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.
The Bible never actually says when Jesus was born. It was in the 4th century that the Catholic Church decided to recognize Jesus’ birth with the Feast of the Nativity on December 25th.
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
Every year since 1947 Oslo has sent a Christmas tree to London as an expression of gratitude for the United Kingdom’s help in World War II.
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.
A Christmas Gimmick
You probably wouldn’t have guessed it but the beloved Christmas icon was actually born as an advertising gimmick in 1939. Copyrighter Robert May created him for Montgomery Ward to lure shoppers into the department store.
Rudolph – All Talk?
In the original TV adaptation Rudolph never helps the toys on the Island of Misfit Toys in spite of his promise to do so. This led to numerous complaints by parents that Rudolph had broken his promise, so producers later added a scene at the end where Rudolph leads Santa to the Island to collect the toys.
Every year in the United States about 20,000 Rent-a-Santas are hired. Evidently, however, it isn’t the easiest job in the world. These Santas undergo training on how to cope with pressure from the public, how to deal with rowdy children, and even what not to eat to avoid having bad breath.
So, if there are 20,000 Rent-a-Santas running around putting children on their lap and handing out candy, one naturally has to wonder, how many of these guys have criminal records? According to pre-imply.com the number is 7%.
According to UNICEF, there are 2,106 million children under the age of 18 in the world. If you do the math it works out to about 842 million stops that Santa would have to make on Christmas Eve, meaning he would have to travel about 221 million miles total. In order to reach every stop that night he would need to go from house to house in less than 1/5,000 of a second, requiring an acceleration of 12.19 million miles per second every time. Seems like Santa belongs on our list of 25 most powerful superheroes of all time.
A popular abbreviation for Christmas, the X represents the Greek letter Chi, or the first letter of the word “Christ”. During the 16th Century, European Christians began using the Chi as a symbolic abbreviation for Christmas just as the Chi-Rho had often been used a symbolic abbreviation for Christ. Although in former centuries this association was understood, in recent times this has led to misunderstanding and controversy.
The Santa Cause
Every year North Pole, Alaska gets hundreds of thousands of letters from children all over the world. Volunteers from the small town of 1,600 make an effort to reply to every letter that has a return address.
The Statue of Liberty
In 1886 the United States became the recipient of the largest Christmas present in history when France presented it with the Statue of Liberty – 225 tons and 46.5 meters high.
A Weightless Christmas
In December of 1965 two American astronauts spotted something they were unable to identify on their way back to orbit. After frantically radioing into mission control, several minutes of tense silence followed. A moment later everyone on the ground began to make out the sound of Jingle Bells being played on a harmonica. The astronauts later donated their musical instruments to the National Museum of Space and Aeronautics.
Christmas Truce of 1914
On the morning of December 25th, 1914, German soldiers on the western front stepped out of their trenches and walked towards Allied troops calling out “Merry Christmas” in English. What followed was one of the greatest expressions of camaraderie in history. Soldiers mingled, exchanged cigarettes, and even played a game of football. The event was dramatized in the french film Joyeux Noel.