Many European countries believed that spirits, both good and evil, were active during the Twelve Days of Christmas. These spirits eventually evolved into Santa's elves, especially under the influence of Clement C. Moore's The Night Before Christmas (1779-1863) illustrated by Thomas Nast (1840-1902).
Each year there are approximately 20,000 "rent-a-Santas" across the United States. "Rent-a-Santas" usually undergo seasonal training on how to maintain a jolly attitude under pressure from the public. They also receive practical advice, such as not accepting money from parents while children are looking and avoiding garlic, onions, or beans for lunch.
Evergreens (from the Old English word aefie meaning "always" and gowan meaning "to grow") have been symbols of eternal life and rebirth since ancient times. The pagan use and worship of evergreen boughs and trees has evolved into the Christianized Christmas tree.
Christmas stockings allegedly evolved from three sisters who were too poor to afford a marriage dowry and were, therefore, doomed to a life of prostitution. They were saved, however, when the wealthy Bishop Saint Nicholas of Smyrna (the precursor to Santa Claus) crept down their chimney and generously filled their stockings with gold coins.
The earliest known Christmas tree decorations were apples. At Christmastime, medieval actors would use apples to decorate paradise trees (usually fir trees) during "Paradise Plays," which were plays depicting Adam and Eve's creation and fall.
Can anyone explain the glow of Christmas?
Holidays are candles in the night.
Rebirth comes from family and friends
In one bright blur of food and talk that ends
Still burning as a peaceful inner light.
There is no way to substitute for Christmas.
Miss it and no circumstance feels right.
All my heart's with you, yet I must miss this
Season thick with love and rich delight.
The Christmas tree was first decorated with lights in the 16th century. It is believed that Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, was the first to add lighted candles to the tree. He was so taken with the Christmas night sky that he wished to bring "the lights of the stars" into the home of his family. From this, decorating the tree with ornaments, messages and notes, and small gifts emerged in later centuries leading to our customs today.