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More Christmas Origins

Some people had a hard time keeping their kids quiet during service, and a choirmaster of a cathedral in Cologne, Germany found a way. Since he couldn’t whittle toys out of wood, he stuck sugar sticks in the mouths of babes instead. That gave kids something to occupy themselves with during the Christmas Eve sermon. He may have given the candy cane its distinctive shape – that of a shepherd’s staff – but he didn’t give it its flavour or its stripes. By the 20th century, it gained its red-and-white pattern, as well as its minty taste.

The poinsettia also has a charming story about its humble beginnings. One Christmas Eve in Mexico, at a time when people would go to church and bring gifts to the child on the manger (this was not a real baby, you understand), a poor little boy had nothing to give (and he had no drum to play either). An angel then came to him and told him to pick a few weeds and place them in the manger. He did, and with a prayer, the weeds became beautiful pink, red, and white flowers. These were named “Flor de la Noche Buena” or “Flower of the Holy Night,” the poinsettias we know today.

We have loads of people to thank for the Christmas presents we receive today. The ancient Romans, for example, were said to have influenced the tradition, since they were supposed to come bearing gifts to the emperor at this time of the year, the Winter Solstice. St. Nicholas also had something to do with the custom, since he was a charitable man and his feast day became linked to the holidays. The 19th century Americans began giving out small gifts for each other. The practice rose to a fever pitch when they began advertising it.

The Yule Log may just seem like an outdoor fireplace, but it was actually used to ward off evil spirits, according to old pagan traditions. Each kind of wood even had a special purpose. Holly invoked visions of the future, oak which was thought to heal, and willow could make wishes come true.

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