Christmas Gift, Mistletoe

Please take a moment to select a Chocolate.comchristmas gift for your friend or family member. And while you're at it, you can order a gift for yourself! Done? good. Now that you are sitting back with Bing Crosby and a box of chocolate truffles, we would like to offer some background on a few of your favorite Christmas Traditions. December 25th became a federal holiday in the United States on June 26, 1870. Whether Christmas of 1870 brought streets decked with lights and halls decked with holly, it's hard to say. But some of the Christmas traditions that we have grown to love in the United States have origins long before our official celebration of the holiday.

Early Europeans believed in evil demons, witches, and ghosts. Legend indicates that the dark days of winter brought an annual sense of fear to the medieval people. The sun disappeared, and hope was lost for many of the poor people who were already fighting plague and struggling to make ends meet. With long cold nights and short days, many people feared the sun would not return. As such, the winter solstice was a joyous occasion - special rituals and celebrations were held to welcome back the sun. It is believed that many of our Christmas traditions have roots in the celebration of the winter solstice.

Scandinavia is home to what is arguably the most interesting winter solstice celebration. With 35 days of darkness, the early Scandinavian people would grow weary and look eagerly toward the return of sunlight. At the estimated time of the solstice, a few individuals would go to the mountain tops to look for the return of the sun. When the first light was seen the good news would be returned to the masses. A festival was held to celebrate the joyous news. The name of the festival was Yuletide. A large log known as the Yuletide log would be at the center of the celebration - a foundation for the holiday fire. The Yule log at Jultid (Yuletide) would burn for twelve days, and a different sacrifice would be made on each of the twelve days. Candles, fires were brought to every door and every window to encourage the rebirth of the Sun. The Scandinavians also tied fruit to the branches of trees to encourage the coming of Spring. There are no reports of Scandinavian people exchanging a chocolate gift during this celebration, but we think that probably would have helped with breaking out of the winter depression!

Who knew there was so much behind the mistletoe? Hanging mistletoe comes from an old Scandinavian military custom: enemies encountering each other under the plant laid down their arms in truce until the next day. In this way, It was considered a "plant of peace." This gesture is thought to have evolved into the gesture of kissing after years of evolution through holiday celebrations. But some people would argue that the center of the kissing tradition is another myth, the myth of Baldur.

Baldur was the daughter of the goddess Frigga. Baldur was overwhelmed by dreams of his own death. He feared every living thing was a threat to him. So, Frigga cast a godly spell to make sure that all living things could not harm her son. There was one exception: mistletoe. Frigga overlooked or just underestimated this seemingly innocuous plant. But a mischievous god named Loki knew about the oversight. He tricked another god into killing Baldur using a sear made from mistletoe. After realizing that the killing was a mistake, the gods punished the trickster (Loki) and brought Baldur back to life. In that way, the mistletoe became a symbol of Baldur's resurrection. Baldur's mother, Frigga thereafter declared that two people passing under the plant must kiss to celebrate her son. It's hard to say whether Mistletoe or a chocolate gift is the best way to create a romantic moment this holiday season. We believe that chocolate is the best way, but the goddess Frigga would probably disagree.

Another plant associated with Christmas has a more modern origin. In Mexico during the 1800's it was said that a young boy kneeling at a nativity scene witnessed the transformation of simple plants into beautiful poinsettias. The transformation was considered to be a miracle. The symbolic look of the star-shaped plants could not be overlooked. These Poinsettias, or “Flor de la Noche Buena," are often connected with the star that led the Wise Men, and a little boy in Mexico, to the manger. The Poinsettia was introduced to the U.S. in 1828 by Mexican Priest, Joel Roberts Poinsett. It became a part of American Christmas tradition in the early 1900s when it was promoted by Californian Albert Ecke.

Mistletoe, poinsettias, and chocolate. Three things that are symbolic of the Christmas season. Now that you know a little more about where they come from, we hope you'll remember that the best gifts of chocolate come from Merry Christmas!

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