The holidays are in full swing at Wren & Willow, and being the history buffs we are, we could not help but wonder about the origin of one of our favorite Christmas carols, "The Twelve Days of Christmas." (Click here to listen to that classic carol.)

In 1780 England, the lyrics were originally published as a memory-and-forfeit game in the children's book, Mirth Without Mischief. Children would be tested to recite the song lyrics in order, but if a mistake was made, a forfeit would be paid to their opponent in the form of a kiss or small sweet. However, it was not until 1909 that Frederic Austin, an English composer, arranged the melody we all know today. Despite the publication and composer both being English, our research led us to believe that the lyrics of this carol may have French origin. This piqued our interest into the history of Christmas traditions around the world and how they celebrate this time of year.

  • In England, children sometimes leave mince pies and brandy for Father Christmas instead of milk and cookies, and they get small toys by pulling on the ends of Christmas Crackers, like the crackers shown above. Boxing Day is celebrated the day after Christmas by feasting on leftovers with family and friends.

  • Advent plays a huge role in the Christmas celebration in Germany, specifically through advent calendars. Germany is also where Christmas trees originated. Traditionally, the tree was secretly decorated by the mother to surprise her children. Like other countries, they feast on traditional foods of their culture like Stollen, a homemade sweet bread filled with nuts, spices, and dried fruits.

  • In Norway, Christmas Eve is the main evening for celebration. It is most common for a lavish dinner to be shared with family and friends serving classic Norwegian foods, like Krumkake, Lefse, and Rosettes. After dinner, gifts are exchanged and families enjoy each other's company.

  • At midnight on Christmas Eve, the sky in Peru explodes with fireworks to celebrate La Noche Buena. After families are finished setting off fireworks, they gather in the dining room for a full turkey dinner. After dinner, the family opens gifts, drinks hot cocoa, and phones other family members around the country. Christmas Day is spent recovering from the long night!

  • In Russia, New Year's Day is a much bigger celebration than Christmas. However, families still celebrate by decorating a tree, giving gifts, and spending time with their relatives and friends. Similar to Christmas Day, on New Year's Eve, children wait for Grandfather Frost to bring them presents. Did you happen to notice the photo of Grandfather Frost with his snowflake staff, long white beard, and bag of gifts? Hint: Scroll back up!