The holiday season is celebrated with great gusto all over the world. Christmas brings joy and celebration around the globe. But I am sure even you are unaware of some little-known interesting Christmas facts.
The festival is celebrated not only for its religious significance but also secularly across all religions. The customs and rituals of Christmas like putting up the Christmas tree, exchanging gifts, etc. are enjoyed by people across religious and national borders.
Traditionally, Christmas is celebrated to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. Special church services, carol singing, exchanging of gifts, and family reunions characterize Christmas. The origins of these customs are mysterious and each has a special story to them.
This article will shed light on some of these Christmas facts. You could use these facts as conversation starters at Christmas parties.
The facts also increase our understanding of the festival which will increase the significance of the celebration. Happy holidays!
Interesting Christmas Facts
The celebrations of Christmas happen all over the globe. Though widely celebrated, the celebrations vary across regions in terms of decor, food, and other customs. The origins of these customs and their history may surprise you and sometimes, contradictory.
You think you know Christmas, think again! Go over the list and test your peers to see if they know the same as well.
Historical Facts about Christmas
1) On Christmas 1066, King William I was crowned.
2) Three hundred sheep and twenty-eight oxen were eaten in England, during a Christmas feast hosted by King Richard II in 1377.
3) Observance of Christmas was abolished in Scotland for 318 years from 1640 to 1958. The festival became a legal holiday in 1958.
4) The first President to put up a Christmas tree in the White House was Franklin Pierce. He was in office from 1853-1857.
5) President Teddy Roosevelt banned putting up Christmas trees in the White House in 1901. This step was taken as the President was concerned about the environmental effects of cutting trees every year. In 1901, his sons decorated a small tree on the White House grounds and hid it in the closet till Christmas morning.
6) The first Hallmark Christmas cards were introduced in 1915.
7) In 1917, Nova Scotia, Canada gifted Boston, Massachusetts a Christmas tree. There had been an explosion and fire disaster in Nova Scotia and Boston had lent a helping hand. In thanks for his gesture, the tree was gifted to Boston.
8) To thank the people of London for their assistance in World War II, Oslo, Norway gives them a Christmas tree every year. The tree is put up in Trafalgar Square.
9) To help prisoners of war in Germany during World War II, the playing cards company Bicycle gave them decks of cards. Once soaked in water, the cards revealed secret escape routes.
10) The first Christmas postage stamp in the United States was issued in 1962.
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Christmas Tree Facts
1) The tradition of putting up Christmas trees originated in Germany. Further, the origins of tinsel have also been traced to Germany. They were first made of silver in 1610.
2) California, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin are the top Christmas tree-producing states in the US. Hawaii and Alaska also contribute significantly. Christmas trees are grown in 50 states of the US.
3) Since 1850, Christmas trees have been sold to the public in the United States.
4) Annually, the people of the United States decorate 35 million live Christmas trees while Europeans decorate 50 million live Christmas trees.
5) An average period of 6-8 years is required for a Christmas tree to be fully grown. Sometimes, it may take as long as 15 years as well.
6) The largest floating Christmas tree is 278 feet tall and is located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
7) The tallest living Christmas tree in America is 161 feet. It is located in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. There is a star placed on top of the tree which is ten feet tall.
Food And Drink Christmas Facts
1) Eggnog originated in 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia. The drink traditionally consists of egg, cream, nutmeg, and rum. Any drink containing rum is called a ‘grog’ hence the name eggnog.
2) Approximately 22 million Christmas turkeys are eaten in the United States and 10 million turkeys are eaten in the United Kingdom each year.
3) The drink Wassail came from the Middle Ages. It was originally made with wine, ale, or hard cider topped with beaten eggs or stale bread. Presently the drink is made by mixing honey and spices in hot apple cider. ‘Ves Heill’ means ‘in good health’ in Old Norse. Neighbors visit each other on Christmas Eve and drink wassail for each other’s good health and long life.
4) The turkey, dressing, mashed sweet potatoes, pies, rolls, other snacks, and drinks come up to a total of 7000 calories. That’s one heavy feast.
5) In Christmas 1902, a string was introduced in animal cracker boxes. The string is intended to hang your cracker boxed on your Christmas trees.
6) A ‘sugar plum‘ is a type of dried fruit candy. The fruit used is usually a plum. Dried plum and spices are rolled into a ball and coated with chocolate or hard sugar candy. Sugarplum is referenced a lot in poems and songs.
7) The combination of sugar and alcohol in fruitcakes increases the shelf life of the cake. The recipe intentionally includes the mixture to increase the period of the cake’s consumption. Traditionally, the cake is baked at the end of the harvest season. A part of the cake was saved to be eaten at the beginning of the next harvest season. People believed that this would bring a good crop the next season as well.
Santa And Reindeer Facts
1) Santa Claus was first featured in a newspaper advertisement. The image of the flying sleigh of Santa Claus was introduced by Washington Irving in 1819. Famous cartoonist Thomas Nast began to illustrate our present image of Santa Claus in 1863. They were presented in Harper’s Weekly Magazine.
2) Earlier pictures of St. Nicholas show him with a stern expression. The traditional image of Santa Claus and the present image have a lot of contradictions.
3) St. Nicholas lived in the 4th century A.D. in the province of Lycia.
4) The Dutch name for St. Nicholas was Sinterklaas. This was phonetically changed to Santa Claus in the English-speaking regions of the world.
5) Other names for the holiday figure include La Befana in Italy, Father Frost (Dueshka Moroz) in Russia, Kriss Kringle in Germany, and Pere Noel in France.
6) Montgomery Ward, a United States department store, created Rudolph the Reindeer. The character was made to attract children to buy Christmas coloring books. They did not make his nose red as they didn’t want him to appear as a chronic alcoholic.
7) ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas’, a Clement Moore poem introduced the eight reindeer of Santa. They are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Duner (thunder), and Blixem (lightning).
8) Though the names of the reindeer of Santa sound male, they are probably all females. Male reindeer shed antlers during the winter, and would not have them during the holiday season.
9) American children leave cookies and milk for Santa when he comes to give them their gifts. This tradition has been traced back to Norse children. They left food for Odin’s eight-legged horse, Sleipnir. Children around the world leave different food items for Santa and his companion reindeer – carrot, hay, water, etc.
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Christmas Books, Movies, and Songs Facts
1) ‘One Horse Open Sleigh‘ was composed by James Pierpont in Massachusetts. The song was meant to be a Thanksgiving song. It was first sung on December 15th, 1965 by Toma Stafford and Wally Schirra while they were in space. The song is now sung as a Christmas carol and is called ‘Jingle Bells’.
2) There are a total of 354 items in the song ‘The Twelve Days Of Christmas.’
3) When Brenda Lee recorded “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree”, she was only thirteen years old. The song was recorded in 1958.
4) ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens was written in six weeks. IMDB lists 202 various film adaptations of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ The adaptations include films and other non-traditional stories.
5) In 1742, George Frederick Handel first performed the Christmas oratorio, The Messiah in Dublin.
6) ‘A Wonderful Christmas Time’ by Paul McCartney is featured in the animated film ‘Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.’
7) Servants came up with the song ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas.’ They sang the song to their masters demanding alcoholic drinks during the holiday season. Lines like, “We won’t go until we get some, so bring some out here” are examples of their clear intention.
8) ‘White Christmas’ by Bing Crosby is the best-selling Christmas song. It has sold more than 50 million copies around the world.
Christmas Religious Facts
1) The name of Jesus Christ in Greek starts with an X. This is why many people abbreviate Christmas as ‘Xmas’.
2) The word Christmas originated from the word Cristes Maesse in Old English. The word means ‘Christ Mass’.
3) The Christmas wreath with holly represents the blood Jesus shed and the crown of thorns.
4) There were three wise men. This conclusion is made as the Bible indicates the wise men in the plural. Further, there were three gifts given – gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
5) Christmas colors are not merely used for aesthetics. They also have a religious significance. The red color signifies the blood of Jesus Christ, the green signifies His resurrection, and gold signifies His status as the King of Kings.
6) Christmas is not mentioned in the Bible and it is not considered a Biblical holy day. Many of the symbols and customs associated with Christmas are linked to winter solstice rituals rather than the Bible.
7) The story of Jesus Christ – birth, life, death, and resurrection are outlined in the New Testament of the Bible.
8) Natalis is a Latin word that translates to ‘day of birth‘. The word Noel originates from Natalis.
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Funny Christmas Facts
1) Christmas trees are wholly edible. If you are really into preserving the environment, try it. The needles of the tree provide vitamin C. If your tree comes with pine cones, you can consume the pine nuts as well. Animals in the zoo are fed Christmas trees too!
2) The elves of Santa can be traced back to the ‘nature folk’. They are commonly found in the literature of pagan religions.
3) Have you seen people kiss when they stand under the mistletoe? This is because mistletoe is a symbol of virility. Therefore, if someone is available they used to stand under the mistletoe.
4) Decorations like artificial spiders and spiderwebs are part of Ukrainian Christmas traditions. This is because they believe that if a spider web is found on Christmas morning, it brings good luck.
5) Kids all over the world write letters to their beloved Santa Claus. These letters go to a Canadian PO box with the zip code HOH OHO (Ho, ho, ho!)
6) A century ago, telling each other ghost stories was a part of the Christmas tradition.
7) Before people started keeping real Christmas trees at home, they would buy fake Christmas trees. In the 1800s, the trees were made of dyed goose feathers and green raffia.
8) The branches of artificial trees were not strong enough to hold heavy ornaments. To find a solution for this, Addis Brush Company made pine-like branches using machines that were used to make toilet brushes. These branches were more sturdy and could hold the heavy decor.
9) In 1955, Sears wanted to put up a phone number in the newspaper. This number was one of their stores. Children were told that it was Santa Claus’ and children could ring up the number to tell their wishes to Santa and share their stories. However, the newspaper made an error in printing. The number printed was that of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) hotline. This is the story of ‘Santa Tracker’. NORAD still provides flight updates on the internet, television news, and on a mobile application during Christmas.
10) The term ‘Christmastide’ and ‘Twelve Holy Days’ is the derivation of the song ‘The Twelve Days Of Christmas’. The twelve days range from December 25 to January 5.
11) Denny’s restaurant did not have locks on their doors as they were open for 24 hours. There were employees in the store all day and all night. In 1988, they wanted to close on Christmas Day, but they could not lock the doors!
12) As much as we enjoy our carols, Christmas has led to the invention of many extremely funny songs. Some of them are called ‘Chipmunks Roasting On An Open Fire’, ‘Christmas Don’t Be Late’, and ‘Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer’.
13) Close to six million dollars are spent on ugly Christmas sweaters during the Christmas season.
14) An average American family spends close to $1000 on gifts during the holiday season.
15) Alabama was the first U.S. state to make Christmas a legal holiday in 1836. Oklahoma was the last state. Christmas was declared a legal holiday in 1907 in Oklahoma.
16) The letters written to Santa Clause by children are delivered to Santa Clause, Indiana.
17) Sir Henry Cole in London, England was the first to sell Christmas cards in 1843. A thousand cards were sold that year.
18) In the U.S. and U.K. combined, over three billion Christmas cards are sold each year.
19) Black Friday attracts many shoppers to the malls. It is believed to be the busiest shopping day of the year. However, the Friday and Saturday before Christmas are the busiest shopping days.
20) Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband was German. He is credited with establishing the popularity of the Christmas tree in England in the mid-nineteenth century.
21) In 1980, the largest selling Christmas toy was the Rubik’s Cube. At that time, it was sold for $1.99 each. Now, one Rubik Cube costs nearly $10.
22) A Dutch custom involved leaving shoes full of food for St. Nicholas and his donkey. These socks would then be filled with gifts from St. Nicholas. The tradition of hanging stockings on Christmas comes from this old Dutch custom.
23) A lot of mail is delivered during the holiday season. The United States Post Office anticipated delivering more than 15 billion pieces of holiday mail. Around 850 million packages were delivered.
24) Christkindlesmart is the oldest Christmas market and claims to be the largest in Europe. The market was first held in 1570 in Nuremberg, Germany. The market sells gluhwein, sweets, sausages, and other Christmas decor and ornaments.
25) Twenty-eight sets of LEGOS are sold every second during the Christmas season.
26) More than 1.76 billion candy canes are made each year during the Christmas season.
27) People in the U.S. spend a total of $465 billion on Christmas gifts. Retailers anticipated that if people spent this money on only U.S.-made products, 4.6 million new jobs would be created.
28) During the Christmas season, Visa cards are swiped around six thousand times every minute.
Christmas is more intriguing than any of us really knew. Use these facts as conversation starters at Christmas parties. Make people laugh and have fun. Happy holidays!
Naomi is an educator with 2 decades of experience working with children of all ages. She is a keen observer of the magic and importance of Maths in our daily lives. Follow me on Linkedin