With the Christmas fast approaching, I’m sure that you’re still busy looking for special gifts to give to your loved ones. And I’m certain that you’re also busy preparing on what to do on that special day, particularly buying ingredients for your Christmas spread. Indeed, Christmas is the most prepared and celebrated event of the year.
Well, you probably know the reason why Christmas is being celebrated, right? Okay, yes you know. But how much do you really know about Christmas? Besides knowing that it’s the time for family, turkeys, and Christmas trees, do you know other interesting facts surrounding this wonderful occasion that the world celebrates every year? Nope? Okay, read on to find out the top 10 not so well-known facts about Christmas. Ready?
10. Martin Luther Was The First Person To Set-Up A Lighted Christmas Tree.
The Christmas tree is one of the most popular symbols of Christmas. Every year, at least 33 million real Christmas trees are sold in the U.S., yet may people don’t know the history of it. Well, there are number of speculative theories regarding its origin. And one of the common stories is that it was originated at Riga in Livonia (now Latvia), in the year 1510. According to the records of the first use of Christmas trees found in Estonia, the Brotherhood of the Blackheads erected small trees decorated with sweets in wintertime to be enjoyed by guild members’ children.
Another famous legend was that it came from Strasbourg, Germany in 1601, when an unknown Frenchman visited the place. His diary was found, where he described how the people would set up trees with “wafers and golden sugar-twists and paper flowers of all colors.”
However, the most likely theory is that Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, was the first to decorate a Christmas tree. Historians said that while Martin Luther was walking in the woods one winter evening, he was amazed by the beauty of the stars twinkling in the sky. So on his way home, he decided to cut down a tree, bring it home, and decorate it with lots of small candles to show his family how lovely the stars twinkled in the sky. And from then, the idea of lighted Christmas tree was born.
- Edward Johnson Invented The Electric Christmas Lights.
Before electric Christmas lights were invented, people used candles to illuminate their Christmas trees. They attached them on the tree branches using wax or pins, just like what Martin Luther did. Later, candle holders were invented in order to keep them from falling. However, as you might imagine, this practice was dangerous, and led to many home fires. It wasn’t until the invention of electric Christmas lights that the celebration of Christmas became safe.
The practice of using electric Christmas lights began in 1882, when Edward Johnson, Thomas Edison’s friend and partner, created colored electric bulbs to light his own Christmas tree in his home in New York. However, some sources credit Edison, the inventor of the first practical light bulb, with being the first to use electric Christmas lights, when he hung them outside his laboratory. But in reality, it was Johnson’s idea.
I guess it isn’t fair to Edward to not get credit for the work He did. After all, he was the one who hired Edison in the first place. Yes, Johnson was Edison’s boss. But months after Johnson hired Edison, the time when his inventions developed, they switched position. Edison became Johnson’s boss. Yes, you read that right. Just imagine how sad that was for Johnson – losing his job to someone that he just hired. Although, let’s say, he became so proud about his apprentice’s success, I still think that He might have felt badly about it. Nevertheless, I think that became his inspiration to invent the first ever Christmas lights. Just to let you know, Johnson was truly a genius, like Edison, but he never created a lot of notable stuff. In fact, the electric Christmas tree lights were probably his only notable creation – interestingly, that’s enough to permanently include his name to the list of great inventors.
Although the electric Christmas lights didn’t suddenly become popular during his time, they were highly improved and developed. And now, almost everyone is using them not only during Christmas, but throughout the year.
- The Viking God, Odin, Was The Original Santa Claus.
There are many different figures, where the Santa Claus was derived, and some of the common names that we know are St. Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Papa Noel, or simply Santa. But what most people don’t know is that one of the major inspirations for the birth of Santa Claus is the ferocious Viking god, known as Odin.
Well, Odin is famous as being the father of Thor, but he was also the chief of the Norse gods, as well as the god of magic, poetry, wisdom, and war. But unlike the Santa we know, Odin wasn’t jolly. He wasn’t wearing red, either. He was often depicted as a creepy, old, traveling wizard who looked much like Gandalf the Grey, with a missing eye. But like the Santa we know, He also had awesome beard.
According to the Pagan myths, Odin would lead a crazy event in the sky, known as Wild Hunt, every Yule (equated with the Christian festival of Christmas), where he would ride his eight-legged terrifying horse, Sleipnir (similar to Santa’s eight tiny reindeer Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, & Blitzen). And during the event, it was a tradition that children would fill their boots with carrots and sugar, and leave them near the chimney so that the Sleipner would have something to eat while on the journey. Odin would then leave small treats for the children as a reward for their kindness.
If you lived in Odin’s time, would you stay awake at night and wait for Santa?
- Telling Ghost Stories Is An Old Christmas Eve Tradition.
We’re all familiar with Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and M.R. James’ The Collected Ghost Stories. But you’re probably wondering why these writers loved creating horror stories for Christmas. Isn’t Christmas a time for happiness rather than scariness?
A few of us know that Dickens, James, and other writers didn’t get their idea of telling ghost stories out of thin air. They were just, in fact, reliving the old tradition in Victorian England of meeting around the fire and telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve. Supernatural fiction was very popular in Victorian period. And Victorians truly loved to scare each other. For the Victorians, their Christmas wasn’t complete without hearing any creepy tales.
However, in the last few decades, this one of the most interesting Victorian traditions has pretty much died out, well at least in America. The reason why it has faded is unknown, so there’s no reason for it to not be brought back. So this coming Christmas, why not gather your friends and sit in front of your fireplace and tell each other authentic ghost stories to make your Christmas more interesting. Or perhaps, gather in front of the TV and watch Christmas horror films!
- Christmas Used To Be Illegal.
Billions of people all over the world celebrate every year, on December 25, for one common reason – because it’s the birth of Jesus (although no one knows when He was actually born). But despite being a popular festival, many people don’t know that it hasn’t always been a welcome celebration in the U.S. In fact, there was a time in America that Christmas was entirely banned.
As shocking as it may sound, the celebration of Christmas was outlawed in Massachusetts for 22 years. In 1659, a law was passed prohibiting the celebration of Christmas. Anyone caught celebrating it – or showing any sign of the holiday spirit, such as dancing, singing, or eating of pudding – would be fined five shillings per offense. Some of the Christian leaders even condemned those who favored the Christmas and considered them as enemies of the church, because they claimed that Jesus has nothing to do with the holiday.
One of the reasons why the Puritans (the most dynamic Christian force in that period) hated Christmas was the fact that it was originated from pagan religion, which they viewed as unholy. December 25 was the concluding day of the pagan winter festival called Saturnalia, which was introduced in 217 B.C. Many of the Christmas activities and rituals came from this pagan holiday, including feasting, playing games, and exchanging of gifts.
The ban on the holiday in Massachusetts was only lifted in 1681, under the pressure from the British government. But because of the influence of the Puritans, the celebration of Christmas remained to be discouraged. Only when it was proclaimed as federal holiday in 1870, people began to embrace it as the holiday that we know today.
- Mistletoe Is Considered Magical And Sacred.
As we all know, mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows on the branches of various trees, but did you know that it was regarded as one of the most magical and sacred plants in earlier times? According to European legends, mistletoe possessed mystical powers that could bestow life and fertility, protect you from poison, and guard you from evil. In the Middle Ages, people would hang it to their ceilings to ward off witches and evil spirits. It was even considered a magical aphrodisiac – as the ancient Druids believed that its berries represented the sperm of the gods. Eww!
Ancient Greeks also called this plant “All Heal” as it was believed to have miraculous properties, which could cure various illnesses. (WARNING: Mistletoe is regarded as poisonous plant. Please talk to experts before using it in any form.)They even used it as a part of their sacred ceremonies, believing that the recipient of the plant would prosper.
In old folklore, mistletoe was known as plant of peace. Enemies, who met by chance under it in a forest, would lay down their arms and keep a truce until the next day. This custom has been thought the origin of the modern tradition of hanging mistletoe over a doorway and exchanging kiss under it as a sign of friendship and happiness.
- Christmas Brought Peace To The Battlefield During World War 1.
On December 25, 1914, nearly five months of fighting into the First World War, the British and German troops engaged in cease fire to celebrate Christmas. Yes, as unthinkable as it may seem, the soldiers of opposite sides, who spent months watching their friends die, spontaneously laid down their weapons and stopped shooting.
As darkness fell on Christmas Eve, both troops felt a moment of quietness. Suddenly, the British troop heard the German soldiers singing joyous Christmas carols and even saw them put Christmas trees in front of their trenches. And at the first light of dawn, majority of the German soldiers climbed over their barbed wires and approached the British troop, yelling “Merry Christmas” in their native language. Well, of course at first, the British fighters feared that it was a trick. But after seeing them unarmed, they went out and began to approach them, too. They exchanged food and cigarettes as presents, as well as sang Christmas carols together. They even showed each other photos of their loved ones. And most of them even gave the people they were trying to kill a sincere hug! And there were reports saying that some of them even played soccer together.
But unfortunately, the celebration and peace didn’t last forever. In fact, some of their generals didn’t like what happened at all, so they suddenly commanded their troops to resume shooting. After all, they were in a war! And eventually, they did.
- Christmas Has Set Numerous Musical Records.
You probably know a lot of Christmas carols, but you probably didn’t know that most of the Christmas songs you know have set record in the music industry and contributed in the success of many music artists.
Take for instance the popular White Christmas, which was sung by multiple artists. According to Guinness World Records, Bing Crosby’s version of this song was the best-selling single of all time, with more than 50 million copies sold worldwide. Following the list is the double-A side single Candle in the Wind /Something About the Way You Look Tonight by Elton John. But according to the Guinness World Records, it’s the best-selling single since the beginning of UK and US single charts in 1950, with worldwide sales of more than 33 million copies.
But of course, the King of Rock and Roll won’t allow himself to be outdone. Elvis Presley’s first Christmas album, entitled Elvis’ Christmas Album, sets a record of being the biggest-selling holiday album of all time in the U.S., having sold more than 10 million copies. The famous rock band, The Beatles, has also released several Christmas number one chart toppers in the UK, including I Want to Hold Your Hand, I Feel Fine, and Hello, Goodbye.
And finally, Mariah Carey’s 1994 track All I Want for Christmas Is You reigns as the most downloaded holiday single, having accumulated a total sales of more than 2 million copies, as of December 2012.
- The X in Xmas.
Ever wonder what that big X in Xmas stands for? Well, I too, wondered whenever I saw it written Xmas, instead of Christmas. In fact, just like everyone else, I also got offended by the word in the thought that nonreligious group would want to take out the name of Christ with that big X! But luckily, I was enlightened.
After doing some thorough research, I learned that the X in the popular Christmas abbreviation, Xmas, represents the Greek letter Chi. Chi is the first letter of the Greek word ???????, which means “Christ” in English. So, if you’re feeling hesitant to use the word Xmas because of the thought that you’re supporting the group of anti-Christ if you do, then fret not, because you’re not! In fact, the practice of using that big black X in place of Christ’s name has been a popular tradition among religious scholars for hundreds of years. So don’t freak out when you see Xmas on your Christmas cards, okay?
Oh, by the way, have you thought about what does X in X-ray stand for? How about that X in Xbox?
- Santa Is The World’s Richest Man.
Every Christmas Eve, millions of children around the world wait for Santa to see what he will bring them for Christmas. In fact, every year, the Postal Service receives millions of letters to Santa from children nationwide. Well, you may know that already. But have you ever wondered where does he get his bunch of presents? And how he is able to manage to wrap them all?
Well, according to Forbes’ List of 15 Richest Fictional People, Santa Claus is the world’s richest man with a net worth of infinity! Yes, that’s correct! No wonder why he can afford to buy a lot of gifts! And no wonder why he is so jolly!
But of course, even though he is considered the world’s richest fictional person, he still needs money (in the form of donation) to keep his gift-giving business operational.
So, now you know a lot of interesting Christmas trivia! It’s now time to head to the party and impress everyone with your abundant holiday knowledge! Merry Christmas!