5 Old-Fashioned Traditions to Revive This Holiday Season

5 Old-Fashioned Traditions to Revive This Holiday Season

December 10, 2018

All too often, the holiday season can feel like nothing but hustle and bustle. A calendar filled with Christmas parties, a long list of gifts to buy, a barrage of sale emails that begins on Black Friday and doesn’t slow down until the new year…with so much to do, you might find yourself feeling more flustered than festive. This year, we’re taking a step back and appreciating the simple pleasures of the season by observing a few time-tested traditions that still resonate today. If you’d like to celebrate a slower, simpler holiday, here are five of our favorite ways to have a merry season with old-fashioned style.

 

  1. Make Popcorn & Fruit Garlands: The tradition of decorating the Christmas tree with food traces its roots to medieval Germany, where families once brightened their homes using evergreen trees decorated with apples and other fruits. This custom traveled to America with early European settlers, who used two abundant New World crops—corn and cranberries—to create economical holiday decorations. Garlands of popcorn and cranberries became a traditional topper for the Christmas tree, and they continue to offer old-fashioned charm. All you need to create this look at home is a bowl of freshly-popped popcorn, fresh cranberries, sturdy thread, and a large needle. Use the needle and thread to string an alternating garland of berries and kernels in festive red and white, and then use it to trim your tree. (While you’re at it, make a few extra garlands to hang on trees outdoors, where they’ll feed the birds all winter long.)

  1. Go Wassailing: The ancient British custom of wassailing takes the phrase “holiday spirits” quite literally, offering up the opportunity to toast good health in the new year. In Anglo-Saxon tradition, the lord of the manor would serve mulled wine, ale, or cider (later known as wassail) to those assembled at his holiday celebrations along with a toast of waes hael, meaning “be well.” Over the centuries, this tradition evolved to include familiar Christmas carols; groups of celebratory singers would travel from one house to the next, offering cups of wassail and merry songs to their neighbors. This year, consider hosting a wassail-style celebration to kick off the holiday season. Invite friends over for a cozy mug of mulled wine, then take a turn around your neighborhood and sing a few classic carols to spread good cheer.

  1. Burn a Yule Log: During the holiday season, a crackling fire in the hearth takes on special significance via centuries-old traditions. If you have a fireplace at home, gather the family on Christmas Eve to burn a yule log, a Scandinavian custom that’s thought to bring good luck in the coming year. This cozy tradition has a few ground rules: the log should be allowed to burn fully and should be lit using a piece of wood preserved from the previous year’s fire.

  1. Count Down with an Advent Calendar: If you have little ones, an old-fashioned Advent calendar can be a fun way to build anticipation before Christmas Day. This tradition has roots in the nineteenth century when German Protestants would light candles or use chalk marks to count the days from December 1 to 24. In the early twentieth century, the first modern Advent calendar was produced as a colorful insert in a German newspaper, offering a new way to count down to Christmas. The tradition soon caught on, eventually transforming into the contemporary Advent calendar, which usually includes 24 doors that conceal tiny chocolates or other treats—a particularly sweet, small way to celebrate the season.

  1. Decorate with Nature: Because they often arrived in America with little in the way of material possessions, early colonists had to turn to the natural world when decorating for the holidays. This meant that their homes were filled with fragrant greens, glossy holly, and colorful berries—all illuminated by the soft glow of candles. Instead of the glitter and glitz of modern decorations, consider drawing inspiration from colonial décor for a simpler Christmas. Spend an afternoon foraging for pine boughs, berries, and other seasonal offerings from nature, then use these humble finds to create fragrant wreaths, swags, and garlands that can accent your home in natural style.

How are you celebrating the holidays this year? Share your favorite seasonal traditions in the comments!

 

 



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