TES students learn traditions

Published 5:25 pm Friday, December 25, 2009

On Christmas, the presents have all been opened, the turkey has made it to the salad and the company has gone home, so it’s time to just sit back and relax. So, now may be the best time to think about Christmas and all those symbols of the holiday that we take for granted. We often tend to forget that each of those symbols has a meaning.

At Troy Elementary School, Ginger Boutwell’s reading classes participated in a Christmas Traditions Project. They learned the meaning behind many of the traditions of Christmas and the symbols they represent. They were amazed and sometimes greatly surprised by what they learned.

But most of all, they learned that sharing is a huge part of the Christmas tradition world over, so they agreed so share the meaning behind the symbols of Christmas with The Messenger’s readers.

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Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is a character created in a story and song by the same name. The story was written by Robert L. May in 1939 as part his employment with Montgomery Ward, a department store.

The story is owned by Rudolph Company, L.P. and has been sold in numerous forms including a popular song, a television special (done in stop-motion animation) and a feature film although the story and song are not public domain, Rudolph has become a figure of Christmas folklore. The song tells about Santa’s lead reindeer that has an unusual red nose. The nose gives its own light – enough light for Santa to see through bad weather.

Some people have mistaken the lyric, “all of the other reindeer” for “Olive, the other reindeer.” This has give rise to another fictional character in cartoon. Olive is the name of a dog thinks she is a reindeer.

Most people recognize a version of the song recorded by Gene Autry in 1949, although it was first sung on the radio in New York City in 1948.

—Jake Maddox, fourth grade TES


When we think of Christmas cards, we think of winter themes like Frosty the Snowman or Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. However, years ago things were a lot different and some the same.

Christmas cards are 150 years old. Christmas cards were first printed in London on a large scale in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole, not in America. They were first sold by Louis Prang in 1875. John Calcott Horsley painted the card showing the feeding and clothing of the poor. In the middle there was a picture of a family sipping wine. It drew criticism because a child drinking wine was called child corruption. Two thousand and fifty cards were sold that year for a shilling each.

Christmas cards all looked different. English cards all showed spring themes. In the World Wars, Christmas cards usually had patriotic themes. In the 1950s cartoon illustrations were popular.

Kate Greenway’s Christmas cards were most popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Hers were cut in shapes like bells and crescents. She made the first pop-ups and noise cards.

On most cards it says “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.” Here’s how to say it in:

Spanish- Feliz Navidad y Prospero Ano Nuevo; French – Joyeux Noel et Bonne Annee; Italian Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo; Irish – Nollaig Shona Duit and German – Frohliche Weihnachten und ein gluckliches/gutes Neues Jahr.

Christmas cards have come a long way. We now have less Christmas cards today because most cards are sold on the Internet like ecards. But to me, it doesn’t matter what kind of Christmas cards it is, they’re all special.

—Nelsey Leverette, fourth grade TES


Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we know it. Christians brought decorated trees into their homes and built pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce. It was Martin Luther, the 16th century Protestant reformer, who first added lighted candles to a tree.

In the USA (United States of America), German settlers of Pennsylvania put up the first Christmas tree. Christmas trees were not accepted by most Americans and were seen as pagan symbols. In 1659, the General Court of Massachusetts started a law making any observance of December 25 (other than a church service) a penal offense.

By the 1890s, Christmas ornaments were arriving from Germany and Christmas popularity was on the rise around the United States. Americans were decorating their trees with homemade ornaments by the early 20th century. Electricity brought about Christmas lights. With this Christmas trees began to appear in town squares across the country. To date, the Christmas tree has become an American tradition.

—Abby Lee, fourth grade TES


According to “Catholic News Agency,” December 6th is when the Catholic Church celebrates St. Nicholas.

St. Nicholas was born in Lycia in the 3rd century. He was a bishop in Myra. He was put in jail but then released by Constantine the Great. St. Nicholas was said to have thrown money into poor people’s houses because their daughters had to have money to get married. Supposedly, the money thrown through the window by St. Nicholas fell into their shoes, which is why people put stockings on their fireplaces or shoes by the door.

In Germany, his name in “San Nikolaus” which sounds like Santa Claus. He was said to have worn red and white robes and have a long white beard.

— Colin Jones, fourth grade TES


Do you want to know the true story of the candy cane? Well, let me tell you.

A candy maker in Indiana wanted to make some candy that would be a witness of Jesus Christ. He made the Christmas candy cane. He included several symbols for the birth, ministry and death of Jesus Christ.

To symbolize the virgin birth and sinless nature of Jesus, he started with a stick of pure white candy, hard to symbolize the Solid Rock, the foundation of the church and the firmness of the promises of God.

He made the candy in the shape of a “J” the first initial of the precious name of Jesus, who came as our Savior. It may also represent the staff of our “Good Shepherd,” with which He reaches down to the ditches of this world to lift up the fallen lambs who, like all sheep, have gone astray.

The candy maker stained it with 3 small red stripes to show the scourging Jesus received by which we are healed.

The large red stripe is for the blood shed by Christ on the Cross, by which we may receive the promise of eternal life. Unfortunately, this candy has become known as a candy cane – a meaningless decoration at Christmastime. But the real meaning is still there for those with “eyes to see and ears to hear.”

I pray this symbol will once again be used as witness to “the wonder and Glory of the one true Savior, the Lord, Jesus Christ.”

—Melanie Ford, fourth grade TES


Santa Claus is mostly known as a big man in a red suit that sneaks into your house and leaves you cool presents.

Santa in a red suit is mostly known in Canada and the USA. In UK and Europe, he is known as Father Christmas.

Most people think he lives in the North Pole. Most people say that Santa has hundreds of elves that build the toys he gives us. People say Santa rides to your house on a sleigh pulled by magical reindeer.

Some people believe Santa was started by a man name Saint Nick, a person who went on Christmas and gave random people Christmas presents.

In UK and Europe, he wears a green suite instead of red. In some countries he is a she.

On Christmas, most people have stockings for Santa to put presents in. A lot of people leave cookies and milk for him.

The Dutch version of Santa is Sint Klaas. Santa lives at the North Pole. Santa enters your house through the chimney or window.

In Greece, he is known as Hagios Nikolaos. His fame spread through the Middle Ages. Many believe Santa was started by the Three Kings that visited Jesus when he was born. – Adams Bensinger, fifth grade TES


Holly’s bright red color stands out in the winter and gives good luck to men. Holly symbolizes the crown of thorns on Jesus’ head when he was crucified. The red berries symbolize Jesus’ blood and it celebrates the birth of Christ.

Ivy symbolized three facts. It clings; it thrives in the shade and it’s evergreen. It signifies true love, faithfulness and undying affection both in marriage and friendships. Christians believe it stands for the new promise of eternal life. At Christmas time, ivy is only used on the outside of buildings. It’s one the outside of buildings because it represents mortality and because Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, the giver of everlasting life and destroyer of death.

Greenery is also known as Christmas trees and wreaths. Norsemen put evergreen boughs over doorways to ward off evil. Greenery is also taken inside to freshen the air inside your house and to freshen spirits during the long cold winter.

— Caitlin Bobo, fifth grade TES


The custom of hanging up stockings on Christmas Eve all began in Europe. It was when a poor man’s wife died and he couldn’t afford for his three daughters’ dowry. He could not provide his daughters a dowry and without it they could not get married. He was kind and generous to his fellow man. When Santa Claus heard what happened, he knew the man would not take charity so he did it in secrecy. So at night, he would go down the chimney and put some gold in their stockings that were being dried on the mantelpiece. The next day, they found the gold in the sockings. So there was plenty of gold to pay the dowry.

Since then, children would hang stockings, hoping to get a gift in their stockings. Originally from Europe, children would put out a shoe near the mantelpiece.

— Kelsi Huynh, fifth grade TES


The poinsettia is associated with Christmas because of a story about a poor Mexican girl named Pepita. She had no gift to present to the Christ Child at Christmas Eve services. She decided to fashion a handful of common weeds into a bouquet. It was all she had to offer. She knelt to lay the bouquet at the foot of the Nativity scene, she was embarrassed by her offering and fought back a tear. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into blooms of brilliant red and everyone who saw them said they had witnessed a Christmas miracle right before their eyes. Today, the common name for this plant is poinsettia.

—Graham Wilkes


Everyone knows about the power of mistletoe at Christmas, right? It makes holiday romance democratic by making everyone equally kissable – friends, strangers and distant cousins. Wander beneath a sprig of mistletoe at a holiday party and like it not you become fair game to anyone whose lips are within range.

But there is much more to mistletoe than kissing and holiday merriment. This year, don’t just fill up on eggnog as you linger near the mistletoe hoping that special someone you secretly adore will stroll by unawares or back up just another few steps.

Here are a few fun facts about the mistletoe:

American mistletoe, the kind most often associated with kissing, is one of 1,300 species worldwide but only two are native to the United States.

The translation of the word “mistletoe” isn’t very romantic. A few centuries back, some people apparently observed that mistletoe tended to take root where birds had left their droppings. “Mistal” is an Anglo-Saxon word that means “dung” and “tan” means “twig” so mistletoe actually means “dung on a twig.”

—Kush Patel, fifth grade TES