Holiday traditions carry deeper meaning

Every Christmas, people around the world put up Christmas lights, decorate the Christmas tree, and send out holiday greeting cards. We’ve grown up with these traditions, but don’t know where they came from. The Milestone Online looked into the origin of many Christmas traditions.

Christmas Lights

According to, the tradition of putting up Christmas lights dates back to the 17th century when Germans attached small candles to the branches of a Christmas tree. In the span of about two centuries, the tradition was established through Eastern Europe. However, the first Christmas tree was lit using electricity in 1882. Edward Johnson, an associate of Thomas Edison, lit a tree with 80 small electric light bulbs. From there, the tradition of Christmas lights continued and is now used on houses, bushes, and inside many homes.

Christmas Trees

Although there are many claims of historical origin, the fir tree has a long association with Christianity according to The tradition of putting up a Christmas tree began in Germany about 1,000 years ago. St. Boniface is said to have cut down an oak tree out of anger when he found a group of pagans worshipping it. A fir tree sprung out of the roots of the oak tree, and Boniface took this as a sign of Christian faith. However, Christmas trees did not begin appearing in homes until the 16th century.

Greeting Cards claims about 600 years ago, Europeans began sending holiday greeting cards in papyrus and other materials. However, in 1843, a card designed by John Callott Horsley featured a family gathering together and drinking wine. Other English cards began using a similar theme for greeting cards, and the tradition spread.


Although unknown, according to, the “most believable” account of the origin of the Christmas caroling tradition is from England during the 1840s. After discovering that the prince greatly enjoyed Christmas carols, the English people wanted to impress the royal family, so they began singing carols to them. The Methodists and Lutherans supposedly brought the tradition to America.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

There are many myths about where Rudolph originated, the main one being that a father made him up to comfort his daughter whose mother was dying of cancer. However, Rudolph is a 20th century fictional  character developed for commercial purposes by Montgomery Ward & Co. according to In 1939, Robert L. May, a copywriter of Montgomery Ward, came up with a promotional booklet complete with a story to match the creative character. To read the full story about how he came about, click here.

Christmas Colors of Red and Green

According to this anthropology site, the Christian belief of the origin of red and green as Christmas colors came from the religious meanings that green represents Christ’s eternal life, and red represents Christ’s blood when he died on the cross.

Now, whenever we put an ornament on the tree, watch Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, or hear carolers, we will know how some of these ideas actually came to be.

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