red stripe were added. Today they come in many different colors and flavors.
  • Today, the National Candy Cane Day is celebrated December 26.

Gingerbread Houses

  • Gingerbread houses came to America from Germany in the 19th century.
  • They became popular after the Brothers Grimm wrote their famous story, Hansel and Gretel. Gingerbread houses are designed after the witch's candy house.
  • People of all ages enjoy gingerbread houses because they are fun to all who enjoy!
  • On November. 30th, 2003, a new world record was set for the biggest gingerbread house by the A&M Traditions Club in Bryan, Texas.
  • The house measures 39,201 cubic feet. It is made of 1,000 pounds of gingerbread and over 23,000 pieces of candy!

Letters to Santa

  • The tradition of writing letters to Santa began over 800 years ago, when children wrote to St. Nicholas.
  • The United States Postal Service has delivered letters to Santa from American children for over 100 years.
  • The letters usually include a wishlist of toys they want for Christmas. They may also describe their good behavior.
  • In Scotland, children may not write letters to Santa. Instead, they shout their wishes up the chimney, hoping the smoke will take their wishes directly to St. Nicholas himself!
  • Around the world, there are many ways boys and girls get their message to Santa.
  • In Canada, they address their letters using the zip code HOH OHO.
  • In Mexico, children attach their letters the helium baloons, and then release them hoping the wind takes them to the North Pole.
  • Japanese children may include origami in their letters.

Rudolph the Red - Nosed Reindeer

  • In 1939, author Bob May was too poor to give his daughter a Christmas present. So he wrote her the story of Rudolph.
  • The Montgomery Ward department store liked the story so much they paid Bob a small amount of money for it.
  • They gave out 2.5 million copies of the book during the first Christmas season.
  • The story, Rudolph the Red - Nosed Reindeer is written as a poem with the same rhythm as the popular, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.
  • The popular book was soon turned into a song. In 1947, the song, Rudolph the Red - Nosed Reindeer became the number one song on the American Pop Music charts.
  • In 1984, NBC created a television special based upon the famous story of Rudolph.
  • It has been shown on TV every year since. It is the most played Christmas special in history!