Christmas trees, stockings: Where did traditions come from?
By Chase Cain, Reporter -
The stockings may have been hung by the chimney with care, as the rhyme goes. But the real question is: Do you know why they're there?
These days, the Christmas tree is a holiday staple. But if you follow the roots of the tradition -- pardon the pun -- it turns out it's tied to a pagan tradition, not to Christians, as you may think by the name.
Centuries ago, the holiday did not revolve around an entire tree but rather a single evergreen branch, which pagans believed could ward off illness and evil spirits.
The origin of putting up an entire tree to celebrate the holiday dates back to the 1500s, when Germans began building wooden pyramids to hold candles and Nativity figures in celebration of the birth of Christ.
That, legend has it, evolved into a Christmas tree when Protestant reformer Martin Luther put candles on an evergreen tree and brought it indoors, essentially inventing the trees we know today.
A word of caution, however, about the Martin Luther story: Historians haven't been able to prove it happened that way.
German immigrants are to thank for bringing the tree to the Americas almost 200 years ago, when Christmas trees began popping up in Pennsylvania.
One of the most famous Christmas trees today is the tree in Rockefeller Center in New York City, first erected in 1931 and firmly establishing an American tradition.
Next, there's the history of Christmas stockings.
There are a lot of stories to explain just where stockings came from, but the most popular story is this:
Once upon a time, a poor man lived with his three daughters, who wanted to get married but had no money.
St. Nicholas, feeling merciful, dropped three gold coins down their chimney and into their stockings, which were drying by the fire. The coins made them rich -- and possibly started another famous tradition.