Fruitcake gets a bad rap for the holidays. This infamous gift traces back its origins to Egyptian history. It’s said that Egyptians left fruitcakes on in the tombs of their dead relatives. In England, people would place fruitcake under their pillow to dream about their sweet, eventual “someone”. Europe made fruitcakes illegal in the 18th Century describing them as “sinfully rich” treats. Europeans began fleeing to America to get from under Europe’s thumb, and shipment of fruitcakes to America began.
Quite the backstory for something people now use for cake-chucking contests! The rumor is that when they became mass-produced, fruitcakes became the gag gift of the season. Now, about 47% of people who receive them as gifts admit to eagerly throwing them away.
Many people can recognize Kwanzaa candles, but did you know each of the colors of the candles have a specific meaning? Kwanzaa candles consist of red, black, and green candles. The candles are lit from left to right, beginning with three red candles, which represent the struggle for freedom for people of African heritage. This is followed by lighting one black candle which represents the color of the people. Finally, three green candles are lit which symbolize the rich and fertile land of Africa.
They’re a must-have amongst Christmas decorations, but where does the tradition stem from? Wreaths are believed to have found their early roots in Germanic culture, the evergreen symbolizing life year-round and the eventual return of warm weather. Essentially, hope for all who hibernate in the winter. This tradition was later adopted by Christianity and infused with the telling of Christ, his crown, and the symbol of everlasting and eternal life.
The giving of the Hanukkah gelt is a timeless tradition of the Jewish culture. Some of the earliest Jewish records express how important unique coinage was because its ability to be minted represented Jewish independence. The coinage was an early symbol of prosperity, and when their use began to wane, coinage was still given to Jewish teachers in support of children’s education and their learning the Torah. Gelts eventually were given to children as well, in support of their academics and studying Judaism.
Gelts are now popularly given as money and as chocolate gold coins to Jewish children during the season of Hanukkah.
The lion dance is popularly seen during the celebration of the Chinese New Year, but not exclusively so. It can also be found at many Chinese celebrations and festivals due to it being a symbol of fortune and good luck. The lion dance consists of two people under a lion suit, one in the head and one in the body, who dance and mimic the movements of the lion. Sometimes they spit out greens to spread good fortune as the head consumes red envelopes called “hong paos” that contain monetary donations.
This tradition dates back to the Three Kingdoms Period and the eventual rise of Buddhism and the Tang Dynasty. Lions were originally a Chinese myth, being that no lions lived in China at the time. Upon introduction by the Silk Road trade, however, the lion dance became a prayer for good luck.