It’s that time of year again. 🎄Christmas is just around the corner, and for those of us that love it, it really is ‘the most wonderful time of year.’
Christmas, if we are lucky, means time away from work, spending time with family and friends, eating and drinking and commemorating and celebrating the birth of Jesus. It is a beacon of light in the middle of the dark, long winter months, and, although now a Christian festival, its roots are deeply entrenched in Pagan traditions and beliefs.
Many of the traditions we now celebrate are so steeped in history, we have forgotten their origin. And some we may imagine to be centuries old, are actually quite modern. Here follows 50 facts about Christmas that you may not know. If you have others, please let me know in the comments! ☃️
1. The first Christmas tree was brought inside and decorated in 1536 by Martin Luther, a German professor of theology and a leading figure in the Protestant Reformation. He lit candles and put them on the branches to replicate the stars in the sky. It wasn’t until 1800 that the tradition caught on in England. (See no 5)
2. Founded in 1434, Striezelmarkt, Dresdens’ Christmas market, is the oldest in Germany.
3. Santa’s elves were first mentioned in a book called Christmas Elves by Louisa M Alcott (author of Little Women) in 1856.
4. The “Holidays are Coming” Coca-Cola Christmas lorry was first used in an advertising campaign in 1995.
5. Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband is often credited with introducing the Christmas tree into England in 1840. However, this honour rightfully belongs to ‘good Queen Charlotte’, the German wife of George III, who decorated the first English tree at Queen’s Lodge, Windsor, in December, 1800.
6. Originally mince pies contained a total of 13 ingredients to represent Jesus and his disciples. They were filled with meat, such as lamb, rather than the dried fruits and spices mix as they are now.
7. The average person in the UK eats 27 mince pies in December. That may be a conservative estimate. I’ve had 2 today alone!
8. The biggest selling Christmas single is Bing Crosby’s White Christmas which has sold over 50 million copies.
9. British sea captain William Mynors named ‘Christmas Island’ while sailing past it on 25 December 1643.
10. Although we now eat a chocolate Yule log, the tradition started as a wooden log, cut down on Christmas Eve and burnt until Twelfth Night.
11. A Christmas dinner contains approximately 2000 calories. With all the extras including chocolate, champagne and nibbles, it is thought that people routinely consume 5000-7000 calories on Christmas Day.
12. The most popular pantomime, in terms of tickets sold, is Cinderella.
13. JR Roberts department store in London was the first to introduce a Santa’s grotto in 1888.
14. Naughty children in the UK get coal in their stocking, which is marginally preferable to children in Hungary, who used to get a birch stick to be beaten with.
15. To get around the world to every child in a single night, Santa’s sleigh has to reach speeds of 2,340,000 miles per hour.
16. St Nicholas was born in AD270 and became an early Christian bishop of Myra in Ancient Greece. He was a very wealthy and kindly soul and legends quickly grew around his acts of charity helping the poor.
17. 150 million Christmas Crackers are pulled every year in the UK.
18. Tinsel was invented in the 1600’s, and was originally made of real silver.
19. Christmas was banned in the UK between 1642-1660 as the Puritans believed the time would be better spent in fasting.
20. If you were to buy every gift from the song The Twelve Days of Christmas, it would cost over £14,000 in 2019 prices. The cheapest would be the Partridge at £24.50.
21. Christmas holly has long been a festive tradition. The prickly leaves represent the circlet of thorns that Jesus wore when he was crucified. The berries represent the drops of blood he shed. Surprisingly not an Easter tradition?
22. In Norse mythology, the mistletoe berries represent the goddess Freya’s tears after her son was killed by an arrow made of mistletoe wood.
23. Eating turkey for Christmas dinner only became popular in the early 1900s …before that you were more likely to be served goose, beef, venison… or peacock!
24. Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in just under 6 weeks in 1843.
25.In Anglo Saxon England, Christmas started on Christmas Eve and lasted until 2 February… although for most of that period, fasting was expected.
26. The first Christmas was celebrated on December 25, AD 336 in Rome.
27. In Venezuela, it’s traditional to roller skate to Christmas mass.
28. In Sweden, Christmas is celebrated with decorated straw Yule goats adorned with a red ribbon.
29. The Dutch started the tradition of leaving Christmas biscuits out for Santa and a carrot for the donkey.
30. Christmas Eve in Finland involves a visit to graveyards and cemeteries to light candles to honour ancestors.
31.The most popular Carol is Stille Nacht (Silent Night) written in Germany in 1818.
32. The most popular Christmas film is It’s A Wonderful Life starring James Stewart and Donna Reed and directed by Frank Capra in 1946. Though fondly remembered for its snowy scenes, it was mainly filmed in 90 degree heat.
33. People have been playing games at Christmas for a long time. Try this one called ‘Snapdragon’ from the 16th century: Pour brandy over a dish of raisins then, by candlelight, grab a handful and put out the flames by popping them into your mouth. Hours of fun.
34.The Queen gives all her staff a Christmas pudding. The current supplier is Tesco, though it used to be Fortnum and Mason.
35. The average UK household spends an extra £800 in December on Christmas gifts, food and entertaining.
36. The practice of putting tangerines in stockings comes from medieval French nuns who left socks full of fruit, nuts and tangerines outsides homes of the poor.
37. Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer was invented for a US department store Christmas promotion in 1939.
38. The average child in the UK receives 16 Christmas presents.
39. The UK Brussels Sprouts industry is worth £650 million.
40. In Sweden, it is traditional to watch Donald Duck cartoons on Christmas Eve.
41. Christmas pudding started out as a soup made with raisins and wine.
42. The pressure of Christmas Day sees the average adult consuming their first alcoholic drink at 11:25am. That late?
43. The famous Christmas song Jingle Bells, written by James Lord Pierpont in 1850, was originally written for the American Thanksgiving holiday, and was titled “One Horse Open Sleigh”.
44. Referring to Christmas as ‘Xmas’ may seem to be modern slang, but we have been doing so since about 1500. Chi (or X) is the first letter in the Greek word for Christ. Xmas and Christmas essentially mean the same thing: Christ + mas.
45. Every year, since 1947, the people of Norway have gifted the people of London a Christmas tree which stands in Trafalgar Square. This is in gratitude for Britain’s support for Norway during the Second World War.
46. ‘Christmas Tree Syndrome’ is an allergy as a result of mould that builds up on the branches and trunk of real trees.
47. Most modern versions of “A Christmas Carol” show the miser celebrating with his poverty stricken employee Bob Cratchit at the end of the book. In the original book however, Scrooge celebrates instead with his nephew.
48. In Poland, spiders and spiders webs decorate trees symbolising the legend that a spider wove the blanket that swaddled the baby Jesus in his crib.
49. In the UK, we are the only country to wear paper hats which come out of crackers whilst eating our Christmas lunch.
50. The British people will spend £750 million on Christmas gifts for their pets this festive season.
I hope you liked my list… and I hope you have a loving, peaceful and thankful Christmas ❤️