Often times if you attend Church around the holidays, you would see the lighting of the advent candles that stand on a wreath. There are a few possible places of origin for this festive decoration. The Germans used it for light and heat, and hoped that the warm spring days would come early. In Scandinavia they would pray around the circular wreath to the god of light to turn earth again so that it would face the sun. Lastly, the more popular belief is Christians used it to represent Christ because he is the “Light of the World.” They are beautiful decorations made with evergreen leaves and branches to show everlasting life. So next time you see one, think about what it means to you.
We know snowmen as the fluffy, white, manmade creatures that come-to-life-when-we-put-a-magic-hat-on-them type. However they originated from the medieval times which were document in the Netherlands National Library (Or Kloninklijike Bibliotheek if you prefer a simpler name) in 1380 in the Book of Hours. Some of the most famous Christmas Characters are those like Frosty the Snowman (1950), Jack Frost (1996/98) and even Olaf the snowman from Disney’s Frozen (2013).
As a child, I know that I always looked forward to the presents on Christmas morning, but I always wondered why they were placed under the tree. Well in Victorian times gifts actually used to hung on the tree. Gifts were normally smaller and handmade and were light enough to hang off the tree branches, but soon gifts were becoming more and more store bought, meaning they were larger and unable to hang on the tree. Therefore gifts were placed under the tree instead.
In Finland, it is believed that Santa lives just north on the Mountain of Korvatunturi in the little town of Savukoski above the Arctic Circle. Lots of reindeer live in Lapland, and that’s why Santa uses reindeer to get around, because they’re so plentiful! Finnish children are sure that Finland is the very first stop on Santa’s list and anxiously wait until morning to get their gifts. Finnish Christmas traditions have spread to 140 countries since the mid 1300s.
Here at the Oshawa Community Museum we have a turn-of-the-century general store at Christmas time on display! Don’t miss the detailed representation of a Victorian Christmas, come visit today!
Angles we have heard on high, sweetly singing o’er the plains! On top of pretty much every Christmas tree you pass, you would probably spot an angel or star seated lightly on the branches. The reason why we place angle on our Christmas tree is because on the night of Jesus’ birth an angel or bright shining star was seen over top of the stable where he was born that attracted many hopeful eyes from near and far. So next time you see a pretty little angel on top of a tree, just remember why she’s sitting there.
Let’s admit it; one of the best parts of Christmas is the food! In Victorian times feasts were the way to impress your guests. You could have served sides of pate, plum pudding, Yorkshire pudding, clear turtle soup, ham, potatoes, dressing, cranberry pie, cranberry sauce and mince pie! However the main meal was the main event at any feast! Turkey, goose, quail, boar’s head and roast beef! You might want to loosen your belt for these tasty treats!
How old are the Christmas Elves we hear about in our favourite Christmas tales? According to American Folklore they date back to as early as the 1850s when Louisa May Alcott wrote a book called “Christmas Elves,” however the book was never published. They usually wear the traditional red and green outfits with pointy hats and even pointy ears and are believed to be “Santa’s little helpers!”
Ah, the beloved Nutcracker, one of my very favourite Christmas traditions. Old German folklore says that the nutcracker brings good luck and protection over your home from evil spirits. They bare their teeth to ward off the evil like a “trusty watch dog” some might say. Sometimes people in the Victorian Era might have kept an unusual or silly nutcracker to spark fun and comedic conversations with guests. So next time you serve a Christmas Dinner, make sure to include some peanuts or walnuts for that hungry nutcracker!
How to make a cup and ball toy! This popular toy was a common gift for children, where you throw a ball attached by string to a cup and try and catch it in the cup.
You’ll need: A hole punch, A cardboard cylinder from a toilet paper role, string 40 cm long, cone shaped paper cup, hammer and nail, and 2 plastic soft drink bottle caps.
Step 1: Punch a hole in the cardboard cylinder close to one end and tie the string through the hole.
Step 2: wedge the paper cup into one end of the cylinder and tape it so that it is secure.
Step 3: Use the hammer and nail to poke a hole in the top of the bottle caps.
Step 4: Tape the caps together to make a “ball” and tie the string through it.
Step 5: To play swing the ball gently and try to catch it in the cup! Have fun!