For many around the globe December 25th marks a religious holiday in which we celebrate Jesus’ birth. Over the centuries, it has been marked with fictional characters such as Santa and his famous reindeer of nine. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer from memorizing them in your childhood? Go ahead, sing the song “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer,” it will help you.
Since I am always interested in holiday traditions, how and where they originated, and why we practice them, I have compiled a list of Christmas facts from many outside sources (to which the original creator is unknown and proper credit cannot be acknowledged nor verified.)
- Santa Claus was a real Saint (German: Sankt Nikolaus). He lived in what is now known as Turkey but was referred to as Myra in the 300s.
- Merry Christmas has name translations around the world. Here are just a few of the more popular locations. Sheng Tan Kuai Loh (China), Hauskaa Joulua (Finland), Joyeux Noel (France), Nadolig Llawen (Wales), and God Jul (Sweden).
- The Candy Cane is one of the most familiar symbols of Christmas. It dates back to 1670 in Europe but did not appear in the United States until the 1800s. The treat we see today, where the shape is Jesus’s hook to shepherd his lambs and the color and stripes hold significance for purity and Christ’s sacrifice, became common in the mid 1900s.
The Christmas Stocking got its start when three unmarried girls did their laundry and hung their stockings on the chimney to dry. Because they had no dowry, they could not marry; however St. Nicholas knew of their plight and put a sack of gold in each stocking and in the morning the girls awoke to discover they had dowry’s and could now marry.
- Of the estimated 7,201,398,000 people in the world today, it is estimated that one out of 3 people celebrate Christmas worldwide, including 2.2-billion Christians.
The most popular Christmas Song ever is We Wish You a Merry Christmas. The song can be traced back to England, but its author and composer remains unknown.
- US scientists calculated that Santa would have to visit 822 homes a second to deliver all the world’s presents on Christmas Eve, travelling at 650 miles a second.
The tradition of putting tangerines in stockings comes from 12th-century French nuns who left socks full of fruit, nuts and tangerines at the houses of the poor.
- Carols began as an old English custom called wassailing, toasting neighbors to a long life and were not
sung in churches until they were introduced by St Francis of Assisi in the 13th century.
- Hanging stockings comes from the Dutch custom of leaving shoes packed with food for St Nicholas’s donkeys. He would leave small gifts in return.
- Nearly 60-million Christmas trees are grown each year in Europe.
- The word Noel derives from the French expression “les bonnes nouvelles” or “the good news.”
- Many theologians estimate that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th but sometime in September between 6BC and 30AD and that December 25th is a unison day for the World to celebrate His birth.
- James Pierpont’s 1857 song Jingle Bells was first called One Horse Open Sleigh and was originally written for Thanksgiving.
Before turkey, the traditional Christmas meal in England was a pig’s head and mustard.
- In 1999, residents of the state of Maine in America built the world’s biggest ever snowman. He stood at 113 ft 7 inches tall and was called Angus, King of the Mountain.
The Greeks celebrate Christmas on January 7, according to the old Julian calendar, while Christmas presents are opened on New Year’s Day.
- The holly in a wreath symbolizes Christ’s crown of thorns while the red berries are drops of his blood.
The long shopping season before Christmas began in America when relatives of soldiers stationed overseas in the Second World War were encouraged to mail gifts early.
- Jingle Bells was the first song broadcast from space when Gemini 6 astronauts Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra sang it on December 16, 1965.
The first artificial Christmas Tree was not a tree at all. It was created out of goose feathers that were dyed.
- Santa has different names around the world – Kris Kringle (Germany), Le Befana (Italy), Pere Noel (France), and Deushka Moroz meaning Grandfather Frost (Russia).
The word Christmas comes from the Old English “Cristes maesse” meaning “Christ’s Mass”.
- The bestselling Christmas single ever is Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, selling over 50-million copies worldwide since 1942.
Christmas pudding was originally a soup made with raisins and wine.
- Kissing under the mistletoe is thought to spring from Frigga, the Norse goddess of love, who was associated with the plant.
The Beatles hold the record for the most #1 Christmas singles, topping the charts in 1963, 65 and 67.
- Electric tree lights were invented by Edward Johnson in the US in 1882.
- Rudolph red-nosed reindeer was invented for US firm “Montgomery Ward” children’s Christmas book promotion in 1939 to drive traffic into the stores.
- Gold wrapped chocolate coins commemorate St Nicholas who gave bags of gold coins to the poor.
- The first Christmas celebrated in Britain is thought to have been in York in 521AD.
- In Greece, Italy, Spain and Germany, workers get a Christmas bonus of one month’s salary by law.
- In the Czech Republic they enjoy dinners of fish soup, eggs and carp. The number of people at the table must be even, or the one without a partner will die next year.
- Each year more than 3 billion Christmas cards are mailed in the United States.
- All the gifts in the Twelve Days of Christmas would equal 364 gifts.
- The “true love” mentioned in the song “Twelve Days of Christmas” does not refer to a romantic couple, but the Catholic Church’s code for God. The person who receives the gifts represents someone who has accepted that code. For example, the “partridge in a pear tree” represents Christ. The “two turtledoves” represent the Old and New Testaments.
- Most of Santa’s reindeer have male-sounding names, such as Blitzen, Comet, and Cupid. However, male reindeers shed their antlers around Christmas, so the reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh are likely not male, but female.
- In 350AD Pope Julius I, bishop of Rome, proclaimed December 25 the official celebration date for the birthday of Christ.
- According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the tallest Christmas tree ever cut was a 221-foot Douglas fir that was displayed in 1950 at the Northgate Shopping Center in Seattle, Washington.
- The traditional three colors of Christmas are green, red, and gold. Green has long been a symbol of life and rebirth; red symbolizes the blood of Christ, and gold represents light as well as wealth and royalty.
- The world’s largest Christmas stocking measured 106 feet and 9 inches (32.56 m) long and 49 feet and 1 inch (14.97 m) wide. It weighed as much as five reindeer and held almost 1,000 presents. It was made by the Children’s Society in London on December 14, 2007.
- Christmas trees have been sold in the United States since 1850.
- Christmas trees usually grow for about 15 years before they are cut and sold.
- 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).
- The British wear paper crowns while they eat Christmas dinner. The crowns are stored in a tube called a “Christmas cracker.
- Alabama was the first state in the United States to officially recognize Christmas in 1836.
- Christmas was not declared an official holiday in the United States until June 26, 1870.
- Oklahoma was the last U.S. state to declare Christmas a legal holiday, in 1907.
- Mistletoe (Viscum album) is from the Anglo-Saxon word misteltan, which means “little dung twig” because the plant spreads though bird droppings.
- Because they viewed Christmas as a decadent Catholic holiday, the Puritans in America banned all Christmas celebrations from 1659-1681 with a penalty of five shillings for each offense. Some Puritan leaders condemned those who favored Christmas as enemies of the Christian religion.
- A Yule log is an enormous log that is typically burned during the Twelve Days of Christmas (December 25-January 6).
- Early illustrations of St. Nicholas depict him as stern, commanding, and holding a birch rod. He was more a symbol of discipline and punishment than the jolly, overweight elf children know today.
- Puritan Oliver Cromwell outlawed Christmas celebrations and carols in England from 1649-1660. The only celebrations allowed were sermons and prayers.
- There are two competing claims as to which U.S. President was the first to place a Christmas tree in the White House. Some scholars say President Franklin Pierce did in 1856; others say President Benjamin Harrison brought in the first tree in 1889. President Coolidge started the White House lighting ceremony in 1923.
- President Teddy Roosevelt, an environmentalist, banned Christmas trees from the White House in 1912.
- There are approximately 21,000 Christmas tree farms in the United States. In 2008, nearly 45 million Christmas trees were planted, adding to the existing 400 million trees.
- The first printed reference to a Christmas tree was in 1531 in Germany.
- In 1962, the first Christmas postage stamp was issued in the United States.
- Using small candles to light a Christmas tree dates back to the middle of the 17th century.
- The official Christmas tree tradition at Rockefeller Center began in 1933. Since 2004 the tree has been topped with a 550-pound Swarovski Crystal star. And since 2007, the tree has been lit with 30,000 energy-efficient LED’s which are powered by solar panels.
- President Coolidge started the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the White House lawn in 1923.
- In 1963, the National Christmas Tree was not lit until December 22nd, because of a national 30-day period of mourning following the assassination of President Kennedy.
- Yuletide Season Trivia and Fun Facts! (bestholisticwellness.wordpress.com)
- How to track Santa on Christmas Eve (ecoxplorer.com)
- Blogmas day 23 (worldofmandm.wordpress.com)
- Whipp, Deborah: The History of Santa’s Reindeer (2012) (humanitysdarkerside.com)
- How Christmas is celebrated around the world (mirror.co.uk)
- Just say it: Merry Christmas! (mobile.wnd.com)