A Review of ‘Christmas Treasures: The History & Origins of the Season’s Greatest Traditions’

Documentary Explains Holiday Customs


Photo by Arun Kuchibhotla on Unsplash

The documentary “Christmas Treasures: The History and Origin of the Season’s Greatest Traditions” dives into the stories of all these well-known traditions.

Jaden Kolenbrander, Reporter

Anyone can recognize the sight of brilliantly colored lights wrapped around a tall pine tree, or decorative iconography of Santa Claus and his elves delivering presents to the world. Dec. 25 marks one of America’s most famous and widely-celebrated holidays. But have some of the traditions ever seemed interesting or strange? The documentary “Christmas Treasures: The History and Origin of the Season’s Greatest Traditions” by 1091 on Demand dives into the stories of all these well-known traditions.

For example, why is one of the internationally-recognized icons of the holiday Santa Claus, a big, white-bearded man who wears a red coat and pants cuffed with white? And where did the myth of the elves come from? The origins of him are from the namesake of one of his many names, a 4th-century Greek bishop who was called Saint Nicholas. One story goes that he often went into impoverished neighborhoods whose windows were so run-down, he could throw bags of gold coins through them as a gift to the community. His kind deeds were the basis of our Santa’s generosity, and elves came through their introduction in the novels of Louisa May Alcott.

This documentary is what one would expect through the title. It runs through various traditions that we have grown to associate with the holiday and explains them, with a female narrator doing nearly all of the voice work over bright, cheery Christmas music. The editing and production seem fairly old, with slow B-roll shots and montages of mythological or religious imagery providing the only visuals of the documentary. 

However, the main priority, and what it excels at, are the details of the Christmas traditions. There are customs both new and old – I have personally never seen anyone specifically get a yule log to burn in the fireplace, however, I have seen a Christmas tree almost every time this country prepares for the holiday and yet the question has never crossed my mind of where it came from. The documentary answers both of these in great detail.

Specifically, the tree was a decoration that started in the present-day Baltics, where merchants would erect them in the middle of the town square and dance around them as they were decorated with sweets for the children to eat. Protestant Germany also picked up on the custom and created the idea of decorating it with candles, which have today become the Christmas tree lights that everyone wraps around their own. If you also place a star on your tree, that custom also has religious origins, as it is said to represent the Star of Bethlehem, or the angel Gabriel, depending on who you ask. 

The documentary itself is very rough-around-the-edges. By modern TV documentary standards, it’s a plain video that does its job of telling you some interesting Christmas history and then concluding with a heartwarming message about the joy of the holiday. But, in all honesty, I’m completely fine with this. The documentary was relaxing to watch in its old appeal. I would recommend it to anyone who can spare 1 hour and 46 seconds of their time for a comfy viewing.