Re-living traditions is one of the best things about the Christmas period – getting out the decorations from your childhood, revisiting old recipes and replaying familiar tunes is truly joyous. However, behind some of our most popular traditions lie weird and wonderful stories – here we explore five of our most well-loved festive customs.
Myth: We give presents at Christmas because The Magi gave gifts to baby Jesus.
Truth: While the story of three wise men offering gold, frankincense and myrrh is full of seasonal goodwill, it’s not the only reason we exchange presents every 25th December.
In the 5th to 8th centuries, Pagans celebrated a Winter festival, called Saturnalia, in honour of Saturn, the God of Agriculture – the hard harvest work was all done and it was time to enjoy the fruits of their labour. Beginning on 17th December and lasting for a week, Pagans would lift their spirits by drinking a little too much mead and giving one another gifts.
- Christmas trees
Myth: Prince Albert was the first person to bring this tradition to Britain in Victorian times.
Truth: While it’s commonly known that Queen Victoria’s husband was instrumental in popularising Christmas trees in the 1840s, their origins in Britain go back much further.
It turns out ancient Scandinavians were embracing all things rustic long before the hygge phenomenon, when Pagans and Christians alike would decorate their homes with green foliage to ward off demons. Likewise, a tree would be hoisted near their settlements to give a home to birds (also helping scare away evil spirits). Candles (pre-fairy lights) were added to represent hope through the Winter months, and shiny red apples were hung to symbolise the Garden of Eden fruit, later replaced by painted baubles.
If you’re after a Scandi-inspired Winter retreat theme for your home this year, look no further than our Christmas decorations.
- Christmas stockings
Myth: A stocking was hung for presents because most people couldn’t afford any other vessel.
Truth: The idea of hanging an old sock by your fireplace year-on-year is rather odd, but there’s good reason for it.
The story goes that Nicholas, a kind bishop in 3rd century Greece, overheard gossipers discussing a poor local man, who had three daughters and was worried they wouldn’t be able to marry, as he couldn’t afford their dowries. Nicholas knew the man would never accept a handout so, instead, he crept down his chimney on Christmas Eve and dropped gold coins into the stockings drying by the fire. The family was overjoyed; the girls married and were none the wiser about who had delivered the generous gift.
- Christmas crackers
Myth: A bad-joke company wanted somewhere to share their terrible gags each year.
Truth: This tradition dates back to the 1840s and doesn’t have anything to do with the cringe-worthy puns dads everywhere adore.
In London 1847, Tom Smith created the first cracker. After a trip to Paris, he’d noticed how much the French loved colourfully wrapped bon-bon sweets. He decided to create his own version, including a riddle or rhyme inside the wrapper. However, it wasn’t until one night, sitting by his stove, Tom was distracted by the crackle of the fire. He decided his bon-bons needed more spark, created a banger mechanism and the cracker was born.
Tom’s three sons continued their father’s work and later added the paper hat and little gift – you’ll find our Christmas crackers the perfect mix of tradition and luxury.
- Kissing under mistletoe
Myth: People only use mistletoe for extra courage to finally kiss that person they’ve liked all year at Christmastime.
Truth: The use of mistletoe dates back to the 1st century when it was introduced as a religious decoration in churches – symbolising forgiveness and new starts. Later, in Norse mythology, mistletoe was used as a sign of love, friendship and good luck, which is where the kissing tradition started. The original custom was to remove one of the white berries each time someone was kissed – once all the berries were gone, no more smooching could take place.
Our delicate and festive Mistletoe fragrance collection is perfect for setting a romantic yet seasonal scent throughout your home this Christmas.
Make some more Christmas traditions of your own with a little help from us.