Where Do Holiday Traditions Come From? - Delphi Boston Delphi Boston

Where Do Holiday Traditions Come From?

Christmas wreath for the holiday. The new year celebration. 

The students at Delphi Academy of Boston are history buffs. In researching various traditions of Christmas, we discovered this holiday has so many interesting origins. So, we just had to share! Many of the family holiday traditions that we see during the holiday season date back to the Victorian times. Gathering around the Christmas tree or discovering treats inside your stocking stretch back thousands of years, long before Christianity. New traditions, like Santa and elves show up during the holiday season as well, mixing multiple traditions together to arrive at their current state today.

Christmas evolved around the Roman tradition of Saturnalia, which was a festival honoring their god of agriculture. Today it has become known as a time to celebrate joy and gift-giving. By the turn of the 4th century Christians recognized this already celebrated time of year as the birth of Christ. During both celebrations, the act of gift giving was involved. Today family members and friends celebrate and exchange thought-filled gifts to express their gratitude for one another.

It is commonly thought that Saint Nicholas began the stocking tradition we see during the holiday season. Both represent the idea of gift giving and savoring childhood. During this time, oranges were given out as luxurious and generous gifts since they were so expensive at the time. The practice of stocking-stuffing can be dated back to the 4th century. In modern day, Saint Nicholas has taken on the form of Santa Claus. Looking past Saint Nick, this practice can be seen in Scandinavian countries were candy and treats would be left for the children.

Wreaths were used as a symbol to represent power and strength. Roman and Greek rulers would wear laurel wreaths as crowns. It is though that the laurel wreath connected them to their sun god, Apollo, and his values. Harvest wreaths, which closely resemble the ones we see today, were used for rituals during harvest. These predate written history. The evergreen wreaths also symbolize strength and fortitude since the evergreen will survive even through the harshest of winters. Today, wreaths are common decor that offer a lovely scent for the holiday season!

Everyone wants the Christmas glow – especially during the short winter months. The numerous traditions we see today all relate back to different times of history. After thousands of years of different cultures mixing and sharing traditions, Christmas has become a holiday where everyone gathers together to celebrate one another.


Do you celebrate Christmas? If so, what traditions do you have for this historical holiday?

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