We’ve uncovered the unbelievable stories behind some of the most treasured traditions of the holiday season. You may not know exactly where some of the staples of Christmas came from, but all of them have a beginning. Take a look at a few of our favorite stories, legends and folktales that have shaped Christmas throughout time and kept us feeling enchanted year after year.
For many people throughout the world, special Christmas tree ornaments are sometimes cherished for entire lifetimes. But not so long ago, they served a purpose besides their aesthetic charm. Many countries used to decorate their holiday trees with foods like colorful fruits, vegetables and candy. The edible ornaments were seen as an offering to the respective deities they worshipped. When the food spoiled, the gods had gotten their fill and it was time to discard the tree. Today, we just wait until right after New Year’s.
Back when they were invented in the 1600s, candy canes were molded as edible, thick sticks of mint-flavored sugar passed during winter holidays. Then a German choirmaster decided to bend the ends to resemble a shepherd’s staff. The now-synonymous with Western Christmas candy did not make it to the U.S. until the mid-1800s when a German immigrant brought the candy with him when he relocated to the U.S. Instantly, the nation was hooked!
Although no one’s quite sure how the tradition of stocking stuffers began, most would agree the advent of the stocking came as a result of the rural practice of hanging laundry to dry by the fireplace. Legend has it that Santa used to throw little gifts down the chimney to make sure it was safe for him to slide down. Most of the gifts would slide right into the stockings that were hanging by the fire. If he was particularly concerned, he’d throw a clump of coal down to make sure he didn’t waste a gift.
Life Goes On
These are times of change for many of us. Often we try to hang on to what was, rather than risk going toward something new. My neighbor, Carlos, reminded me of how much growth and creativity can come from a time of change, even if we have to experience some discomfort and disquietude to get there. He shared his story with me, and inspired by it, I want to share it with you. Carlos came to this country to attend college, fully expecting to return home after graduation. Unforeseen political events made that return impossible. He married, built a business, and was raising his children on Key Biscayne. He appreciated all the goodness and comfort in his life. When his business declined due to factors beyond his control, he tried to hold on. At first he felt anxious and adrift as day after day loomed before him. Then something wonderful happened. He began to use this quiet time to ask himself what he really wanted to do for the rest of his life. He thought of his father and the family farm, of the land that he, of all his siblings, had loved so much. He began reading everything he could on modern farming and became excited about returning, just as his father was retiring, and making the farm into something he always dreamed it could become. Ultimately, Carlos is grateful for the change that came into his life and for the chance to begin anew, while he still has the energy and drive to reinvent himself. More importantly, there’s a lightness to him as he moves forward on his path. And that’s something we should all aim to accomplish in our own lives.
› Robin Raina Benjamin, LCSW, PsyA, is a psychotherapist and modern psychoanalyst in Key Biscayne. She is affiliated with Key Therapy which also provides: speech/language therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, massage therapy, CPR classes and personal training. For more information, visit RobinRainaBenjamin.com or Key-Therapy.com.
“Advice is like snow. The softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon
— and the deeper it sinks into — the mind.”
— Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Snow in Miami
The only recorded snowfall ever documented in Miami happened on Jan. 19, 1977. It consisted of very light flurries, but was well documented by newspapers and residents. Although it is possible for it to snow in Miami, it is highly unlikely.
It has been reported that Jacksonville had a textbook “White Christmas” in 1989. Freezing rain that started on Christmas Eve turned to snow as the temperature dropped. There was actually snow covering the ground for the majority of Christmas Day!
For those of us who are born and bred in tropical temperatures, and don’t really know much about snow other than the fact that it makes for a great vacation, it can actually get cold enough that it doesn’t snow. Since snow is frozen water, if it’s too cold for water droplets to form in the air, it can’t snow.