Christmas is a strange time of year. Aging pop stars release their back catalogues and if we are very unlucky, a new single. We bring out the board games we played as children and attempt to ‘bond’ with people that we rarely have time to eat with for the rest of the year. When we aren’t playing Trivial Pursuit and eating ourselves into oblivion, we’re busy enjoying the trappings of consumerism that have become more of a tradition than the traditions they help us to celebrate. When though, does the line blur and clever marketing make a product become a tradition?
The Christmas Tree
Hardly a tree at all in most homes as we look to LED substitutes and plastic trees that reside in the attic for at least eleven out of the twelve months every year. Three centuries after people placed apples and nuts on the tree to eat at Christmas, we’ve moved on, but not a lot. Apples are replaced with chocolate and candles are no longer a health and safety issue thanks to LED Christmas lights that run all through the holiday without overheating.
The Tradition of Gift Giving
The idea of gift giving or a commercial celebration would probably have made Jesus angrier than the time he threw traders from the temple, nevertheless, Christmas is now a commercial venture that has as much to do with keeping up with the Joneses as it does anything else. Television, peer pressure at school and aggressive marketing have all contributed to the progression of Christmas as a commercial holiday. This could actually be one situation where a trend is almost replacing a tradition as less and less people visit Church or watch the Christmas church services on television each year.
Town Christmas Decorations
Long after we decorated trees at home, town councils assigned a budget to decorate their streets to drive home the idea of a festive season. This started with a Christmas tree with lights in the early twentieth century and progressed to strings of lights stretching from one side of the road to another. More and more elaborate decorations adorned the streets until whole towns become extravagant showcases.
Kissing Under the Mistletoe
Mistletoe was long used as a Christmas decoration, but it was only made a tradition when Washington Irving wrote it into his book and the idea that a man could kiss any woman as long as she stood under the mistletoe and berries remained on the stalk became popular. Some older theories exist, but none link to Christmas. The trend obviously started when the book was popular in 1820 and has become a tradition ever since.
Eating Christmas Pudding
Christmas pudding is more linked with the real reason for Christmas than any other on this list. Traditionally, the Christmas pudding was made from thirteen ingredients to represent Christ and his disciples. The preparation and ceremony is long lost, but we still love a Christmas pudding after gorging on turkey or goose if the budget can stretch.
Trends that become traditions are a marketing man’s gold and when someone finds one that sticks, making a profit is easy. Everything from seeing the Coca-Cola truck on TV through to the food by Marks and Sparks or Terry’s Chocolate Orange back in the 80s. Some things are ingrained in our minds because they remind us of good times.
Karen Underwood has been creating Christmas memories for her children for fifteen years, but now sells Christmas decorations to help others create their own memories.