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Top 10 Holiday Traditions That Make No Sense

VO: RB

Script written by Savannah Sher

Have you ever stopped to think about some of the things we do when the holidays roll around? From carving pumpkins, to hanging stockings, to blowing out candles, we need to take a closer look at these customs! WatchMojo counts down ten holiday traditions that make no sense.

Special thanks to our user boxtroll for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at: https://WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Holiday+Traditions+That+Make+no+Sense.

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Transcript
Script written by Savannah Sher

Top 10 Holiday Traditions That Make No Sense


Have you ever stopped to think about some of the things we do when the holidays roll around? Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Holiday Traditions That Make No Sense.

For this list, we’re looking at the history behind some holiday practices whose origins we don’t often consider or think about.

#10: Hanging Stockings

No holiday during the year has more traditions associated with it than Christmas. Whether it’s leaving cookies and milk out for Santa or drinking delicious eggnog, there are a whole lot of things we do without ever really wondering how they came about. Another biggie: hanging stockings for Santa Claus to fill. The history of hanging containers for gifts is longstanding, with different countries having different origin stories for the practice. Well, actually, people mostly just used their regular socks for Father Christmas to fill, but over time, they became bigger and bigger. Mo’ storage, mo’ presents.

#9: Carving Pumpkins

Dressing up in costumes and going to your neighbors’ houses to demand candy is strange enough, but on top of that, you’ve also got to hollow out a giant vegetable to leave on your front porch. Indeed, many of the customs surrounding Halloween seem bizarre, but in fact, carving out gourds to create lanterns is a practice that people have been participating in for hundreds of years. It’s widely accepted that the Jack-o'-lantern as we’ve come to know it, originated in Ireland in the 1800s. Some say that the faces carved into the pumpkins are meant to represent evil spirits, while others say they’re to scare ‘em away.

#8: Blowing Out Candles

It happens at every birthday party you’ve ever been to: the lights go down, someone brings out a cake festooned with candles, and then the singing starts (possibly in tune, but often not so much). Rather than enjoying the candlelight though, the birthday boy or girl immediately blows them out while making a silent wish. But why? We can’t be sure where the tradition comes from. While there are records of candles being placed on cakes throughout history, no one seems to know where the “blow out the candles and make a wish” definitively comes from. Maybe someone should wish for an explanation.

#7: Chocolate for Valentine’s Day

While many of the traditions on this list, as we’ve seen, come from time-honored customs, we’re coming to the first one with a slightly more, shall we say... capitalistic history. Valentine’s Day has, of course, been around for centuries (though its origins were religious, not about romantic love), but the association between the holiday and chocolate is a relatively new one. When Richard Cadbury was looking for a way to market his newly invented “eating chocolates” (prior to that, chocolate had been mostly consumed in liquid form), he used his marketing prowess to dream up heart-shaped boxes adorned with cupids that could be used as keepsakes even after the chocolate had been eaten.

#6: Fruitcake as A Gift

Does anyone actually want to eat fruitcake? Did they just make a bunch of them a hundred years ago and the same ones are still kicking around every holiday season? Real talk: this dessert has been much ridiculed, but similar recipes have been around since Ancient Rome. In fact, it’s only in certain countries that fruitcake is associated expressly with Christmas. In the UK, it’s eaten year-round. Because of the manner in which it is made, fruitcake really does last a long time, much longer in fact than many other desserts. So it’s an easy thing to give as a gift without worrying that it has spoiled.

#5: Black Friday Shopping

Because American Thanksgiving has been on the last Thursday of November since the early 1940s, it became tradition over the years for workers to play hookey the following day.Employers eventually decided to embrace this reality rather than chastising their employees, and it mostly became an official paid holiday. It’s recognized as the kickoff of the holiday season, and the day to get a start on your shopping. The term “Black Friday” was coined in 1966 after the shopping rush caused particularly bad traffic and shopping congestion in Philadelphia. Plus ca change . .


#4: The Christmas Tree

As we noted before, Christmas does have a lot of unusual traditions. And while it may seem like a Christmas staple, we actually haven’t been putting coniferous trees in our homes to decorate for all that long. Yes, the tradition has been around in Germany for quite a while, but the custom didn’t catch on in the UK or US until much later. In fact, in1900, only about one in five American homes had a Christmas tree. Can you imagine that before the advent of electricity, people actually put lit candles on their trees? Talk about a fire hazard.

#3: April Fool’s Day Pranks

Of all the traditions on our list with somewhat murky and mysterious origins, none is more baffling than April Fool’s Day. Around the world, and throughout history, there have been numerous springtime celebrations with a festive vibe, like the Hindu Holi and Jewish Purim, but no one can really pinpoint when exactly the Western tradition of playing April Fool’s Day pranks comes from. (Of course, nowadays, on reality TV, pranks get pulled 365 days a year.) Even weirder: in France, April Fool’s is known as Poisson D’Avril, or “April Fish”. Hey France, you do you.

#2: Kissing Under the Mistletoe

Back to Christmas for what DJ Khaled would call . . another one. Mistletoe is a plant that has long been linked with fertility practices, and has, for many years, along with a jolly sprig of holly, become a traditional part of Christmas. The custom states that any man can kiss a woman who is standing under the mistletoe, and that if she rejects his advances, she’ll have bad luck. Yeah, this is one tradition that needs a SERIOUS overhaul, to say the least. Kissing at midnight on New Year’s is also supposed to bring good luck to both willing parties. Key word: willing.


#1: Groundhog Day

This origin of this tradition is hyper-localized. It takes place on February 2nd each year in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. If Punxsutawney Phil, the famous (or is it infamous?) groundhog, sees his shadow when he emerges from his den, then there will allegedly be six more weeks of winter. There is much debate about the accuracy of this method (duh), but where exactly did this tradition come from? Well, in ancient European folklore, a badger or sacred bear is sometimes purported to predict the weather and Candlemas is a Christian Holy Day that falls on February 2. Still, this one is pretty weird.
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