Christmas is that fun time of the year when all the relatives get together to celebrate the holidays. No doubt that some families will be looking for ideas to pass the time as they await that big roasted bird to make its holy procession onto the dining room table. So, we thought that we’d present you with some Christmassy fun facts and other completely useless festive information.
Since we’ve already mentioned the bird, the traditional bird at Christmas used to be a goose. Roasting a turkey was made tradition when Henry VIII decided on making the menu change. Henry the VIII stepped in when the king that dubbed “Taco Tuesday” was not available.
Christmas even has roots in a medieval European tradition. The modern tradition of baking cookies for the holidays was started by the German and Dutch settlers as they immigrated to the U.S. However, Christmas cookies were being baked as early as the 1500’s all over Europe.
Christmas poinsettia traditions were said to have originated when a young poor girl had no gift to give at Christmastime. So, the little girl was inspired by angels and gathered up some weeds for her gift. Poinsettias actually are native to Mexico as the Aztecs used them for making red dye. The plant began to become assimilated with Christmas in the 16th century.
Contrary to popular rumors, poinsettias are not poisonous but they still should be kept away from children. The plant won’t kill a child, but it can be mildly toxic as a skin irritant. It can also cause children to get diarrhea, but the toxicity levels are so low that a child would have to eat 500-600 poinsettia leaves in order to exceed safe toxic levels. That is one big Christmas salad.
Christmas wreaths became a tradition as the holly symbolizes the crown of thorns that Christ was made to wear and the red berries symbolize Christ’s blood.
The tradition of giving Christmas cards to family and friends started in London, England, in the year 1843. The card was printed for civil servant, Sir Henry Cole. Now around 3 billion Christmas cards are sent in the U.S. every year. The holiday tradition is now a multi-billion dollar time for greeting card companies.
The first Christmassy postage stamp was issued in Austria in 1937.
Roughly 35 million Christmas trees are bought by Americans every year. The tradition of the Christmas tree started back in 1850 when they were first sold in the U.S. It takes those trees about 15 years to grow large enough to be granted the honor of becoming a Christmas tree. Then they’re hewed from life to become everyone’s favorite holiday living room decoration.
Seattle, Washington is the Guinness Book of World Records holder of the biggest cut Christmas tree. The tree had a height of 221 feet and the Seattle record has been standing since the year 1950.
It is said that protestant reformer, Martin Luther, first added lights to the Christmas tree because he was trying to bring the star lights to his home.
The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is a 76 foot Norway spruce. The tree is adorned with 45,000 multi-colored LEDs. The first tree in Rockefeller Center was undecorated in 1931 and was placed there by construction workers.
President Calvin Coolidge was the first president to light the National Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve in 1923. The first tree was erected by the District of Columbia Public Schools with permission of First Lady Grace. The first tree was a 48 foot Balsam fir erected at the Ellipse just south of the White House. President Coolidge walked from the White House to the Ellipse and pushed a single button to allow all the lights on the tree to be lit at the same time.
The city of Boston banned Christmas from the year 1659 to the year 1681. If someone broke the law, they were fined a total of five shillings. Christmas was scrubbed from the city due to the Puritans not believing in the exchanging of any gifts, singing Christmas carols or any other way of acknowledging the holiday.
English political and military leader, Oliver Cromwell, also banned Christmas celebrations and singing carols from 1649 to 1660.
Another Christmas fun fact and some completely other useless festive information, is that Christmas as a federal holiday had only been established in the U.S. in 1870. However many states recognized it as a holiday well before then. Alabama made Christmas a holiday in 1836, and shortly after Arkansas and Louisiana made it a holiday in 1838.
The poem written by Clement Moore, The Night Before Christmas was once named An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas. Moore wrote the poem for his children at Christmastime in 1822, but the Troy Sentinel newspaper in New York published the poem in 1823 as anonymously written. Major Henry Livingston, Jr. claimed to be the poem’s author, but many experts still think the author’s true identity is Moore.
Mistletoe is actually a parasitic weed that has no scent. However, the Druids believed that it could cure disease, make animals fertile, and quell wars. Pagan beliefs prevented it from being a Christmas tradition for many years.
The Druids also were the first to decorate a Christmas tree with ornaments and gifts. They believed that trees were the giver of all things that were good.
We’re pretty sure everyone has heard that writing Christmas as “Xmas” is sacrilegious as it removes “Christ” from the word “Christmas.” The truth is that Christmas has been written with the “X” for at least the last few hundred years. The letter “X” has been used for Christ’s name for a long time now. The letter also resembles the Greek letter for Chi, which is much like the beginning of the word Christ.
It just may be possible that everyone thinks that the 12 days of Christmas starts around December 12th or 13th, so they can fit all those wild Christmas parties in before the big day. In all actuality the 12 days start right after Christmas and lead up to the Feast of Epiphany. People have been singing the song completely wrong for ages too. The correct original lyrics are “four colly birds,” and not “four calling birds.”
Christmas wouldn’t be Xmas without the Christmas cracker. They were invented by a sweet-shop owner, Tom Smith, in 1840’s London.
Some famous people that have their birthdays on Christmas day are: Sir Isaac Newton, Humphrey Bogart, Charlie Chaplin, and Alice Cooper….and, well…Christ too.
Bing Crosby’s White Christmas is the biggest Christmas single in history. Bing’s song has now sold over 50 million copies.
So now that one has been stuffed full of this year’s Christmas fun facts, and given a whole bunch of other completely useless festive information, we wish all a great and wonderful Xmas. Happy holidays!
By Brent Matsalla