Old christmas traditions – christmas in the past and today


hSome say that Christmas used to be more mysterious. Others say that people were much more happy about the little things. But how did people celebrate the feast of love a long, long time ago?? What were the customs? What has changed?

Old Christmas traditions are subject to the change of time

The old Christmas customs at the feast of feasts are not unchangeable, but subject to constant change. "The family Christmas celebration common in Germany today, with a Christmas tree, Christmas carols, a nativity scene, presents and a church service," according to the web encyclopedia Wikipedia, "is a cultural outgrowth of the 19th-century middle-class family. Century."So how did grandma and grandpa and their grandparents experience Christmas Eve?? What has changed in the decades since their childhood in the old Christmas traditions?

The Advent season: from Lent to commerce

Advent has changed significantly: While it was originally celebrated as a time of fasting, in the present day the customs of Christmas are increasingly being brought forward to Advent by many. Today, Christmas trees, Santa Clauses and Christmas decorations are sometimes available many weeks before the 24th day of the year.12. Ubiquitous in the streetscape. The sale of Christmas cookies, gingerbread or stollen is sometimes forced by the trade already in August. Christmas used to be very different, especially at Advent time.

Christmas markets used to be like fairs at Christmas

One of the oldest Christmas markets in Germany – the Striezelmarkt in Dresden.

During the Advent season, you can’t get past them – the Christmas markets. With its Christmas tree decorations, candles, handicrafts and mulled wine stalls. In the Middle Ages, the Christmas market was not really a market at all, but a trade fair. That means: that there were only merchants who offered their goods. And they did not necessarily have to match Christmas. Later, Christmas decorations were also sold, but only in 19. The special atmosphere that we find in today’s Christmas markets developed in the 19th century.

The Christmas tree – a special ritual for Christmas

Where does the Christmas tree come from?

The green Christmas tree has long been part of a winter celebration that stands for hope and new beginnings – symbolized by the evergreen fir tree. Already in pagan times, in ancient Rome and in the Middle Ages, people decorated their houses with green branches to draw hope from them.

It is said that in 1419 bakers from Freiburg decorated a coniferous tree with apples and gingerbread and thus the first Christmas tree was created. But this is not proven for sure. In Bremen the first decorated fir tree was documented in 1597. Since about 1730, the Christmas trees were then also lit with candles and since ca. Decorated with glass spheres in 1830.
In Alsace, since the end of the 16th century. At the beginning of the twentieth century, a tree in the parlor was hung with sweets, nuts and apples. In many regions, the tree used to hang from the ceiling and was decorated with apples and other fruits.

The Christmas fir: in former times a luxury

At Christmas, the tree used to be hung with real candles and pastries.

The tree decorated with candles or a string of lights is of great importance at Christmas today, with the grandparents it was no different. Until the 18. In the 19th century it was only found at princely courts, then in the bourgeois upper class. Since the poorer population in Germany could not afford a fir tree.

In the 19. In the 19th century, the Christmas fir trend then spread from Germany to all of Europe. From this time there were also more extra planted coniferous forests than before, so more people could afford a tree for the feast.

It was not until the end of the 18th century that the Christmas tree. In the mid-nineteenth century, the St. Martin’s goose found its way into living rooms, and with it its significance for Christmas, which it still has today. For reasons of space, it was sometimes even hung upside down from the ceiling and decorated with apples wrapped in colorful paper, nuts, cookies or homemade Christmas decorations made of natural materials. Of course, there were no fairy lights, but sometimes real candles decorated the tree. And the tree was cut down by hand in the forest at Christmas, it did not smell of pesticides, but of spruce or fir.

Christmas in the past: Christmas dinner

A ready Christmas goose on a decorated table. It is accompanied by two glasses of sparkling wine

An old Christmas custom at Christmas for many people is the Christmas goose.

Even in times of war and famine, mothers tried to put a special meal on the table on Christmas Eve. In some families, a piece of sausage and some cookies were already delicacies for the children, which they looked forward to all year long. There were different traditional Christmas feasts in the families depending on the region and social status. It could be sausages with potato salad, salted herrings, tubular noodles or soup.

Today, roast goose is one of the most popular Christmas meals on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day. The origin of the roast goose lies in the Catholic custom of St. Martin’s goose, which was celebrated before the beginning of the Advent Lent on 11. November is eaten. On Christmas Eve, this fasting period ends and a goose is again prepared as the festive roast.
There are many stories about why a goose was chosen as a feast. The most common is that the goose was a highly respected animal in the Roman Empire, as its cackling warned against uninvited guests. Thus one could make people by the gift of just this a joy. In addition, the peasant year ended on the 11th day of the year. November and the annual lease payments were outstanding. Maids, farmhands and field workers were given a fattened goose as a reward at this time of the year.

The difference between Christmas in the past and today is reflected especially in the presents

Old Christmas traditions - Christmas in the past and today

A serious difference between Christmas in the past and today are probably the gifts. In the past, children were given only a few small gifts, but nowadays there is a real consumer feast.

"When we were kids, there were no mountains of presents for Christmas," many seniors recount. Like senior Renate Rubach: "The doll got a new dress or a bed, the teddy bear had both arms again, the wooden scooter was repainted. A handful of cookies was all that was needed. Not as splendid as today".

Modesty seemed to be the biggest difference between the past, 60, 70 or 80 years ago, and today. It possibly corresponded to the inner convictions of people in a world not yet dominated by commerce. Often it was also a consequence of material hardship, for example because of the two world wars.

Today, crowds of people throng the city centers. Parcel delivery people are overflowing with work. Retailers are enjoying booming sales. Where once it was about gestures, today there is a competition for the most expensive gifts and the children’s favor. Expensive smartphones instead of clothes for dolls. In recent years, Christmas has become a consumer festival as far as gifts are concerned.

Singing Christmas carols – an old Christmas custom

In the domestic circle, on Christmas Eve and 1. and 2. holiday, it used to be an old Christmas custom to sing and make music. In a time of declining knowledge of folk songs and church hymns, German Christmas carols are part of the remaining stock of traditional German-language songs that many people in German-speaking countries can still sing along with. But these skills are also on the decline. When grandma and grandpa were children, singing at Christmas was considered a duty: First they sang and recited a poem, and then the presents were handed out.

Family ties diminish compared to Christmas of yesteryear

Christmas used to be celebrated as a Christian family holiday. The Christmas story was read aloud, Christmas carols were sung together and the children believed longer in the Christ Child. "In the past, family was more important, today it’s more about gifts and commerce. Everyone was together, there was more cohesion," a senior citizen responded to our question about her childhood Christmas.

Especially at Christmas, an ever-increasing problem of our society occurs – loneliness. Against which we have collected some valuable tips: "Do not spend Christmas alone"

While the family was still at the beginning of the 20. Whereas at the beginning of the twentieth century the family was mostly organized as a three-generation household, in modern times the number of single households is steadily increasing. Christmas is also increasingly showing a tendency toward individualization.

Conclusion on old Christmas traditions in the past and today

The development of the traditions lets today already many a shiver run over the spine. The idea of family was already suffering from the profit motive and focus on gifts. Advancing technologies and market innovations are causing the desire to be trendy to rise and the desire to be sociable to flatten out more and more. But Christmas is the festival of love and family. We should never lose sight of this thought in order to avoid loneliness and to be able to enjoy the support of the family throughout our lives.

Tips for Christmas today

It should be a ritual for Christmas to celebrate Advent together with the children or the elderly. grandchildren what to do. For example, reading a story or baking cookies together.

The search for suitable gifts for partners, family members and friends takes up a lot of time and money. It does not necessarily have to be something purchasable that gives the most joy. Children and grandchildren in particular are inundated with gifts nowadays and are then unable to appreciate them properly or develop a lasting interest in them.
It makes sense to sing Christmas carols together with the children or the children’s parents. Baking, crafting and decorating for grandchildren in the run-up to Christmas. Here’s how they get in the mood for Christmas and can contribute to it themselves.

Also, people should think early about how, where, and with whom they might spend Christmas, and not impose on themselves anything they don’t really want and can handle well. Because otherwise the real meaning of Christmas can quickly be lost. After all, it’s supposed to be about spending a reflective and peaceful time with loved ones, not wishing yourself away to a lonely South Sea island on Christmas Eve!

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