Christmas Traditions

Michael Boe, Marketing Manager

Christmas is a holiday we all know and love. It allows us to get together with friends and family to eat food, tell stories, and participate in some of the strangest traditions imaginable. Most Americans celebrate Christmas in ways that have almost become second nature. It’s a borderline requirement to decorate a tree, put presents under it, and tell your children that a fat man with magic and a large bag of toys is going to sneak into your house through your chimney and give you gifts… or coal, of course. Why do we have these obscure traditions? Where did they originate from?

Christmas Tree/Ornaments

In the 1500’s, many Christian Germans began placing acorns, fruits, and other natural ornaments on small evergreen trees. According to, many believe it was Martin Luther who first began adding candles to the tree to make it shine with beauty. As Germans immigrated to America in the 1800’s, they brought all of their traditions with them, though it took a while for Americans to adopt the Christmas tree, as they found it peculiar. Eventually, however, they began joining with the Germans to make their homes glow with light and decorations. They also shifted the size of the tree, so instead of being the size of a child, it reached all the way to the roof.

Advent Calendars

It’s quite a common tradition for those who celebrate Christmas to begin marking down days to the 25th, starting on the first day of December. However, according to Mental Floss, it was originally designed to begin following the first Sunday of December. Once again, the tradition began in Germany with people marking their doors with chalk to countdown to Christmas day, until a newspaper began hosting their advents in a regular calendar.

Santa Claus

Onto one of the most beloved holiday figures in America: the jolly father of Christmas. Commonly believed to have originated as a real Turkish monk over 1000 years ago who gave his wealth to those less fortunate than he, many started speaking of his kindness, and his legacy lasts to this very day. The legend has spread all around the world as well. In Germany, he is known as Belsnickle. In Italy, he is known as Baboo Natale, or Bafana. While different traditions speak of him differently, he is always known to have morals and actions that revolve around the act of giving to others.

Not all traditions are worldwide though. Many families create and adopt their own traditions to give the beloved holiday even more meaning. Air Academy students were more than happy to tell some of their favorite family traditions.

“After Christmas is over, my family doesn’t immediately take our decorations down,” said Zoe Bazell, an Air Academy junior. “We wait for my mother’s birthday, so she can destroy Christmas.”

“My grandfather once made a red sleigh,” said Jacob Neasbitt. “My sister and I would always take pictures in it every Christmas Eve.”

“Christmas Pickles!” said an enthusiastic Gail Alberts. “We hide a pickle in our Christmas tree, then whoever finds it gets the Christmas pickle present!”

No matter how strange or  crazy our traditions are, they were forged for hundreds of years in many different countries, and the were all made to add life and spirit to our beloved holiday. Merry Christmas!