“Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of your childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!” – Charles Dickens

Just the thought of holiday traditions and family gatherings brings a smile to most people’s faces and evokes feelings of nostalgia and sweet anticipation. You can almost smell the fresh cut tree, taste your favorite dishes, and hear familiar holiday songs running through your mind.

While the holidays mean something different for everyone who celebrates, many classic traditions are shared all over the world and are associated with pagan celebrations around the winter solstice. Read on to learn more about the history and legend of some of our favorite holiday traditions.

Christmas Cards. Sir Henry Cole, an Englishman who was too busy to write individualized greetings to his friends and family during the Christmas season of 1843, had 1,000 illustrated cards printed with the words, “A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year to You.” From hand-crafted homemade cards to family pictures adorning the fronts, holiday greeting cards are sold by the billions today.

Christmas Trees. The tradition of decorating trees can be traced back to Germany in the 16th century. The theologian Martin Luther is credited with putting lights on a tree after he was walking through the forest one night and wanted to re-create the beautiful stars shining through the trees.

Boozy Eggnog. Believed to be adapted from the medieval British drink, posset, American colonists are credited for making it popular and adding rum. Even George Washington is believed to have his own special recipe.

Milk and Cookies for Santa. While leaving treats for Santa and his reindeer dates back to Norse mythology, during the Great Depression, the tradition was sweetened up, as a way of showing gratitude during a time of struggle.

Although not everyone celebrates Christmas, most religions and cultures support the same values of the season and there is plenty worth celebrating: gathering with loved ones, sharing food and gifts, taking care of the less fortunate in our community, enjoying childhood traditions, and seeing the year out on a high note. Happy Christmas!