Main Christmas traditions: where do they come from?

There is a time once per year when the atmosphere becomes magical; when you walk in the street, you can see lights and decorations everywhere, and you can feel the frenzy and the enthusiasm.

This is what usually happens during Christmas holidays in Italy, as well as in some other European countries where this festivity is celebrated.

The Christian tradition requires that, before December 25th, a Christmas tree should be adorned with decorations; the nativity scene or “presepe”, with all its typical characters, should be built; all the family members reunite in order to have dinner together, eating delicious food – that may vary according to the local traditions -, playing the typical Christmas games and at the end, for the joy of the children (and, as a matter of fact, also of the adults), exchanging gifts.

But have you ever wondered why such traditions, like the Christmas tree and the presents, do exist?

Actually, the origins of the Christmas tree date back to Paganism: to decorate the “trees of the Paradise” with tapes, torches and small bells was seen as an ancient tradition spread among many different cultures.

In particular, they say that the fir tree, which is the typical Christmas tree, had been selected as it’s a symbol of long life. The Druids, ancient priests of the Celts, came to such conclusion when they noticed that even during the winter this tree always remains green.

Nowadays, it is supposed that the use of fir tree begun in Tallin, Estonia’s capital city, in 1400, when a huge fir tree was erected in the town square and all the young men and women came to dance around it; regarding the tradition of its decoration, the legend has it that in Germany, on Christmas’ Eve day, a man was so bewitched by the stars shining through the branches of a fir tree, that he cut it down and brought it home to decorate it with candles.

Therefore, the Christmas tree could be considered not only as a tradition and a symbol, but also as a beautiful result of the melting pot.

Moreover, why do we buy presents for our beloved ones? Back in the days, this custom was spread among the Romans, starting from the king of the Sabines, Titus Tatius (well known for the Rape of Sabine women’s myth), who asked his subjects to bring as a gift a twig of laurel or olive, considered as a wish of prosperity, taken from the sacred wood of the goddess Strenia (which led to creation of the Italian word “strenna”, that means a present given during the Christmas period).

Of course, this is about the gifts exchange between adult people only… So, what about the kids?

The character of Santa Claus was born from the homonymous story, according to which that Saint is considered as the savior of the children. Indeed, it is said that he saved three unfortunate young girls by giving them bunches of gold, while their father wanted to force them into prostitution in order to get enough money for the marriage’s dowry.

As time went on, all these traditions mutated and gradually transformed into the ones that we have today.

Beyond the different religious and cultural backgrounds, which all deserve respect no matter what, we deeply hope that these Christmas holidays will mean reunion with the ones you love, with the best wish from us for the oncoming 2018 to find what makes you happy and enjoy it to the fullest.

DP Group wishes you a Happy Festive Season!