As the winter season gets into full swing, most people have some variation of traditions they look forward to – regardless of what holidays they celebrate. Christmas decorations are specifically rife with ritual. Some of these traditions have gained traction more recently, but others have a rich history. 

One can go all the way back – before the advent of advent – to find the beginnings of indoor decorations with greenery. Many cultures, from ancient Egyptians to early Romans to Celts and Vikings, decorated their homes with boughs from evergreen plants during the cold, dark winter months. This was often in celebration of the winter solstice – the shortest day of the year. These plants reminded ancient forebears that spring time, and easier living, would come again. 

The Christmas tree (in a form that current celebrants would recognize) was popularized in Germany in the 16th century, where the modern era of Christmas decorating began. Legend (and the History Channel’s history.com) tells that the Protestant reformer Martin Luther, who was born in 1483, can be credited with adding candles to the trees that devout Christians would use as inside decoration during the winter. 

The story goes that Luther was walking home at night and was so inspired by the stars that he recreated the scene for his family using candles on their tree. In more modern times, Thomas Edison’s partner and friend, Edward Hibberd Johnson, added electric lights in strings around a Christmas tree.

In any discussion on Christmas decor, one shouldn’t forget Oklahoma’s official floral emblem: the mistletoe. Mistletoe is a festive and romantic aesthetic touch during the holidays, as the tradition compels anyone standing beneath it to kiss. But it also has a long history dating back to ecmedicinal uses in ancient Greece. It likely gained its romantic reputation from the first century Celts as it bloomed in winter and became a symbol of fertility and vivacity. 

Christmas Songs with Oklahoma Roots

Many people enjoy special tunes during the holidays, with the majority picking out a few to dub their favorites. Did you know that there are at least two famous Christmas ditties that have direct ties to Oklahoma? 

Oklahoma born child star Gayla Peevey stole hearts in 1953 when she sang “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” The Oklahoma City Zoo later used the popularity of the song as part of a fundraising campaign to “buy a hippo for Gayla.” She then donated the baby hippo, Matilda, to the zoo, where it lived for 45 years. 

Ralph Blane was born in Broken Arrow in 1914. He became a singer and vocal arranger, later teaming up with the likes of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and Richard Rodgers during his career. But he played a part in shaping Christmas music forever when he, along with his musical partner Hugh Martin, wrote “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” for the 1944 movie Meet Me in St. Louis.

Made with help from History.com