Holiday Décor and Traditions

Holiday Décor and Traditions

Two beautiful red bows flanking a festive wreath greet you as you enter the door, welcoming you in from the frigid air. Enveloped in your home’s warmth, you make your way to the living room made cozy by the accents of Christmas. Your tree gloriously stands full with ornaments and lights twinkling, from the big star grazing the ceiling all the way down to its wide base. There, presents sit neatly wrapped, finished with bows and tagged for the lucky recipient.

As we are well into the holiday season, this or similar sights are familiar to many of us. But how did some of these elements make their way into our holiday customs? Here are a few of those familiar Christmas traditions explained.

Wrapping Paper
People have been wrapping gifts or money for centuries. The earliest practices can be traced to Chinese and Japanese cultures. The Chinese wrapped an envelope to hold a monetary gift in paper made from bamboo and rice. The Japanese wrapped items in a cloth, and the furoshiki is still commonly used today. The Victorian era also saw gifts wrapped in decorative paper and lace, and these luxuries were often indicative of one’s status.

In the U.S., it is J.C. and Rollie Hall who are credited with jumpstarting our modern tradition of wrapping gifts. In 1917, they were enjoying a successful holiday season in their Kansas City, MO stationery shop when they encountered a problem. Their supply of red, green, and white holiday tissue paper, which was standard fare to wrap gifts, had run out. Rollie scrounged around the shop looking for anything that might work and found some fancy French paper used to line envelopes. He decided to give it a whirl and priced it for $0.10 a sheet. It was a hit! The papers sold out immediately. The following year, they tried it again, and it sold out again. After realizing these huge successes, they decided to design their own specialty wrapping paper, and the American gift-wrap industry was born. You may or may not be surprised to know that by the late 1920s, this family business was established as Hallmark.

Advent Wreaths
Throughout history, the wreath itself has been occasioned for many things. Adorned by Romans and Greeks alike, they were used to celebrate victories or denote status. Wreaths were popular during seasonal festivities, memorials, and funerals. The use of wreaths during the holiday season has been attributed to pre-Christian Germanic peoples. During winter, evergreen wreaths were placed inside the home with candles. Evergreens symbolized strength because of their heartiness even throughout the winter season. The light in these dark and cold days would signify hope for the upcoming Spring. As Christianity became more established, these traditions were adopted, and inspired new meanings. The lights became symbolic of eternity and light through Jesus. The round shape of the wreath suggests God’s eternal presence and continuous life. Various evergreens held particular meanings including victory over persecution (pine), strength and healing (cedar), and immortality (holly and yew). The prickly leaves of the holly are also suggestive of Jesus’ crown of thorns.

The advent wreath continues to symbolize the coming of the Christ season and has now taken on a variety of styles.

Christmas Trees in America
Christmas trees also have Germanic origins. In the 16th century, Christians began bringing the evergreen trees into their homes and decorating them. Martin Luther is credited with adding lights to the decor. Walking home from a sermon one night, he was awestruck by the twinkling beauty of the stars as they shown through the trees. To re-capture this beauty, he erected a tree in his own home and embellished it with candles.

As German immigrants settled in America, they kept their Christmas tree traditions alive, although it was not popular among the other settlers. Puritan Americans were not keen on the joyous celebrations, carols, or décor associated with Christmas, as it did not fit in with their austere lifestyle. In the mid 1840s, the London News published a sketch of Queen Victoria and her family posing around a Christmas tree. The public adored the popular Queen Victoria, and it became somewhat of a sensation in both Britain and America. The Christmas tree began to gain favor in America. While Europeans preferred shorter trees, 4’-5’ in height, Americans loved trees that reached their ceilings. In the 1890s, America was importing ornaments from Germany. Interestingly, though, the German-American settlers kept their traditions of decorating their trees with apples, candies, and cookies. Later, as electricity became more common, lights replaced the candles on trees.

Happy New Year from Independence Bunting
As we make our way through the end of 2014, all of us at Independence Bunting want to wish you and your family all the best this holiday season. We are grateful for our customers and take pride in bringing you the best quality products. Let Independence Bunting continue to help you decorate your holidays and celebrations in 2015. In addition to our outstanding American flags, we offer banners, pull-downs, bunting, ribbons, outdoor bows and much more, all made in the USA. From St. Patrick’s Day to Fourth of July to Veteran’s Day, sports events and seasonal celebrations, Independence Bunting is ready for your decorating needs. Have a wonderful holiday season, and a Happy New Year!