Christmas is widely regarded as a season of wonder, but have you ever wondered why we employ some curious customs to celebrate the season? Join The StickerTalk as we delve into the stories behind a few of Christmas’s greatest mysteries.
It is common knowledge that good children receive presents in their stockings while naughty kids find only coal in theirs. But why did Santa Claus choose coal as the punishment for crass conduct? One popular theory claims that this is because coal is readily available to Santa as he slides down the chimney. After placing toys, candy, and other goodies into the stockings of their well-behaved siblings, Santa simply reaches into the fireplace for a lump of coal to fill the stockings belonging to naughty children. However, another hypothesis states that the gift of coal, although lackluster in nature, is a practical source of warmth for families who may otherwise have difficulty affording heat for their homes. According to this theory, the tradition may have been inspired by Charles Dicken’s famous novella, A Christmas Carol, in which poor Bob Cratchit cannot convince his greedy employer, Ebenezer Scrooge, to give him a single lump of coal to warm his frigid office.
We’ve all requested figgy pudding by singing along to the lines of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” but do you know what figgy pudding actually is? Although not very popular in the United States, figgy pudding is a culinary hallmark of the Christmas season in the United Kingdom. Also called plum pudding, this dish is made by combining raw beef or mutton fat with dried fruits, spices, bread crumbs, brown sugar, eggs, and brandy then steaming the mixture until cooked. The completed product more closely resembles a cake than a pudding by American standards.
If you’ve ever pondered why red and green were selected to serve as the primary colors of Christmas, you might be surprised to find that each of these hues conveys deeply symbolic messages. Many experts agree that green became closely associated with Christmas after people began to use evergreen plants to decorate their homes for the season. Evergreen varieties including holly, ivy, and mistletoe were harvested for aesthetic purposes since they retain their vibrant shades after most other forms of foliage lose their color to the bitter winter’s icy grip. Because holly berries are red, this color was accepted as the natural compliment to green. Red is also said to represent the blood of Jesus, granting the hue an infinite amount of relevance to the religious celebration of Christmas. The religious significance of red additionally traces its roots back to the tradition of Paradise plays, an activity commonly used in the Middle Ages to portray Bible stories to illiterate audiences. In these plays, red apples were used to represent the forbidden fruit from the Garden of Eden, so red eventually came to be a symbol of the fall of mankind. Catholic bishop robes, like the garments worn by the historical Saint Nicholas, are red in color, too, inspiring the well-know red suit worn by Santa Claus.
Most of us can remember the anticipation we felt as children on the night of Christmas Eve as we set out a plate of our best cookies and a cold glass of milk for Santa Claus just before slipping off to sleep, but do you know how this nostalgic tradition began? This cotemporary custom has ancient origins springing from Norse mythology. According to legend, Odin, the chief Norse god, rode an eight-legged horse called Sleipner. Children would leave snacks outside for Sleipner as Odin travelled the countryside during the Yule season hoping that Odin would leave them a gift in return. This primitive practice was translated to contemporary society during the Great Depression. To illustrate the importance of generosity and gratitude, parents encouraged their children to leave an offering of cookies and milk for Santa, a tradition that continues today.
Some of mankind’s most interesting mysteries remain unsolved as in the case of our final Christmas conundrum. According to some caroling enthusiasts, the horse in “Jingle Bells” actually has a name as stated in the lyrical line “Bells on Bobtail ring.” However, others claim that “Bobtail” is not the name of a sleigh-pulling horse, but only a description of the horse’s cropped tail. As no official consensus has been reached, we leave it to you to decide your stance on this seasonal enigma!
- Good Question: Why Does Santa Give Bad Kids Coal, Of All Things? – WCCO | CBS Minnesota (cbslocal.com)
- In the song ‘Jingle Bells’ what is the name of the horse? (funtrivia.com)
- The Colors of Christmas – Christmas Customs and Traditions – whychristmas?com
- What is figgy pudding? (usatoday.com)
- Don’t Forget Santa’s Cookies and Milk: The History of a Popular Christmas Tradition – HISTORY
One thought on “Christmas Mysteries”
Perhaps cropping the tail of the horse was an effort to keep the backend of the horse clean for the sleigh riders. There may be a custom of cutting the hair, or tying it in a “bobtail” to keep it clean. Thusly, I’m going with the literal meaning of “bobtail” and not the name of the horse.