Merry Christmas

Why do we have Christmas trees? Why do we hang ornaments on these trees? And how did the tradition of stringing lights onto those boughs get started in the first place?

The holiday season is filled with all sorts of different customs and traditions, most of which we simply take for granted and never question why we do them. We just assume that Santa is going to show up at the mall around the beginning of December so children can sit on his lap and tell him what they want. We just assume that we’re going to be inundated with Christmas carols for a solid month, telling us of holy nights and animated snowmen.

Well, one of my favorite channels on YouTube has put together a fun little video that explains no fewer than 27 winter holiday traditions, diving into their origin stories. Understandably, most of these focus on Christmas, like part of the origin of Santa Claus (click that link for more on Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas and Sinterklaas), but it also goes into why we have the menorah and dreidel during Hannukah, as well as the origin of Kwanzaa.

Did you know, for instance, that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer got his start as little more than a marketing ploy and the song didn’t come along until later? And that Jingle Bells was originally a song for Thanksgiving? What about arguably one of the most popular Christmas specials on TV: the endless loop of yule log in the fireplace?

Grab yourself some eggnog, hot cocoa or whatever your beverage of choice may be, curl up next to your computer screen, and watch this great Mental Floss video on the origins of 27 winter holiday traditions.