Simon Law Firm December 2017



T he S ecret O rigins of C hristmas T raditions

If you celebrate Christmas, odds are your family observes a number of traditions that commemorate the holiday season. While some of these might be unique to your household, there’s no doubt many of them are part of the holiday’s long cultural history. Part of what makes the holiday season so festive is the sense of collective participation, from shopping and decorating to leaving out traditions have surprising origins that you may never have known. The more you investigate, the more you find that Christmas truly is a global holiday. Stockings Have you ever considered how strange stockings are? We all leave them above the fireplace, often without wondering why Santa is so interested in filling socks with gifts. The touching story of this centuries-old custom reminds us of the spirit of Christmas. According to legend, the tradition began with one poor man, recently widowed, and his three daughters. While the daughters were all beautiful and intelligent, the man had no money for marriage and worried about what would happen to his children after he died. St. Nicholas heard of his plight, and knowing that the family would not accept charity, he devised a way to provide for them. He snuck down their chimney one night and found the girls’ stockings hung by the fireplace to dry. He filled them with gold coins before disappearing into the night. Today, stocking stuffers are a treasured gift category all their own. If you’re dismayed by the prospect of filling massive stockings for

your kids while you play Santa this year, take solace in the fact that at least you won’t need to stuff them with solid gold. Caroling Stockings go back hundreds of years, but that’s nothing compared to the millennia- old tradition of caroling. The earliest roots of seasonal singalongs actually predate Christmas itself. During the winter solstice celebration, pagan cultures belted out winter classics and danced away the longest night of the year. As Christianity grew in popularity, these songs were replaced by the first Christmas-themed hymns. While songs created in honor of the nativity began to appear around the fourth and fifth centuries, Christmas carols didn’t take on their familiar shape until 800 years later, when St. Francis of Assisi began including upbeat hymns in his Christmas services. It didn’t take long for composers from countless countries to begin crafting their own specific carols. Not everyone welcomed the switch from somber to joyful songs. Carols were banned from some churches, which may account for why caroling became a door-to-door activity. Another theory suggests that the tradition of traveling carolers began in feudal societies where peasants would literally sing for their supper. These days, many groups keep the philanthropic spirit of caroling alive by asking for donations to various charitable groups. So if you hear some folks stopping by your neighborhood to offer a rendition

of “Silent Night” or “The 12 Days of Christmas,” consider spreading a little cheer to them. Black Friday While certainly not as beloved and longstanding a custom as stockings or

carols, there’s no denying that Black Friday is a Christmas tradition. You may hate having to stand outside around 4 a.m. (or, as is more common every year, camping out in the cold the night before) in order to secure once-a- year deals, but sometimes the savings are just too good to pass up. Why, you might ask yourself, have retailers made this the norm? Well, unlike the other traditions on this list, we can trace the beginning of the Black Friday shopping phenomenon to a particular time and place: Philadelphia in the 1950s. The term was coined by police officers to describe the influx of suburban shoppers who flocked to the city, where they wreaked havoc and forced officers to work longer hours. It took only a few years for Black Friday to become an unofficial city holiday. in all 50 states. Intrepid retailers figured out a way to turn the negative connotation into a day of sales. During this time, many people believed the holiday was named after retailers going from “red” (loss) to “black” (profit). Now, when you hear that story, you’ll be able to dispel the myth. –Christopher Simon It wasn’t until the ’80s that Black Friday became an integral part of the holiday season | 1

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