Last updated on July 31st, 2017 at 03:41 am
Christmas is celebrated in many countries all over the world and in a wide variety of ways. Many of the customs and decorations we use to make the holiday special have developed in interesting ways and their origins may be hidden in history. With these interesting facts about Christmas, test your knowledge of Christmas trivia as your read through.
Fact 1. The image of Santa Claus flying his sleigh began in 1819 and was created by Washington Irving, the same author who dreamt up the Headless Horseman.
Fact 2. The Montgomery Ward department store created Rudolph the Reindeer as a marketing gimmick to encourage children to buy their Christmas coloring books.
Fact 3. The original Rudolph did not have a red nose. In that day and age, red noses were seen as an indicator of chronic alcoholism and Montgomery Ward didn’t want him to look like a drunkard. To complete the original picture, he was almost named Reginald or Rollo.
Fact 4. Clement Moore’s poem introduced eight more reindeer for Santa’s sleigh and their names were Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Duner and Blixem (for the German words for thunder and lightning). These later evolved into Donner and Blitzen.
Fact 5. Most of these names are male-sounding names. Male reindeer shed their antlers in winter, however, so the reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh are more than likely female or castrated.
Fact 6. Some leave food out for Santa Claus’ reindeer as Norse children did, leaving hay and treats for Odin’s eight-legged horse Sleipnir hoping they would stop by during their hunting adventures. Dutch children adopted this same tradition, leaving food in their wooden shoes for St. Nicholas’ horse.
Fact 7. Dutch children also left out food and drink for St. Nicholas himself to honor him on his feast day. Today we leave milk and cookies out for Santa, continuing this very old tradition.
Fact 8. America’s first batch of eggnog was made in the Jamestown settlement in 1607. Its name comes from the word “grog”, meaning any drink made with rum. Non-alcoholic eggnog is popular as well.
Fact 9. Want to know a useful way to recycle your Christmas tree? Some zoos take donated Christmas trees and use them as food for the animals.
Fact 10. Between the 16th and 19th centuries global temperatures were significantly lower than normal in what was known as a “little ice age”. Charles Dickens grew up during this period and experienced snow for his first eight Christmases. This “White Christmas” experience influenced his writing and began a tradition of expectation for the holidays.
Fact 11. The Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square is donated to the people of London every year by the people of Oslo, Norway in thanks for their assistance during World War II.
Fact 12. Since 1918 the city of Boston has received a giant Christmas tree as a gift from the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Boston lent considerable support to the city of Halifax during their 1917 explosion and subsequent fire disaster.
Fact 13. In 1914 during World War I there was a now famous Christmas truce in the trenches between the British and the Germans. They exchanged gifts across a neutral no man’s land, played football together, and decorated their shelters. (Read more about it in the book “Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce” by Stanley Weintraub.)
Fact 14. In 2010 during the Christmas season, the Colombian government decorated jungle trees with lights. The trees lit up when the guerrillas (terrorists) walked by and banners appeared asking them to surrender their arms. The campaign convinced 331 guerillas to re-enter society and also won an award for strategic marketing excellence.
Fact 15. Bicycle, the U.S. playing card company, manufactured cards to give all the POWS in Germany during World War II as Christmas presents. These cards, when soaked in water, revealed an escape route for POWs. The Nazis never knew.
Fact 16. The Christmas wreath was originally hung as a symbol of Jesus. The holly represents his crown of thorns and the red berries the blood he shed.
Fact 17. The three traditional colors of most Christmas decorations are red, green and gold. Red symbolizes the blood of Christ, green symbolized life and rebirth, and gold represents light, royalty and wealth.
Fact 18. In Poland spiders are considered to be symbols of prosperity and goodness at Christmas. In fact, spiders and spider webs are often used as Christmas tree decorations. According to legend, a spider wove baby Jesus a blanket to keep him warm.
Fact 19. Tinsel was invented in 1610 in Germany and was once made of real silver.
Fact 20. The tradition of hanging stockings comes from a Dutch legend. A poor man had three daughters for whom he could not afford to provide a dowry. St. Nicholas dropped a bag of gold down his chimney and gold coins fell out and into the stockings drying by the fireplace. The daughters now had dowries and could be married, avoiding a life on the streets.
Fact 21. The old English custom of wassailing was to toast to someone’s long life at Christmastide and was the forerunner for the tradition of Christmas caroling. In the 13th century St. Francis of Assisi began the custom of singing carols in church.
Fact 22. “White Christmas”, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, “Winter Wonderland”, “The Christmas Song” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” plus the melody for “O Holy Night” were all written or co-written by Jews.
Fact 23. Brenda Lee recorded “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” when she was only 13 years old.
Fact 24. Famous saxophonist Boots Randolph played the saxophone solo on “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”.
Fact 25. Paul McCartney’s Christmas song is widely regarded as the worst of all the songs he ever recorded yet he earns $400,000 a year off of it.
Fact 26. If you gave all the gifts listed in the Twelve Days of Christmas, it would equal 364 gifts.
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