Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas: America's Immigrant Mash-Up Holiday

I hope you are enjoying the Christmas season this year.  With temperatures where they are, I feel like I should put the yule log away and break out the clovers and leprechaun decorations.  Speaking of Irish things, I wanted to take a look at our Christmas traditions just to put them in perspective.

Interestingly, since the Native Americans had no Christmas traditions of their own, all of our traditions have come from other countries. What we have today is a potpourri of holiday practices from everywhere on Earth. It's quite an interesting history. Let's take a look at the time and origin of some of our favorite Christmas symbols:

1. The Candy Cane                Germany     1600's  
2. The Twelve Days of Christmas  England     1500's
3. Christmas Carols              Italy       1200's
4. Stockings                     Europe      1300's              
5. The Christmas Tree            Germany     1500's
6. Gift Giving                   America     1880's
7. Wreath                        Germany     1500's
8. Poinsetta                     Mexico      1830's
9. Mistletoe                     England     1700's
10. Rudolph the Reindeer         America     1940's
11. North Pole Legend            America     1880's

As you can see, many of our holiday traditions descend from Northern Europe.  Also interesting is that most of the German traditions stem from ancient pagan practices re-adapted for Christian meaning.

So how did all these traditions get to America?  Immigration.  The melting pot has produced quite an eclectic mix for us all to enjoy.  With current immigration trends and pop culture's knack for creating new icons, what Christmas traditions will be in store for our grandchildren?  Let me offer a couple alternative visions of the future:

Be sure to enjoy your Christmas Holiday (or Hanukkah for our Jewish friends) and God Bless!


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