Where did these crazy traditions come from?

By Maddie Fiorante, Staff Writer

Every year we celebrate the holidays with our favorite traditions. Eating too many cookies, hiding presents around the house, or picking out and decorating your tree… they are customs to look forward to during the season. Some of these cheery activities seem unexplainable, though. What are their meanings?

For example, wreaths are often sold during December to decorate homes. However, they actually signify more than just a plant on your door. In the past, wreaths symbolized power and strength, which explains the crowns worn by kings and emperors in Rome and Greece. They connected their crowns with Apollo, their sun god, and considered the wreath to embody his values.

Another decoration given as a gift, or kept in families for generations, is a stocking. Simple and classic, or extravagantly embellished, the giant socks filled with goodies provide a strong curiosity to the receiver. Hanging stockings dates back to poems from 1823. Legends and stories passed around say that the original Saint Nicholas who traveled around bringing gifts and cheer to those in need, came upon a small village one year, where poverty brought the down the holidays. One penniless widower, devastated by the passing of his wife, could not afford to give gifts to his three daughters. St. Nick knew the man was too prideful to accept money, so he simply dropped some gold coins down the chimney, which landed in the girl’s stockings, hung by the fireplace to dry, or so the story goes. Through this act of kindness, the modern stockings are commonly stuffed with items small enough to fit. Wonderfully, good things come in small packages.

It seems that plants have a great deal of fame during the holidays. Mistletoe can never be overlooked. According to Celtic fables, this plant can bring good luck, heal wounds, increase fertility, and ward off evil spirits. While it’s hard to say what, if any, truth lies in these legends, at least it creates an excellent opportunity to kiss whoever gets caught under it. The tradition of smooching underneath the mistletoe began in the Victorian era and was once believed to inevitably lead to marriage. Although that may not always be the case, a good you-only-live-once lip-lock may be the more favored ritual of them all.