Holiday history

Holiday customs enhance seasonal happenings

Spreading Holiday Cheer: Hannah Rillema, Jessica Swanson, and Emma Holmi, above from left to right, make holiday cards for soldiers overseas. Photo By: Brock Copus | Photographer
Spreading Holiday Cheer: Hannah Rillema, Jessica Swanson, and Emma Holmi, above from left to right, make holiday cards for soldiers overseas. Photo By: Brock Copus | Photographer
Winter festivities and holidays are filled with a rich history of national, religious, and family traditions that make celebrating during these snowy months that much more special.

There are certain traditions that families practice during the holidays that have a long-standing history. One such tradition is the Christmas tree, which has origins that date back to 16th century Germany. The tree was looked at as a symbol of eternal life. Trees began getting decorated in the 17th century and were brought to America around the same time.

Another tradition is mistletoe. It is another symbol of eternal life and the Romans thought of it as a symbol of peace. Kissing under the mistletoe was also a Roman tradition. The meanings that became connected to the plant eventually led to its acceptance as a tradition among Christians.

Gift giving during the holidays has many possible origins. There is the legend of St. Nicholas, the stories of the Magi offering gifts to Jesus, the Roman practice of gift giving during the Saturnalia, and many other legendary origins. The most popular is the legend of St. Nick traveling with toys to give to all the children.

Stockings being hung evolved into a Christmas tradition by accident. Families that were not well off would hang stockings every night as they could not afford more than a few pairs. Parents began hiding presents in the stockings to make sure their children found it on Christmas morning.

A Jewish tradition is the Menorah. The story is that after the Jews beat the Syrian army in 165 B.C.E. they went to reclaim their temple and found a small flask of oil with only enough to keep a Menorah going for one day. The Menorah burned for eight days instead and this is where the tradition of lighting candles for eight days comes from.

Another Jewish tradition is the making of latkes, or potato pancakes, which are made with oil to commemorate the oil used to light the Menorah. The soldiers of the Jewish army made these during ancient times.

Ferris students have traditions of their own that they celebrate with their families during the holiday season.

“We do a huge secret Santa thing for Christmas eve with the extended family. Then we open presents on Christmas day at like 5 a.m. and then play games with family for the rest of the day,” said Greg Priester, junior in the restaurant and food industry program.

Sophomore in the business program Taima Dry said, “On top of leaving cookies for Santa, we leave him and his wife presents so they get presents on Christmas too. We also leave deer feed in the yard for the reindeer so they get a type of present too.”

“My family always has a Hanukkah party where a tradition is that my grandmother and I fry latkes for the party,” said Amanda Wood, sophomore in the English program.

“Every year we go to an aunt’s house or my mom’s, eat, and reminisce on past holidays,” said Byron Terrell, sophomore in the psychology program with a minor in human resource management. “Since everyone in my family are comedians it’s really fun and a funny time. They’re where I get my craziness from.”

Sarah Zielinski, first year pharmacy student, said, “Traditions are the best part about the holidays. The day after Thanksgiving we put up the Christmas tree. On Christmas my grandpa always wears these ridiculous pants from the 80s, and a bunch of other stuff.”

Traditions have the ability to enhance the holiday season and make each celebration extra special. They can help create, maintain, and keep memories alive for generations to come.

No matter if you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or any other type of holiday, traditions are part of what makes this season so special. n