Have you ever wondered where all the trappings of Christmas come from? What’s the origin of candy canes, poinsettias, and Christmas trees? What about Christmas cards, caroling, and other traditions of the holiday?

Our ways of celebrating Christmas come from the Victorian 1860’s, but Christmas wasn’t even a recognized holiday in the U.S. until 1970. By that time, America had reinvented its celebration. Our observances of the day now are a mixture of traditions and practices spanning many decades and cultures.

John Smith reported in 1607 that Jamestown, Virginia, gave us our first taste of eggnog. Germany’s Prince Albert introduced the Christmas tree to England. In 1928, a red and green plant was brought into our country by the American minister to Mexico, and by 1900 poinsettias were a universal symbol of the holiday. In the late 1830’s Christmas cards began to appear.

Caroling with strolling singers began in England, and the tradition continues today in some communities. Santa Claus became the dominant Christmas character as a result of the story, Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore.

The traditions continue today: stockings hung in hopes of being filled with goodies, exchanging gifts with friends and families, candy canes decorating trees, lights strung both inside and outside in splendid array. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, raised attention to the importance of charity and good will, still characteristics of our efforts today during the holiday season.

Why all the celebration? The appearance of manger scenes here and there is a reminder of the real origin of the day. There were no special trappings in the place where the Christ child was born more than 2,000 years ago. Yet, the significance of that birth has literally changed the world; even our calendars note it. The birth of Jesus, His sacrifice at Calvary, and His resurrection have provided the way of changing men and women for all eternity through faith in Him.

When we celebrate with family and friends, remember the importance of the day. Amidst the lights, decorations, and carols, remember its true origin. One of the names of Jesus is Immanuel, “God with us.” That’s what Christmas is really about; God came in human flesh to be among us and to redeem us.

Jesse Deloe