Christmas facts: 18 things about Christmas traditions yule never know

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Ewan Hollander

Just sharing things that interest me in the hopes that they interest others as well

Christmas is a time to indulge in the festive spirit and be jovial & merry with those dear to you. Yes, there is a religious and commercial aspects as well but a lot of people may not know where some of the Christmas traditions came from. So while you drink eggnog and eat roasted chestnuts, let us demystify some Christmas traditions for you by bringing you some Christmas Facts.

1 . ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ almost wasn’t published

The poem, also known as ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas,’ was authored by Clement Clarke Moore. Moore, a 19th century author and professor, wrote the poem for his family and practically invented the modern concept of Santa. He had originally written it only for his family but a close friend submitted it to the Sentinel newspaper where it was published anonymously. For 15 years Clement Clarke Moore denied writing it as he felt the poem was beneath his talents even though it had become a smash hit. It was eventually included as part of anthology of his works thanks to the urging of his children. Moore based his image of Santa on a portly sleigh driver his family had hired.

2. Did Santa always have a beard?

Now, Moore may have enhanced the image of Santa but he certainly wasn’t responsible for creating him. According to the book “One-Night Stands with American History”, 17th century Dutch settlers brought the imagery for an early Santa with them. This Santa was tall, slender, very dignified and lacked the all-important beard. It is said that he was based on the traditional Dutch figure Sinterklaas.

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3. Why do people kiss under the mistletoe?

It’s a Christmas tradition to share kisses under the mistletoe. It is said that this tradition comes from Scandinavia where Mistletoe was associated with peace and friendship. In mythology, mistletoe has also been considered a plant to increase life and fertility.

4. Why do people hang Christmas stockings?

This is another tradition with Dutch origins. It comes from Dutch households leaving shoes packed with food for St. Nicholas’ donkeys. In exchange for feeding his animals, St Nicholas would leave small gifts. The tradition of putting tangerines in stockings comes from a 12th century French nun who left socks full of fruit, nuts and tangerines at the homes of the poor.

5. Why do some people say Christmas and some people say Xmas?

The use of Xmas is not for religious purposes. The letter ‘X’ is a Greek abbreviation for Christ. Xmas have been an abbreviation for Christmas since the mid-1500s. The name Christmas comes from the contraction of ‘Christ’s Mass’ which is derived from the Old English Cristes Mæsse.

6. Why do we have Christmas trees?

The practice of tree worship has been found among many ancient cultures. The tradition likely started when trees were brought indoors and decorated during winter time to help ensure a good crop for the following year. The modern Christmas tree likely arose during the 8th century when St. Boniface was converting Germanic tribes. These tribes worshiped oak trees. It is said that when St. Boniface cut down an oak tree, a fir tree grew in its place. This evergreen was seen as a symbol of Christianity which the newly converted tribes began decorating. Evergreens have also been seen as symbols of eternal life and rebirth by many ancient people

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7. How many Christmas trees are grown each year?

In Europe, almost 60 million trees are grown each year. Out of that 60 million, reports estimate that UK households buy about 8 million trees. In the UK, natural Christmas trees outsell artificial Christmas trees by a ratio of 3:1.

8. What is the Christmas symbolism behind Holly and Ivy being a Christmas tradition?

The Holly’s prickly leaves are seen to represent the crown of thorns that Jesus wore when he was crucified. The red berries are symbolic of the drops of blood that were shed by Jesus due to the thorns. In Scandinavia, Holly is known as the Christ Thorn for this reason. Ivy is a plant that needs to cling to objects to support its growth. To the religious, Ivy is seen as a metaphor for human’s need to cling to a God.

9. Why do people send Christmas cards?

The tradition of sending Christmas cards started in Victorian times. People often send Christmas letters but the task of writing lengthy letters to many different people was often daunting and laborious. The first Christmas card is said to be created by Sir Henry Cole and John Calcott Horsley. In 1843, Cole, a British businessman, asked Calcott Horsley, an artist, to print some Christmas Cards. One thousands cards were printed in black and which and then coloured by hand. The cards depicted a happy family raising a toast to the recipient. In 1862, Charles Goodall & Sons, a printer based in London, became the first to mass produce Christmas cards. Their cards initially said “A Merry Christmas” with later designs including robins, Holly, mangers and snowmen.

10. What is the best-selling Christmas single?

Globally, the best-selling Christmas single is Bing Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’. It has sold over 50 million copies worldwide since 1942. In the UK, the top selling Christmas single is Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’. Released in 1984, this track has sold 3.5 million copies in the UK. The second biggest Christmas single in the UK is also from 1984. Wham!’s ‘Last Christmas’ has sold 1.4 million copies so far. The band with the most number 1 Christmas singles is the Beatles. They got the number 1 song in 1963, 1965 and 1967.

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11. What is a Yule Log?

A Yule Log is a large log that is typically burned during the Twelve Days of Christmas. A burning log or the charred remains of a burnt log is said to offer health, fertility and luck.

12. Why do Japanese people each KFC at Christmas dinner?

Japanese people traditionally each KFC for Christmas dinner thanks to a hugely successful marketing campaign 40 years ago. The KFC meal is so popular that customers have to place their Christmas order about 2 months in advance.

13. Where does Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer come from?

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was invented for a Christmas Promotion in 1938. The promotion was so successful that the imagery has stuck and become canon even since.

14. What’s the deal with rent-a-Santas?

In the United States, each year there are approximately 20,000 ‘rent-a-Santas’. These seasonal St Nicholas’ usually undergo some training on how to maintain a jolly attitude for long periods of time under pressure from the public. They are also given advice such as not accepting money from parents when kids of looked and to avoid garlic, onions and beans for meals.

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15. Why Jingle Bells?

‘Jingle Bells’ is a 1857 song written by James Pierpont. It was originally called ‘One Horse Open Sleigh’ and was written as a song for Thanksgiving.

16. Where does NORAD’s ‘Santa Tracker’ come from?

Funnily enough, NORAD’s ‘Santa Tracker’ came about from a misprint. In 1955, Sears ran a printed advert with the phone number of a Colorado Springs store for children to tell Santa Claus what they wanted for Christmas. Unfortunately, the number was misprinted. Instead of the store, the number took children through to the direct line for Colonel Harry Shoup, the Director of Operations for the US Continental Air Defense. As the calls came in, instead of blocking them, Colonel Shoup ordered his staff to give the children updates on Santa’s flight coordinates. The traditional continues to this day on the local news, internet and a NORAD Tracks Santa app.

17. Why do some people get sick after Christmas?

Statistics report that left over Christmas food is responsible for up to 400,000 cases of food poisoning and illness around Christmas time. Be sure to heat up left overs properly.

18. Has Christmas ever been banned?

Yes it has. Christmas was banned by Oliver Cromwell from 1649 to 1660. Cromwell, a Puritan, felt Christmas was too decadent and banned Christmas celebration and carols in England. The only celebrations that were allowed were sermons and prayers. In 1901, President Teddy Roosevelt banned Christmas trees from the White House because he was an environmentalist.

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Ewan Hollander

Just sharing things that interest me in the hopes that they interest others as well

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