Literally meaning “dung twig”, mistletoe is named after the fact that it tends to spring out of bird droppings on trees after the seeds have passed through the bird’s digestive tract. Not only this but it can also be very parasitic, often requiring a host tree in order to sustain itself. So, next time you kiss your significant other beneath the mistletoe, remember, you’re standing beneath a parasitic poop twig.
Everyone knows that America has the world’s leading consumer culture but even so, this little piece of Christmas trivia is borderline unbelievable. According to the statisticians, Christmas purchases account for a mind-blowing 1/6 of all annual retail sales in the United States.
Although evergreens have been long held in high regard by many cultures due to their perpetual greenness, it is the 16th-century German Christians that get credit for first bringing decorated trees into their homes. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, was inspired to first include candles as a decoration when he noticed the stars shining through the evergreens one night.
According to Facebook, around two weeks before Christmas is one of the most popular times of the year for couples to break up. Christmas itself, however, is one of the least likely days for a breakup. Evidently it’s a lot easier to open presents than it is to buy them.
By an Act of Parliament in 1644 Christmas was declared illegal in England due to the fact that it was associated with revelry and merrymaking. This obviously led to a good amount of conflict and when the Puritans left for the New World they brought their distaste for Christmas with them.
Christmas Banned Again
It’s hard to imagine but for almost two decades of the 17th century Christmas was illegal in what would become the United States (as we have established, the Puritans thought it to be too merry). In fact, it wasn’t even until 1870 that Christmas became a federal holiday in America.
As ubiquitous as it is today before 1224 there was no such thing as a nativity scene. Upon returning from Israel St. Francis of Assisi was inspired to re-create the birth of Jesus with live animals and actors. During that first display, the manger was also used as an altar for Christmas Mass. From there, the nativity caught on like wildfire.
Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree
Also known as Santa Claus, St. Nick is based on the early Church Bishop Saint Nicholas who was born around 270AD in the small Turkish village of Patara. He was know for being especially generous to the poor and his legend has since led to many different variants of St. Nick across cultures and time periods.
St. Nick and the Headless Horseman
So where did the image of Santa Claus silhouetted against the moon in a sleigh being pulled by reindeer come from? From the same guy that brought us the headless horseman, Washington Irving. In an 1819 series of shorts titled The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon he wrote about a dream where St. Nick was flying across the sky in a weightless wagon.
Upside Down Christmas Trees
Originally only used in department stores to increase floor space, consumers (as usual) decided they like the idea and took it home with them. It’s not the first time in history that people have decorated with inverted Christmas Trees, however. As early as the 12th century, Central Europeans would hang trees from the ceiling to represent the Holy Trinity.
Alcohol + Snow = Frosty
Starting with an independent whiskeymaker in the 1890’s and then again following prohibition, the world famous snowman became the poster child for numerous brewing companies and was featured in many of their advertising campaigns.
The 12 Days of Christmas
Next time you get a chance to listen to the 12 Days of Christmas try to count all of gifts that are exchanged. If you do it right you’ll notice that there are 364 in total, one for each day of the year. Were you to put all of these gifts under the tree it would cost you $18,348.87 according to PNC Financial Services.
World War II
It seems like every year the holiday season gets extended and today some stores even start getting ready for Christmas before Halloween. Although much of this can be attributed to commercialization, it was during World War II that the season really got elongated when families had to send gifts to the troops early in order for them to arrive on time.