Tomte and Santa Claus
Sweden has this old story about a gnome called the Tomte. Every house has a Tomte, who lives somewhere in the house. I always picture him living under the front porch and scurrying underneath into the floorboards. The household has to treat the Tomte right because doing so gives the house prosperity, either good sales at the shop or a bigger crop than usual. You can’t treat him too nice, but you can’t treat him too badly either. There’s always that fine line when you deal with magical folk. In any case, you’re supposed to give the Tomte some food, either porridge or a portion of your Christmas meal, on Christmas day. This is one of the ways you treat him just right.
My folklore professor mentioned that leaving food for the Tomte is similar to leaving milk and cookies for Santa. He continued this talk by explaining the various Scandinavian Christmas traditions, which culminated in the argument that Christmas is a very Scandinavian practice. For instance, Santa lives in the North Pole, and which countries is the North Pole closest to a few hundred years back? Sweden, Norway, and Finland.
Red and Green
The same professor also said that the colors red and green come from people sacrificing their Christmas meal animal on a bed of pine boughs. The blood of the animal is the red and the pine boughs are the green. Morbid, I know, but interesting, don’t you think?
The Christmas Tree
I’ll have these entertaining folk explain this tradition.
Comment Question: What are the origins of your favorite holiday traditions?