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12/4/2018

History of our Holiday Traditions

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As December rolls in, all around the Pacific Northwest, people will be set to work preparing for whichever holiday they celebrate around these times. Winter holidays are steeped in tradition, but many of us don’t know where these traditions actually originate from, so I took some time to put together a list of some traditions and where they started.

Stockings

Stockings are a very interesting tradition that has a little bit of a hazy history. Obviously, it's Santa Claus that puts the goodies in the stockings themselves, but it turns out that the real Saint Nicholas is actually where the origination of stockings began. Around the 4th century, Saint Nicholas would give charitable donations to children around his town, including homemade food, clothes and furniture.

In the Scandinavian countries, they still held their Pagan beliefs, so children would leave their shoes full of straw or carrots for Odin’s horse Sleipnir. After treating the horse, Odin would leave candy or treats for the children as a reward.

Wreaths

Wreaths originated in southern Europe, more specifically in the Etruscan Empire, a powerful civilization, located near modern day Tuscany. The wreaths often held thin metal leaves as well and were worn as crowns, first by Etruscan rulers, and the tradition was continued by ancient Greek and Roman rulers.

The harvest wreath is more closely associated with the wreaths that we know and love today. In ancient Greece, the harvest wreath was a sacred amulet that used wheat or other harvested plants wrapped in a wreath and then hung on the door year-round. It was hoped that the wreaths would protect against crop failure and plagues.

Dreidels

There are many tales of the Dreidel having a deep and complex meaning behind it. Some say it was used to fool the Greeks if Jews were caught studying the Torah. Others speculated that each of the sides represented the four kingdoms that tried to destroy the Jewish people; N-Nebuchadnetzar-Babylon; H-Haman-Persia; G-Gog-Greece; and S-Seir-Rome.

In reality, the Dreidel has doppelgängers all over the continent of Europe. In Germany the top is called “Trundl”, in England and Ireland, the game is called “Teetotum”, and in all of these places, the rules are the same. Really the Dreidel is much more widespread than just a game to play during Hanukkah.

Gingerbread

The first known gingerbread recipe originated from Greece in 2400 BC believe it or not, making gingerbread itself over 3500 years old! Chinese recipes were developed around the 10th century and by the late Middle Ages, Europeans had their hands on a recipe, as well as the ingredients.

Up until about the 16th century, gingerbread was mainly used as elaborate cookie designs and its structural prowess had yet to be recognized. After the Brothers Grimm wrote the stories of Hansel and Gretel, where there is a whole house made of sweets, the popularity of the gingerbread house skyrocketed.

Here at Greene Realty, we have a gingerbread house contest every year, but don‚Äôt expect any of us to be making a full sized one like in Hansel and Gretel, the roof would never pass inspection... Anyway, whatever your family‚Äôs holiday traditions are, we hope that you enjoy all of them. Happy holidays from all of us at Greene Realty!

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