Christmas traditions, one might think, have been around for ages.

The winter solstice, a few days before today's Christmas, has been celebrated for many thousands of years.

The story of birth in the manger is two thousand years old.

Their good news is celebrated in churches that are often centuries old.

And a lot of the way we celebrate Christmas at home seems as if everything is as it always was.

Fridtjof Küchemann

Editor in the Feuilleton.

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Already in the Middle Ages there was a lot to eat at the festival: it was believed that the coming year would be blessed by it.

And almost five hundred years ago, Martin Luther gave his children presents at the birth of Christ, set up a manger for them at home and sang with them.

But not only many Christmas carols are much younger than you would think, but also some customs.

Even the Christmas tree, for many today the epitome of Christmas, has not been in almost every living room for long.

The custom of decorating trees at all is actually old: in ancient Rome, trees were decorated for the winter solstice, the maypoles, which still exist today mainly in southern Germany, date from the Middle Ages.

But that it is also a widespread custom to put a decorated Christmas tree in the living room at Christmas was first written down in Strasbourg, not until 1605.

It was a few more years before someone came up with the idea of ​​putting candles on the tree as well.

And even more than a hundred years later, in 1734, i.e. in the year when Johann Sebastian Bach's Christmas Oratorio was performed for the first time, the custom had not yet spread everywhere.

Eight hundred kilometers from Strasbourg, in Szczecin, it was a curiosity: there a Christmas tree was decorated for the five-year-old Princess Sophie Auguste Friederike von Anhalt-Zerbst, and to this day we can read about it in the books.

The princess later became the powerful Tsarina Catherine the Great of Russia.

In the last two hundred years, the custom has spread around the world.

And another custom has been forgotten: Anyone who cuts off a cherry or apple tree branch in good time and puts it in a vase can enjoy its blossoms at Christmas.

The right day to cut off the branches is St. Barbara's Day.

The saint lived in Nicomedia, modern-day Turkey, in the 3rd century and wanted to become a Christian as a young woman, despite her father's opposition.

At that time very few people were Christians, they were suspected and persecuted.

Her father imprisoned Barbara and tormented her terribly to dissuade her.

On the way to prison, the story goes that she caught her coat on a branch, took it with her and put it in a vase.

Fruit tree blossoms are beautiful, and when it's cold and gray outside, they're a feast for the eyes, almost a Christmas present in themselves.

It's exciting to see how the buds develop and if they make it in time for the festival.

Barbara Day is December 4th, this year on the second Sunday in Advent.

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