The stories behind our traditions

Christmas Traditions (Home Times, 2018)

With Christmas Day coming in a couple of weeks, many families begin to gather together to celebrate and have holiday traditions, regardless of which their beliefs are. Traditions that, even when we grow up and form our own families, naturally we continue to merge new with old ones from generation to generation.

Holiday traditions seem to be an essential aspect of how we celebrate and look forward to the arrival of this important date every year. And it is not about having the perfect family tradition but the experience you share with your family and beloved ones.

From waiting for Santa to fill our socks with gifts, the holidays are filled with a variety of traditions from country to country.

But what are the most common Christmas Traditions and what are their stories behind?

1. Hanging Stockings:

Leaving your socks out at Christmas goes back to the legend of St. Nicholas, known as the gift giver. While there’s no official record of why people hang socks, one of the most common story says that St. Nicholas sent bags of gold down a chimney at the home of a poor man who had no money for his daughters (The Telegraph, 2018). The gold landed in socks hung by the fire to dry over the night. St. Nicholas was later identified by the Dutch as Sinterklass, and by English-speakers, as Santa Claus (The Legend of the Christmas stocking, 2018).

(The Telegraph, 2018)

2. Carols:

This tradition dates back to the 19th century with the Victorian England, where people went door-to-door to serenade their neighbours with seasonal tunes (The Telegraph, 2018). Nowadays, carols are regularly sung at Christian religious services or in theatres and events such as the Royal Albert Hall, where you can assist and sing together with the orchestra popular songs such as Bing Crosby’s White Christmas and Slade’s Merry Xmas Everybody as part of their Christmas as carols (Royal Albert Hall, 2018).

3. Christmas Trees:

Long time ago, plants and trees that remain green all year had a special meaning for people during the winter. In many countries, it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts and illness. It is Germany, who is credited by starting this tradition when, in the 16th century, a pastor from the church brought home a tree from the forest as a reminder of Jesus, who left Heaven to come to earth at Christmas (JPC_DESIGN, 2018). Many other stories are known about the origin of the Christmas tree around that date, but they all have in common that were Christians who first brought decorated trees into their homes. This tradition really took off when Queen Victoria decorated a Christmas Tree in the public eye, and by 1900, 1 in 5 American families had a Christmas tree. Today, approximately 7 million real Christmas tree are sold in the UK every year (BGTA, 2018).

4. Ugly Christmas Sweaters:

Love it or hate it- this is the season of the Ugly Christmas Sweaters and they are everywhere. For some reason, this trend that used to be embraced by grandmas and teachers is now gone common and more and more shops are selling this knitwear adorned with ribbons, sequins, bows and lights. Apparently, this is all thanks to Canada. Since 2002, people in Vancouver gather together for the Annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Party – trademark included (Thought Co, 2018).

Ugly Sweater (Thought Co, 2018)

5. Advent Calendars:

Advent is a religious four-week event that is celebrated in the 4 Sundays before Christmas Day. It marks the period to get prepare for the birth of the child Jesus. But, nowadays, with it has been used by brands for their commercialization and marketing, to mark the passage of December with giveaways and surprises every day (Seller Verlag, 2018).

Advent Calendar (Tastemade, 2018)

6. Gifts:

For some people, gift-giving contradicts the religious goal of celebrating Jesus’s Birth and that it is all about consumerism and excessive spending. While it may seem as something that was tied to Christmas, it was actually something that was done to celebrate the New Year’s Day. And it was until the Victorian era, that gift-giving was moved to Christmas (The Telegraph, 2018).

These traditions might all come from different countries and cultures, but some has been adopted by families around the World and incorporated into new cultures. As it is the case of the traditions in most countries of Latin America, or even more specific, in my country, Venezuela.

Plaza Altramira (El Nacional, 2018)

As a predominantly catholic country, Christmas festivities celebrate the birth of child Jesus. It starts on the 16th of December, with a mass very early in the morning – Misa de Aguinaldos- around 7am that continues with people roller-skating and roads often closed for people to enjoy. In some regions, people roller-skate to mass and enjoy the food and coffee that neighbours will offer in their homes after the religious act is over. The history behind the roller-skating is unknown, but it has been there from generation to generation as a day we share with the rest of our community, without age, gender or economic differences.

The music is essential during the festive and takes place all over the country during December – and part of January- with our Gaita and Aguinaldos, similar to carols, but played on several instruments including the ‘Cuatro’, ‘Tambora’ and ‘ Charrasca’.

But our main celebration takes place on Christmas Eve, or ‘Noche Buena’ in Spanish, where families and friends come together to enjoy our traditional meal: ‘Hallacas’, ‘Pan de Jamon’ and ‘Pernil’- slow-roasted pork shoulder. And when I say family and friends, is not a few… you could meet any person there, new cousins, neighbours, friends of friends; people that bring together food to share among the rest. Following dinner, the traditional ‘Midnight’ Mass with fireworks which remembered the birth of the child Jesus.

Most of the homes put up a Christmas tree and hang stockings, but the most authentic display a Nativity Scene that represents the entire region with mountains, hills, plains with the manger in the centre. On the 25th, children wake up to find the gifts that Child Jesus left. In some families, He comes together with Santa Claus.

Nacimiento Venezolano (El Nacional, 2018)

With the holidays coming, and some of us living abroad, it is a perfect excuse to start trying new things or even continuing with your family traditions. So, what is your tradition for this year?


- Emspivack, F. (2018). The Legend of the Christmas Stocking. [online] Smithsonian. Available at: [Accessed 9 Dec. 2018].

- BCGTA (2018). Press Releases. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Dec. 2018].

- JPC-DESIGN, w. (2018). The History of Christmas Trees on whychristmas?com. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Dec. 2018].

-Mentalfloss. (2018). A Brief History of Advent Calendars. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Dec. 2018].

-Royal Albert Hall. (2018). The BT Christmas Carol Concert | Royal Albert Hall. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Dec. 2018].

-The Telegraph. (2018). Top 10 Christmas traditions and their origins. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Dec. 2018].

-ThoughtCo. (2018). Just Whose Idea Was the Ugly Christmas Sweater?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Dec. 2018].

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