According to my 4-year-old (and most 4-year-olds), Christmas is the greatest holiday of the year. From the timeless traditions of decorating the tree and picking the treats from our Advent calendar, it’s hard to argue with her logic. It’s a magical time of year that brings people together in the true spirit of Christmas.

Thinking back about the countless traditions that my family upheld, I realize that I never picreally questioned why we did all those things. One of my favorite holiday traditions growing up was leaving milk and cookies for Santa Claus and his reindeer. My parents would call me into the kitchen to pick out a few freshly baked treats from the oven to share with our jolly visitor.

As my 7-year-old self stared at the crumbs left on the plate, I didn’t understand the reason behind my generous offering, probably because I was overwhelmed with excitement that my cookies had been eaten by Santa Claus himself. As it turns out, it’s much more than just a satisfying snack for the jolly bearded man slipping down the chimney.

The tradition actually started in western Germany with what they called “paradise trees.” These trees were apparently decorated with apples, wafers and cookies to symbolize the spirit of giving. Paradise trees came to be known as Christmas trees, which were decorated with treats, lights and colored balls like the holiday staple we know today.

I, for one, am grateful this holiday season for the traditions that have been a part of families across the world for generations. If you don’t partake in any traditions, you could try to start one.

I thought about laying claim to a Christmas tradition involving watermelons. Wrapping watermelons? Roasting watermelons over an open fire? Maybe not, but I’m still working on it. In the meantime, I hope everyone has a happy and healthy holiday season, no matter what your traditions may be!

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