|In the 1950s we discovered fun and affordable Christmas plastic|
Our families have so many holiday traditions, in each family we have developed things that we hold dear as making Christmas OUR Christmas. I was curious as to how these happened so...
When you send that holiday card to your list, know that the first holiday greeting cards were commissioned in 1843 by a very clever Henry Cole who had John Callicot Horsley illustrate them. Sheer marketing genius, as Cole was a government worker who had helped come up with the idea of the post office and the “Penny Post” two years previously as a way of giving ordinary people easy access to sending and receiving mail in England. The age of steam made it all work because trains were replacing the horse and carriage conveying mail and packages quickly long distances. The price went down even further when you could mail a card for a half penny if the envelope wasn’t sealed, just tucked in. I remember sending cards cheaply a long time ago in the USA too, same thing, tuck in the flap and don't seal the card.
|The very first holiday card, there was a lot of criticism for showing wine, how risque!|
Christmas and holiday cards exploded when the Royal Family elected to use a card to send greetings to their general public at Christmas in the 1840s. Their card with the family Christmas tree on it launched another over the top tradition: the modern Christmas tree. Suddenly, a tree decorated with ornaments and little presents became all the rage and it traveled quickly from England to America.
The history of the original tree is a little cloudy but Evergreen boughs brought in and decorated and later trees are thought to have come from Eastern Europe, as the tree is a symbol of “Evergreen” long life. In Germany during the renaissance guildhalls would erect trees covered with candies for children to enjoy. The glass ornament also came out of Germany and became enormously popular as it was both affordable and beautiful.
|My sister Marji, in the 1970s, the Queen of Christmas!|
The glass blowers of Lauscha near Nurnberg, made windows and glassware and beads for millinery and tailoring. When the glass blowers in Bohemia invented a cheaper process they were faced with ruin and turned to blowing glass ornaments. Frank Woolworth bought a box of cheap ornaments in the 1880s for his sole store, thinking he was doing the salesman a favor and they’d never sell. He was so wrong, they were gone the same day and in the following Woolworth bought hundreds of thousands of ornaments for his growing chain of five and dime stores, launching a tradition that still stands.
|Wouldn't you love to shop this display?|
Interestingly enough, originally the Christmas tree was decorated on Christmas eve along with hanging stockings and came down soon after. It was lit just one time, with candles, which were a horrible fire hazard, hence the one time lighting and candles were expensive too. When the electric light string was invented we extended the tree season by weeks!
|My inherited German ornaments from my family. My ultimate Christmas treasure|
Hanging our stockings goes back to Germany too, and the tradition of Saint Nicholas taking pity on three poor daughters who had no dowries to marry. He heard their prayers and dropped bags of coins down the chimney where they landed in the stockings drying on the hearth, although why he climbed on the roof to chuck money down a chimney has always puzzled me.
|1954, stocking hanging with stockings made in Hong Kong|
I like the tradition of St Nicholas day, December 6th which I remember from my own childhood in Germany. We would put our empty shoes out for St Nick to fill with candy, coins and small gifts overnight. The shoes were originally set out by good children filled with hay and carrots for Odin’s horse Sleipinir to eat. In exchange, he left treats. Pity the parent who had to eat hay and carrots instead of cookies and milk.
In the 1950s in postwar American stockings became specialized parts of our Christmas decor, and because regular stockings couldn’t hold enough goodies, we imported great big ones and filled them with fruit and and nuts and candy and presents. Every stocking has to have a candy cane too.
Candy canes are said to have come from Cologne Germany via a thoughtful choir master who had a local candy maker make sugar sticks to keep his young choir silent in the choir loft during Christmas eve services. They were white to show Jesus’ blameless life and crooked to honor the shepherds. No one knows for sure when peppermint and stripes were added but today they are a tradition found all across America.
|Now that is a tree!|
I find it fascinating that so many traditions are connected and linked to one another in wonderful ways. What are your traditions? Do a little research and find their fascinating roots to make your Christmas even more amazing, its so worth it.