Ancient Roots, Modern Holidays for Kids - Christmas Traditions Illustration

Ancient Roots, Modern Holidays for Kids - Christmas Traditions

For Kids: Today, Christmas is a religious holiday. It is celebrated by Christians around the world to honor the birth of Jesus Christ.

There are many traditions and symbols that are part of Christmas season that began in ancient times, some before the birth of Jesus Christ. These traditions were adopted over time.

Christmas greenery and gift giving: The ancient Romans loved celebrations.  The ancient Romans especially enjoyed a holiday that occurred around the 25th of December. This holiday was not called Christmas. It did not honor the birth of Christ. But on this day, the ancient Romans feasted, gave gifts, were merry, and decorated their homes with greenery, customs they borrowed from the ancient Greeks!

Christmas gingerbread: An early form of gingerbread started with Alexander the Great over 2,000 years ago. It was not as tasty as the gingerbread we have today. It was used in religious ceremonies. Gingerbread houses were started in Germany in the 1500s. When the Crusaders brought ginger roots back from the Middle East, gingerbread, as a delicious desert, became very popular. Soon, gingerbread cookies and gingerbread houses became part of the Christmas season.

Christmas trees:  Decorating Christmas trees started during the Middle Ages in Germany. Entertainment back then included free plays called miracle plays put on by the church and paid for by wealthy people. Decorated trees were colorful backgrounds for the plays, which were mostly performed outside. These plays were stories of the Bible. The idea of decorating trees to celebrate the birth of Christ caught on. At first, it was only the wealthy who had Christmas trees. Soon everyone had them. Not every tree was cut. Mostly trees were decorated where they grew. People made decorations, beautiful things, out of household scraps.

Christmas stockings: The Legend of the Christmas Stocking, a short holiday story for kids, retold by Lin Donn

The Nutcracker started as a story performed by the Russian ballet in St Petersburg over 100 years ago. People loved the story of the nutcracker. Both the ballet and the nutcracker became symbols of the Christmas season.

The story of Santa Claus is very old. Santa has many names in many countries. In the United States, Santa Claus is pictured as a jolly old elf, with reindeer and a magical sleight filled with presents delivered while good children are sound asleep, to be discovered under the tree on Christmas morning.  In Sweden, each Christmas Eve day, in the afternoon, a jolly elf named Jultomten (tomten) has been delivering gifts to children in a sleight drawn by goats for hundreds of years. Pere Noel fills the shoes of French children while they are asleep. In Italy, La Befana is a witch who rides a broomstick down the chimneys of the homes of good children to deliver toys into their stockings or shoes, or left near the fireplace. There are other magical beings in other places all around the world. The one thing all these Santas and magical beings have in common is that good little children receive gifts from them each year at Christmastime.

Christmas is a religious holiday, filled with fun.  To get you in the spirit of the holiday, here are some free interactive online games to play. (Flash games have been removed.)

Christmas chain game

Christmas furious game

Christmas memory game

FlapCat Christmas game

Santa Girl Runner game

Santa's Mission game

Reindeer Quiz

Snowball World game

Build a snowman game

Short Video for Kids, the Nativity: The Christmas Story for Kids (YouTube)

See Also: Three Kings Day

For Teachers

The Christmas Tree (lesson plan)

Christmas Play, based on Gift of the Magi

The Legend of the Christmas Stocking lesson plan for language arts and social studies teachers

Las Posadas Lesson Plans 

Holidays Around the World, free from TPT