Adele Elliott: Celebrating Christmas

December 21, 2013 9:03:18 PM

Adele Elliott - [email protected]


It seems that every holiday has its own traditions. They vary from country to country, even from household to household. Some may have their roots in cultural rituals or folklore, which might seem peculiar to people in other places on the globe. Christmas probably has more than most holidays. 


One of the most bizarre rituals comes from Norway. Like many other places in the world, that country celebrates Christmas Eve with a big dinner and the opening of presents. It is a long-standing belief that on the night of the holiday evil spirits come out and steal brooms from families and proceed to ride them around in the sky. So, as a result all the broomsticks are hidden. I wonder if the spirits ever do a bit of sweeping up? 


Although I had never heard of the Christmas pickle ornament until I moved to Mississippi, apparently it is a practice in many countries. I found two entirely different explanations. Take your "pick"-le. 


One claims that this ornament comes from Canada, but is of Germanic origin. Supposedly, the glass pickle is the last ornament hung on the Christmas tree, hidden somewhere among the decorations. On Christmas morning, the first child to discover the pickle gets an extra present or some other treat. 


Another story dates back to medieval times. A horrible innkeeper is said to have stuffed two kids into a pickle barrel. St. Nicholas happened to stroll by the inn later on and heard of the kids' dilemma. He tapped the barrel with his staff and freed the children, who ran home for Christmas dinner. ( 


I actually love fruit cake. Yes, I realize that is appalling to almost everyone. However, the fruitcake can be traced back as far as the Middle Ages. (So, some people, besides me, must enjoy it.) The oldest reference that can be found dates back to Roman times. The recipe included pomegranate seed, pine nuts and raisins. Anyone who doesn't want one that they received can drop it off on my porch. I am sure it will last, no matter what the weather. 


In our part of the world, most people are Christian. No one really knows the exact date of Jesus' birth, so we just pick mid-December. This was already a time of celebration that dates back almost 4,000 years. 


The origin of this festivity is presumed to honor Mithra, the Iranian god of light, whose symbol is the sun. Later, Romans adopted this festivity to celebrate the god, Saturn and the rebirth of the sun god during the winter solstice. The winter holiday became known as Saturnalia and began the week prior to Dec. 25. The festival was characterized by gift-giving, feasting and singing. The priests of Saturn carried wreaths of evergreen boughs in a procession. ( 


I never tire of nativity scenes, and place multiple creches around my house. Every year I look forward to the display at Memorial Funeral Home (at 716 Second Ave. N. in Columbus). Seeing live animals gives me a thrill (even when they are nibbling on Baby Jesus' plastic fingers). One of the largest nativity scenes is in Saint Peter's Square in Rome, Italy, just outside Saint Peter's Basilica. But this one is not unveiled until Christmas Eve. 


I'm sure everyone's family has some very personal and possibly quirky traditions. It doesn't matter how strange they may seem to others; just sit back and celebrate. 


I send you all my very best wishes for a happy week. Thank you for reading.

Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.