Winter Wonders

Loi, Phuoc, Staff Writer

The Winter “traditions” are often polar. Winter time influences some people into a depression called the Winter blues, yet it has the most celebrated holiday of all, Christmas. A time when one is to participate in gift-giving and spend happy times with loved ones. 

These Winter customs often span hundreds or even thousands of years. Some sprung up due to religion, folklore, and natural phenomena. Many date back to the olden days when the west did not connect with the east, and yet they shared some similarities with one another.

Humanity’s first Winter tradition is the celebration of the Winter solstice which sprung up in human history 12,000 years ago. The Winter solstice is the time when the Winter season first begins. It starts around December 21st or June 21st, depending on whether you live in the northern hemisphere or southern hemisphere. 

All throughout the globe from the New World to the Old World, people celebrated the beginning of Winter with arts, dances, feasts, prayers, rituals, and sacrifices. Many settlements of humans believed that the beginning of Winter is a time of rebirth, and the fact that the days are shorter compared to other seasons.

Eventually, though, people started to celebrate other things. 10,000 years after the first Winter solstice celebration, in 1,600 BC, the celebration of Chinese New Year/Lunar New Year/Spring Festival began. 

Created by the Shang dynasty in China, the celebration is determined at the start of the new year by the Lunar Calendar. Nian, a legendary dragon who instilled fear among the people, ate livestock, food, and sometimes even people on New Year’s Eve. People first left food out to feed Nian instead of themselves. 

It is said that an old man discovered that Nian was afraid of loud noises and red colors, which led to people placing bamboo crackers, red lanterns, and scrolls at the entrances to the home to ward off the beast. Nowadays people give red envelopes to others during the time of the holiday and firecrackers were also used to scare Nian away.

Though these traditions were a popular way of bypassing the Winter terms, the most customary tradition in today’s time is Christmas. 

It was originally called Yule which was derived from Germanic roots. It was also a celebration for the Winter solstice before christianizing and turning into the Christmas that we know and love. Yule is still celebrated as it was intended as, all those years ago before the rise of Christianity. The new name means “mass on Christ’s day” to celebrate the day on which Jesus Christ was born. It was first recorded to be celebrated in 336 AD, December 25th, when the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine, reigned. 

The long time for its first celebration from the start of Christianity was due to the fact that many religious figures disliked celebrating the birthday of martyrs, stating that their “true” birthdays are when they sacrificed themselves. The gift-giving tradition of Christmas was not popular until the early 20th century with the inclusion of Santa Claus boosting its popularity.