There are certain Christmas symbols you really only have to glance at once to find yourself filled with the festive cheer. Christmas trees, mistletoe, candy canes and so on – all the kinds of iconic sights that add to the magic of Christmas.
But have you ever asked yourself – where exactly did these symbols come from? After all, they must have originated from somewhere…right?
Used all over the world as pretty much the perfect excuse to steal a kiss or two, the origins of mistletoe date back as far as the fifth century. According to Norse legend, the deceitful god Loki used mistletoe to create an arrow which he then used to kill a young god named Balder. His mother’s tears were what then became the white berries which grow on mistletoe plants – each symbolizing her love for her son. Ever since, mistletoe has been seen as a symbol of love and devotion, though for some reason it only seems to come out at Christmas!
Can you honestly imagine the festive season without Christmas trees? The exact origins of the classic Christmas tree we know and love today are something of a mystery. However, plants and trees that survived through the harshest winter months have been decorated during the winter for thousands of years, long before Christmas itself existed. So it’s highly likely that it is simply a case of this particular winter tradition having been adopted by those celebrating Christmas worldwide.
The true origin of Santa clause is of course Saint Nicholas – the favourite saint of the Dutch for many centuries who they refer to in their native language as Sinter Klaas. Which explains how we came up with our name for him. Contrary to popular belief, it was actually December 6th that was originally the day Santa Claus would supposedly visit to deliver either punishments or presents, depending on how the children had behaved. It was much later that Santa Claus became part of Christmas itself for millions of people all over the world.
Once again, we have Santa Claus to thank for this particular tradition as well. Not to mention, the poor father of three daughters who could not afford to pay for them to marry. While riding through their village, Saint Nicholas became aware of the problem and decided to help. Knowing that the man would refuse to accept donations from others, he is said to have climbed down the chimney, found three stockings that were hung out to dry and placed a bag of gold in each of them. And of course, that’s also where the legend of Santa visiting our homes via the chimney originates from.
Last but not least, the story of the candy cane began in Germany in the year 1670. Desperate for a means by which to keep kids in church entertained and quiet throughout the Christmas period, a local merchant was asked to make a whole bunch of cheap candies. And in order to get away with handing them out during a religious service, they had to be made curved at the top, so as to look a little more like a shepherd’s crook. In doing so, they became a symbol of not only Christmas, but also Christianity and were therefore deemed acceptable in religious settings.