The decorations, rituals and aromas that fill our homes during the Christmas season are steeped in a rich brew of legend, religious tradition, history and folklore. Even though we’re often presented with a thin secularized version of the holiday today, all of us can still feel the wonder of the season -- which is why it's called the season of magic.
A great many Christmas traditions came to America through Germany. The Christmas tree, for instance, arrived in America over 200 years ago with German settlers. The use of a fir tree goes back to pre-Christian times, but its history is laden with legends of St. Boniface (the "Apostle of Germany"), Martin Luther and even a poor woodcutter who unknowingly hosted the Christ child on a cold winter's day. Christmas candles today often count down the Advent days. In medieval Europe, they burned through the twelve days of Christmas (Dec. 25 to Jan. 6) to signify the coming of the Magi, and later they shone in windows to welcome any passerby needing shelter or food.
Like the rich stories that they represent, our offerings are meant to become a part of tradition. These pieces of German folk art are built to heirloom quality and, with proper care, should last to your grandchildren's children. With each piece that's passed down, you can share the stories behind them to your children, as they to theirs -- whether it's the story of the Christ child's birth in the nativity scenes or how angels have guided humans (from Mary and Joseph to Jewish mystics to the Egyptians) in nearly every religious tradition in the world. It's a way to draw deeper meaning into this holiday and it creates a magical space where you can spend time with your family, away from the harried practicalities of the season.