Forgotten Festive Fads and Christmas Traditions

It just wouldn’t be Christmas without the stockings hung by the chimney with care, a punch bowl full of eggnog, and the game where you slap your friends on their backside. That one, and many others, are once steadfast yuletide traditions that slowly disappeared.

Aluminum Christmas

Aluminum Christmas Trees

In the 1950s and 1960s, any sort of scientific breakthrough that seemed new and futuristic quickly caught on. Even when it came to Christmas trees, people bought into the notion that manmade was superior to the natural. That’s why millions bought aluminum trees introduced by a company called Modern Coatings. Made of metal and resembling a tree’s shape, they came in all kinds of candy colors and they glistened in the light. It was all a fad — and being disparaged in the 1965 holiday classic  A Charlie Brown Christmas was the final nail in the coffin.

Hot Cockles

Have you ever played the game “Heads-Up Seven Up”? It’s a classroom favorite on days when bad weather precludes kids going outside for recess, so instead they play this game. Players keep their heads on their desk and stick their thumb out while one of seven other kids that are “it” walk around and touch those extended thumbs. If your thumb gets touched, you try to guess who did it. It’s a very tame variation on an early 19th century British game called “Hot Cockles.” Played at Christmas parties — where, clearly, a lot of alcohol was consumed — it involved one player getting blindfolded. Then, someone would smack their rear-end, and then the player had to guess the identity of the secret slapper. (The strict moral codes of the Victorian era put an end to “Hot Cockles” as a Christmas tradition.)

Cake-throwing

A Christmas cake is still a moderately popular tradition in both England and the U.S. — gingerbread cakes, fruitcakes, chocolate cakes, and others are commonly enjoyed for the holidays. Back in the 1890s, some families made two cakes. The first one was for enjoying, and the second one was for throwing. Yep, they’d throw a perfectly good cake against a wall. It was a superstition — wasting that food on Christmas was thought to ensure that the next year would be one without hunger.

Roses and Lavender

There are some strong scents associated with the winter holidays, such as cookies baking and an indoor tree. In Colonial Virginia, families placed bouquets of roses and lavender around their homes — those were their Christmas smells.

 

Humble Pie

Christmas could be a time for pie as well as cake. Way back in the 1600s, English families traditionally feasted on umble, or humble pie. It’s a meat pie filled with humbles — which are a deer’s organs. (Most commonly used humbles: the heart, the liver, and the brain.)