Here are some very interesting Christmas facts that’ll shed some light as to the Christmas holiday.
- In 1836, Alabama became the first state in the USA to declare Christmas a legal holiday. In 1907, Oklahoma became the last USA state to declare Christmas a legal holiday.
- The abbreviation of Xmas for Christmas is not irreligious. The first letter of the word Christ in Greek is chi, which is identical to our X. Xmas was originally an ecclesiastical abbreviation that was used in tables and charts. In the early days of printing, when font sizes were limited and type was set by hand, abbreviations and ditto marks were used liberally. Xmas came into general use from the church.
- Candy canes began as straight white sticks of sugar candy used to decorate the Christmas trees. A choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral decided to have the ends bent to depict a shepherd’s crook and he would pass them out to the children to keep them quiet during the services. It wasn’t until about the 20th century that candy canes acquired their red stripes.
- Oliver Cromwell, in England banned Christmas Carols between 1649 and 1660. Cromwell thought that Christmas should be a very solemn day so he banned carols and parties. The only celebration was by a sermon and a prayer service.
- On Christmas morning since medieval times, church bells have been rung to announce to the world the coming of the savior. It was customary from the 18th century to wear clothes and carry a small bell to signify the birth of Christ. The ringing of the bells was to signify the importance of the His Birth.
- Some priests in Australia advise you to say “Happy Christmas”, not “Merry Christmas”, because Merry has connotations of getting drunk – which brings its own problems. One should say “Happy” instead.
- The largest functional Christmas cracker was 45.72 meters long and 3.04 meters in diameter. It was made by Australian international rugby player Ray Price in Markson Sparks of New South Wales, Australia and was pulled in the car park of the Westfield Shopping Town in Chatswood, Sydney, Australia on 9 November 1991.
- The actual gift givers are different in various countries:
England: Father Christmas
France: Pere Noel (Father Christmas)
Germany: Christkind (angelic messenger from Jesus), she is a beautiful fair-haired girl with a shining crown of candles.
Holland: St Nicholas.
Russia: In some parts – Babouschka (a grandmotherly figure), other parts it is Grandfather Frost.
Scandinavia: A variety of Christmas gnomes. One is called Julenisse.
Spain and South America: The Three Kings
Italy: La Befana (a kindly old witch)
- A wreath with holly, red berries and other decorations began from at least the 17th century. Holly, with its sharply pointed leaves, symbolized the thorns in Christ’s crown-of-thorns. Red berries symbolized the drops of Christ’s blood. A wreath at Christmas signified a home that celebrated the birth of Christ.
- In America, the weeks leading up to Christmas are the biggest shopping weeks of the year. Many retailers make up to 70% of their annual revenue in the month preceding Christmas.
- Although many believe that the Friday after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year, it is not. It is the fifth to tenth busiest day. The Friday and Saturday before Christmas are the two busiest shopping days of the year.
- An artificial spider and web are often included in the decorations on Ukrainian Christmas trees. A spider web found on Christmas morning is believed to bring good luck.
- December 26 was traditionally known as St. Stephen’s Day, but is more commonly known as Boxing Day. This expression came about because money was collected in alms-boxes placed in churches during the festive season. This money was then distributed to the poor and needy after Christmas.
- The tradition of gifts seems to have started with the gifts that the wise men brought to Jesus. The exchanging of gifts between people started in about the 1800’s.
- According to legend, holly berries were once thought to be white. Offered humbly by a child to the Christ Child who pricked His finger, the white berries blushed red in grief and shame. Holly has come to represent the crown of thorns worn by Christ when He was crucified, the red of the berries representing His blood.
- The first American Christmas carol was written in 1649 by a minister named John de Brebeur and is called “Jesus is Born”.
- Decorating with holly was an important practice for the Druids, a pagan tribe in northern Europe. Because holly leaves were always green, the Druids believed that the sun never deserted the plant, and it was therefore sacred. Maidens in Old England thought that if they attached holly to their beds it would keep the devil from turning them into witches.
- Early Christmas trees were decorated with fruits, flowers and candles, which were heavy on the tree branches. In the 1800’s German glass blowers began producing glass balls to replace the heavy decorations and called then bulbs.
- Kissing under the mistletoe possibly began in old England. One theory is that the Druids started it all. They believed the mistletoe was sacred and therefore a charm against evil. They used golden sickles to harvest it and, to keep it from touching the ground, caught it in the folds of their priestly garments. Another theory is that the custom was started by the Scandinavians, who considered mistletoe to be a symbol of peace. When enemies chanced to meet under it, so the story goes, they would be required to declare a truce for the day and seal it with a kiss of peace.
- For many centuries reindeer have been domesticated in their original habitat, which ranges from Norway into northern Asia. They have been trained to wear harnesses because of their strength, speed, and endurance in pulling sleds over snow.
- The origin of hanging Christmas stockings comes to us from southern Europe. One legend says that an old man was in despair because he had no money for his daughter’s dowries. St. Nicholas dropped a bag of gold down the chimney, which happened to fall into a stocking hung up to dry.
- Gingerbread has been a holiday tradition for thousands of years. It was originally eaten during Winter Solstice Festivals, but the tradition of the house made of Gingerbread originated in Germany.
- Taffy making on Christmas Eve was one of the most important festive traditions of the Welsh. Taffy is a special kind of chewy toffee made from brown sugar and butter. It is boiled and then pulled until it becomes lovely and glossy.
- Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was created in 1939 by a 34-year-old copywriter named Robert L. May, who came up with a poem about a misfit reindeer at the request of his employer, Chicago-based Montgomery Ward, for a Christmas story they could use as a store promotional gimmick.
The Montgomery Ward store had been buying preprinted coloring books and giving them away at Christmas every year, and the thought of creating their own would save them a lot of money. May, who had a knack for writing children’s stories and limericks, was asked to create the booklet.
Drawing in part on the tale of The Ugly Duckling and his own background (he was often taunted as a child for being shy, small and slight), settled on the idea of an underdog, teased by the reindeer community because of his physical abnormality: a glowing red nose. He then proceeded to write Rudolph’s story in verse, as a series of rhyming couplets, testing it out on his 4-year-old daughter as he went along. Although his daughter was thrilled with Rudolph’s story, May’s boss was worried that a story featuring a red nose – an image associated with drinking and drunkards – was unsuitable for a Christmas tale.
May responded by taking Denver Gillen, a friend from Montgomery Ward’s art department, to the Lincoln Park Zoo to sketch some deer. Gillen’s illustrations of a red-nosed reindeer overcame the hesitancy of May’s boss, and the Rudolph story was approved.
Montgomery Ward distributed 2.4 million copies of the Rudolph booklet in 1939, and although wartime paper shortages stopped printing for the next several years, a total of 6 million copies had been given away by the end of 1946. The post-war demand for licensing the Rudolph character was tremendous, but since May had created the story as an employee of Montgomery Ward, they held the copyright and he received no royalties. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was printed commercially in 1947 and shown in theatres as a nine-minute cartoon the following year.
The Rudolph phenomenon really took off, when May’s brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks, developed the lyrics and melody for a Rudolph song. Marks’ musical version of “Rudolph”, recorded by Gene Autry in 1949, sold two million copies that year and went on to become one of the best selling songs of all time, second only to “White Christmas.” The TV special about Rudolph narrated by Burl Ives was produced in 1964 and remains a popular holiday favorite.
- The world’s biggest Christmas tree (76 m high) was put up in America in 1950.
- In India, they decorate banana trees at Christmas time.
- Real Christmas trees are an all-American product, grown in all 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii.
- The biggest selling Christmas single of all time is Bing Crosby’s White Christmas.
- Most artificial trees are manufactured in Korea, Taiwan, or Hong Kong.
- “Silent night” was written for a choir when the church organ broke down.
- In North America, children put stockings out at Christmas time. Their Dutch counterparts, however, use shoes. Dutch children set out shoes to receive gifts any time between mid-November and December 5, St. Nicholas’ birthday.
- The word “Christmas” comes from Cristes mæsse, an old English phrase that means “Mass of Christ.”
- French peasants believed that babies who come into the world on Christmas are born with the gift of prophecy.
- More than 1,000,000 acres of land have been planted with Christmas trees.
- Hallmark introduced its first Christmas cards in 1915, five years after the founding of the company.
- More diamonds are purchased at Christmas-time (31 percent) than during any other holiday or occasion during the year.
- More than three billion Christmas cards are sent annually in the United States.
- It is estimated that 400,000 people become sick each year from eating tainted Christmas leftovers.
- According to tradition, giving a lump of coal in the stockings of naughty children comes from Italy.
- In 1937, the first postage stamp to commemorate Christmas was issued in Austria.
- During the Christmas buying season, Visa cards alone are used an average of 5,340 times every minute in the United States.
- According to a 1995 survey, 7 out of 10 British dogs get Christmas gifts from their owners.
- An average household in America will mail out 28 Christmas cards each year and receive 28 cards in return.
- “Wassail” comes from the Old Norse “ves heill”— to be of good health. This evolved into the tradition of visiting neighbors on Christmas Eve and drinking to their health.
- A traditional Christmas dinner in early England was the head of a pig prepared with mustard.