A History of the Holiday Season


Hema Gharia

The winter holiday season is full of several traditions, one of which is decorating gingerbread houses.

Holiday History Time!

The holiday season is full of fun traditions, celebrations with family, and receiving lots of gifts. Many people celebrate the birth of Jesus, the festival of light, and African culture with memorable, special traditions – but where do these traditions come from?

The Christmas Tree:

The idea of bringing an evergreen tree and other plants into homes dates back to ancient Egyptian times where the plants symbolized the triumph of life over death, and ancient Roman times where plants were used to celebrate the winter solstice and Saturn, the god of agriculture. The Germans were the first to begin the Christmas tree tradition in the 1500’s and it was brought to North America by German immigrants in the 1800’s. Many believe that the founder of Protestantism, Martin Luther, began the tradition of putting lights on the evergreens.

Santa Claus:

Santa Claus can be traced back to the monk Saint Nicholas who was known for his kindness and generosity. The idea of Santa magically visiting boys and girls around the world is credited to Clement Clarke Moore who wrote the poem “An Account of a Visit from Saint Nicholas,” better known by its renowned first line: “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

Christmas Cookies:

Baking cookies and other holiday treats are a delicious type of fun with a rich historical association to Christmas. Gingerbread cookies are always a popular Christmas treat and they became popular during the 1500’s in Europe. Gingerbread houses were first made in Germany in the 1800’s and the inspiration came from the Grimm fairytale, “Hansel and Gretel.” It is believed the tradition of leaving cookies for Santa comes from the Great Depression when parents tried to teach their children about generosity.


The Jewish holiday Hanukkah has several traditions including lighting menorahs, playing the dreidel game, and dancing the horah. Lighting the candles on the menorah is part of the mitzvah, one of the commandments that must be performed during Hanukkah. The dreidel game involves a spinning top that has letters of the Hebrew alphabet on it. The top comes from the teetotum, a popular European gambling toy. The Horah is an Israeli circle dance that is used to express joy at celebrations. It was created by a Romanian dancer named Baruch Agadati in 1924.


Kwanzaa is a seven day celebration that honors African and African American culture. Seven main values are celebrated during this holiday they include unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. The holiday and the values associated with it come from Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga, a member of the Black Freedom Movement who created Kwanzaa in 1966 to bring together African Americans and celebrate their heritage.

No matter what your holiday traditions may be or where they may have came from, make sure they include having a good time with loved ones and creating lasting, joy filled memories!