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Holiday Traditions Explored

Holiday traditions range from silly to serious, and we often participate in them without thinking too much about why we're doing so. Whether you're traveling this winter or letting the spirit of the season come to you, tuck these fun facts about holiday traditions into your back pocket to share with a friend at dinner or drinks and inspire reminiscence over Christmas's past—and cheer for those still to come.   
 
CHRISTMAS PICKLE 
Do you remember searching your tree for an elusive green pickle or pickle ornament on Christmas morning? The origin of this amusing tradition (the first person who spots the pickle is bound for good luck in the new year) was once thought to be Germany, but those who have investigated this curious ornament cite an advertising campaign from Woolworths, which was one of the first department stores to sell the decorations. It's said that when the company received a shipment of Christmas decor from Germany and found boxes of pickle ornaments inside, they needed to get creative with a way to sell them. That's why if you visit Germany for the holidays, chances are you won't see pickle ornaments adorning their Christmas trees.   
 
LUMINARIAS  
Meaning "little bonfire" in Spanish, luminarias are small brown bags filled with sand or gravel and lit with votive candles. Originally created as small open-air bonfires, luminarias line streets and walkways in the southwest on Christmas Eve. The tradition, which dates back to the 16th century, is historically a way to recognize and honor Mary's trip to Bethlehem in search of a place to give birth. Now, luminarias also guide travelers and welcome visitors home. 
 
ADVENT CALENDARS 
Ranging from fancy reusable wooden chests to less fussy cardboard creations, advent calendars are a bright spot in the days of many children—and adults—during the month of December. Historically a time for those recently converted to Christianity to prepare for baptism, advent is most commonly associated with the birth of Christ. The word advent comes from a Latin word meaning "to come," or "arrival," which gives this tradition of anticipation and reflection a new and deeper meaning—in addition to being a festive and nondenominational way to help the year end on a positive and abundant note.  
 
Though the history behind these three traditions vary, they still embody the spirit of this season by serving to tie people together and helping inspire little sparks of joy and wonder that can provide warmth long into the winter. 
 
Sources: History.com; Mentalfloss.com 

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