Do You Know The Origins Of Your Winter Holiday Traditions?

Why do we put ornaments on a Christmas tree? And why do we even have a tree in the first place? The Christmas traditions that you know and love today have some unlikely, and frankly surprising, origins.

Ornaments, Stockings and Egg Nog, Oh My!

Christmas Tree

It's such a part of Christmas that we never even think about how weird it is to stick a giant tree in your living room. But people were decorating their homes with trees that stay green year-round even before the advent of Christianity, according to History. Eventually the practice spread, and became associated with Christmas because "Christians decorated evergreen trees with apples to represent the Garden of Eden, calling them 'Paradise Trees' around the time of Adam and Eve's name day—December 24," according to Mental Floss. When Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were pictures standing around a Christmas tree in 1848, the tradition really caught on in Europe and North America. Today, 25-30 million Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. alone each year. s felt worldwide, and by 1900, 1 in 5 American families had a Christmas tree. Today, 25 to 30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. every year.


Those apples for the Paradise Trees were the earliest ornaments, and Queen Victoria and her beautiful tree decorated with toys, candles, and candies were the precursor to today's elaborate ornaments.

Smart Graphic


The stocking seems to have come into fashion around 1883, when a New York Times article explained how an increased demand for stockings led to a decrease in Christmas tree sales. Apparently, the "stocking" started out as a simple sock that Christians used to receive gifts, but went out of style when it didn't seem to have the space for packages. Around the 1880s, the stocking morphed into something more festive . The Times article reads: "What was needed to bring about the revival of the Christmas stocking was the invention of a variety of stocking especially designed for the reception of Christmas gifts. ... The Christmas tree, dropping melted wax upon the carpet, filling all nervous people with a dread of fire; banishing the juvenile delight of opening the well-filled stocking in the dim morning light, and diffusing the poison of rationalism thinly disguised as the perfume of hemlock, should have no place in our beloved land. It has had its day, and the glorious reaction in favor of the sacred stocking will sweep it away forever." A bit overblown, perhaps?

Egg Nog

Who doesn't want to chug a drink filled with egg yolk? Apparently, the drink most likely originated with posset "a hot, milky, ale-like drink," according to Time. "By the 13th century, monks were known to drink a posset with eggs and figs. Milk, eggs, and sherry were foods of the wealthy, so eggnog was often used in toasts to prosperity and good health."

Watch And Be Merry: Our Favorite Videos About Christmas

The Origins of 27 Winter Holiday Traditions

Why holly? Or candy canes? Or nativity scenes, for that matter?

Key Facts In This Video

  1. The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree originated when a group of construction workers placed a tree at their worksite. 01:21

  2. Jingle Bells is the first song ever broadcasted from space. 04:15

  3. Wreathes date back to the ancient Greek and Romans. 05:55

More Things You Never Knew About Christmas

The celebration traditions are remarkably different around the world.

Written by Curiosity Staff December 23, 2014

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