Archived Story

Holiday traditions we enjoy

Published 5:53pm Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday time is full of traditions. We all know that the number one tradition is Santa Claus and most of us know the origin of Santa Claus. But what do you know  about the other traditions?

Have you ever thought about why we use the colors of green and red for our Christmas decorations? Long ago in Germany, evergreens were used to signify the Earth and its continued life and were a sign of good luck. The red comes from the apples of Adam and Eve and holly berries. These represented the blood from the crown of thorns.

When the German immigrants came to America they brought their traditions with them and they are still used today.  Even though Martha Stewart has tried to change our traditional colors to light pastel colors, red and green rule out as the most popular Christmas colors.

Candy canes are a popular Christmas item. They also have a religious background. Some say they look like the shepherd’s hook, or that turned upside down form a letter “J,” which stands for Jesus. Others say the white on the canes stands for purity and the red for the wounds that Christ suffered.

In the 1920s, Bob McCormack began making candy canes as special Christmas treats for his children, friends and local shopkeepers in Albany, Ga. It was a laborious process — pulling, twisting, cutting and bending the candy by hand. It could only be done on a local scale.

In the 1950s, Bob’s brother-in-law, Gregory Keller, a Catholic priest, invented a machine to automate candy cane production. Packaging innovations by the younger McCormacks made it possible to transport the delicate canes on a large scale.

Although modern technology has made candy canes accessible and plentiful, they’ve not lost their purity and simplicity as a traditional holiday food.

While Christmas cards began to be sent in the mid-19th century, wrapping gifts in brightly colored paper is a relatively new tradition. Early gifts were wrapped in plain brown paper  but around 1890 printing presses were capable of using colored ink. The Hall Brothers sold out of the red and green paper and began selling the colorful sheets of paper used for envelope liners. Soon the Hall Brothers began printing their own wrapping paper. But wrapping gifts was not that easy. They were tied up with string until adhesive tape was invented in 1930.

A favorite drink at holiday parties is eggnog. Originally the main ingredient was eggs mixed with cream  and milk with a little nutmeg added. It was made only at holiday time and now can be purchased already made. It has spawned a number of eggnog-flavored creations from cheesecake to ice cream.

Gingerbread is another popular Christmas treat all over the world. In the nineteenth century it became associated with the Christmas holiday. Eating gingerbread as a dessert was reserved for special occasions and seems to be most popular only in the winter months.

The making of gingerbread houses and cookies prompted the development of cookie cutters. A glass or a tea cup was used to cut out the cookies until  tin shapes of animals were made. Today the cutters are made of plastic and come in many shapes, big and small.

Now is the time to create your very own traditions. A family gathering to make gingerbread houses or a cookie-making party are traditions that make the holidays special.

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