Tartans and Traditions

The sharing of traditions during Christmas is a special way to create a Lasting Impression in all of our homes. I will focus on four which are part of my heritage – Norwegian, German, English, and Scottish.

Norwegian

winter trail alongside the Little Plover River

Norwegians make the most of their winter sunshine by getting outside. Cross-country skiing is a sport I love, and I always hope for a snowfall in December to create memorable conditions and a Lasting Impression. Skiing truly is the Norwegian national pastime. Even those who aren’t hitting the slopes every weekend will at least go on a few cross-country ski trips over the winter. Skiing gives everyone a reason to rejoice when the temperature drops and the roads turn white, and I’ve found that this positive outlook carries over to other aspects of winter as well.

Christmas in Trafalgar Square Photo credit: Andrew Howat.

A favorite fun fact about Christmas in Norway is the gifting of a huge Christmas tree for London’s Trafalgar Square. This tree is actually donated as a gift from the city of Oslo, and they have sent a tree over from Norway every year since 1947 as a thank you for the support Norway was given by Britain during World War II. The tree is decorated in a traditional, Norwegian style.

English

scene from A Christmas Carol by Lloyd Garrison 

Christmas has a long history in the UK, but we have the Victorians to thank for many of our most loved festive traditions. Much of our understanding of a merry old English Christmas has more to do with the writings of Charles Dickens or Washington Irving than our real medieval ancestors. Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is more an idealized romance based on his own childhood memory than a chronicle of what was happening at the time. When the Victorians did rediscover Christmas, they couldn’t stop themselves and soon we had Christmas cards, crackers, and the sense that Christmas was a time for family. And, as Tiny Tim observed: “God bless us, every one.”

German

Nutcracker Snow Scene from Makaroff Youth Ballet

While this may not be truly German, I fell in love with The Nutcracker ballet with my dancing daughter. She progressed through her ballet classes and participated in many variations of the Nutcracker. I steadily became more involved and used my talents in sewing to assist with costumes. The origin of The Nutcracker, a classic Christmas Story, is a fairy tale ballet in two acts centered around a young girl, Clara, and her family’s Christmas Eve celebration. Alexandre Dumas Père’s adaptation of the story by E.T.A. Hoffmann was set to music by Tchaikovsky and originally choreographed by Marius Petipa. After it’s original premier, in 1892 in Moscow, the ballet went through some changes and traveled to Budapest and London before premiering in San Francisco in 1940. The Nutcracker we see today contains memorable music and a cast of dancers involved in a Christmas party at a grand home in Nuremburg, Germany in addition to mice, soldiers, a mysterious godfather, a land of sweets, a sugar plum fairy and snowflakes. The Nutcracker is the most popular staged ballet in the world. Truly A Lasting Impression.

Click here for a peek at George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker – Waltz of the Snowflakes.

Scottish

I love this portrait of the two young Macdonald boys sporting their varieties of tartan and displaying their love for golf. Apparently wearing tartan at that time was forbidden but the Macdonald clan was above any law imposed by the English crown. Later, the association of tartan with Christmas grew to new heights because of the Scots who celebrated the winter solstice while wearing their tartans. Then, following a royal visit from George IV in 1831, the Scottish tartan industry was inspired to invent clan tartans.  In 1853, Queen Victoria created the Victoria tartan and Prince Albert created the Balmoral tartan which increased the popularity of tartans to new heights. Today we see the very popular Royal Stewart and Black Watch tartans incorporated in many holiday displays and fashions. I am happy to say I love the MacDonald tartan and wear it proudly during the holidays. Their colors of dark green, navy blue, red, and black are timeless and always leave a Lasting Impression.

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