1. December 25 was originally a pagan celebration. Nobody knows when Jesus of Nazareth was born and nobody celebrated his birthday for hundreds of years. December 25 was co-opted from pagan rites connected with the winter solstice.
2. Mistletoe was considered an aphrodisiac.
The holiday flora is an ancient symbol of fertility and virility — and the Druids believed it was an actual aphrodisiac. (So thank them at the next awkward holiday function.) The name itself even has a funny meaning: Mistle thrush birds eat the plant's berries, digest the seeds, and then the droppings eventually grow into new plants. So, the Germanic word for mistletoe literally means "dung on a twig."
3. Santa Claus originated in a newspaper ad. Far from being a quaint medieval legend, Santa Claus first appeared as a recognizable entity was in a newspaper ad for toys and "gift books" in the mid 19th century.
4. Christmas is only recently a "family" holiday. Christmas was originally celebrated as an adult form of "trick or treat," but with the "treat" consisting of booze and the threatened "trick" consisting of bodily harm or destruction of property.
5. "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" was originally a threat. The ever-popular song was originally sung, loudly and repeatedly, by crowds of rowdy, lower-class servants demanding booze from their masters... or else. (I.e. "We won't go until we get some!")
6. Scrooge does not celebrate with the Cratchits. While most cinema versions of "A Christmas Carol" show the reformed miser celebrating with his lower-class employee, in the book, Scrooge celebrates instead with his middle-class nephew.
7. Christmas as a "day off" is a recent innovation. As late as 1850, December 25 was not a legal holiday in New England, so stores were open, business were open, and children were expected to attend school.
8. Coca-Cola played a huge part in Santa's image.
According to Coca-Cola, Santa used to look a lot less jolly — even spooky. When the company hired an illustrator named Haddon Sundblom in 1931 to create images of Santa for magazine advertisements, the warm and friendly Santa we know today was born.
9. The tradition of hanging stockings started with an accident. According to legend, it came from the tale of a poor man who couldn't afford his three daughters dowries. Apparently St. Nick dropped a bag of gold down their chimney one night so that the eldest could get married — but it fell into a stocking that was drying by the fire!
10."Jingle Bells" started as a Thanksgiving song.
James Lord Pierpont wrote a song called "One Horse Open Sleigh" and performed it at his church's Thanksgiving concert. Then in 1857, the song was re-published under the title it has today, and eventually became one of the most popular Christmas songs. Bonus fact: It was also the first song broadcast from space.
11. Celebrating Christmas used to be illegal.
Although the Jamestown settlers created the first American batch of eggnog, by the time the Puritans settled Boston, Christmas was outlawed. (The word nog comes from the word grog; that is, any drink made with rum.) From 1659 to 1681, you'd face a fine for celebrating the once-pagan day. And after the Revolutionary War, the new Congress found the day so unimportant that they held the first session on December 25, 1789. It wasn't proclaimed a federal holiday for nearly another century.
12. Christmas decorating sends nearly 15,000 people to the ER.
From hanging lights on ladders to taking a roast out of the oven, making merry can prove hazardous. In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 14,700 people visit hospital emergency rooms each November and December from holiday-related decorating accidents. To top it off, dried Christmas trees spark about a hundred fires, cause an average of 10 deaths, and result in $15.7 million in property damage. Are you convinced to switch to an artificial Christmas tree yet?
13. Santa has his own zip code in Canada.
Every year, letters to Santa Claus flood post offices across the world. Some Canadian Post Office workers even started answering them — but as more letters arrived, they set up a special zip code for Santa as part of a "Santa Letter-Writing Program" literacy initiative. The zip code? HOH OHO.
14. The term "Xmas" dates back to the 1500s.
According to From Adam's Apple to Xmas: An Essential Vocabulary Guide for the Politically Correct, the word "Christianity" was spelled "Xianity" as far back as 1100. X, or Chi, in Greek is the first letter of "Christ" and served as a symbolic stand-in. In 1551, the holiday was called "Xtemmas" but eventually shortened to "Xmas."
15. We ship a crazy amount of packages around the holidays.
Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day last year, the U.S. Postal Service delivered an estimated 850 million packages — in addition to 15 billion pieces of mail.
16. Americans spend nearly $1,000 on gifts.
According to the National Retail Federation's findings in 2017, consumers say they'll spend $967.13 for the holidays on average. For 2018, total retail sales in November and December are expected to hit $717.45 billion.
17. Ham, not turkey, is the festive favorite.
The dinner debate rages on. Searches for "ham" and "turkey" both spike during the month of December, according to Google Trends data. (Though it's nowhere near how frequently "turkey" is hunted for online in November!) But despite the popularity of both festive entrees, spiral-cut ham remains the more popular choice for a Christmas table.
18. Candy canes got their start in Germany.
The National Confectioners Association says a choirmaster originally gave the candies to young children so they'd stay quiet during long church services. But when a German-Swedish immigrant decorated his tree with candy canes in 1847, they became popular as a Christmas candy.
19. The most popular Christmas song is ...
Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas Is You, naturally. (Did you know her then-husband Tommy Mottola plays Santa?) But the best-selling Christmas song of all time is Bing Crosby's White Christmas.
20. KRAMPUS IS A CHRISTMAS DEMON.
Who is Krampus? In Austria and across the German-speaking Alpine region, the demonic character is a crucial part of the holiday season. He’s a devilish figure, with long horns and a goaty beard, much like typical portrayals of Satan. You might see him posed harmlessly on a greeting card or reproduced in chocolates or figurines. But you might also encounter a procession of Krampuses stalking through the town, laden with bells and chains, intimidating onlookers or whipping them with bundles of sticks.
MOST EXPENSIVE FUN FACTS
- Most Expensive Christmas Bauble - $130,000 : One-of-a-kind Christmas bauble hit headlines in 2009 as the world’s most expensive Christmas bauble. Made of 18 carat white gold and plastered with more than one and a half thousand diamonds, the globe shape is orbited by two rings, featuring 188 rubies. It’s been valued by the National Associations of Jewelers at $130,000 and was created by a tiny, village jewellers in Titchfield, Hampshire (UK).
- Most Expensive Christmas Wreath: $4.6 million : In 2013 Finnish floral designer Pasi Jokinen-Carter created what’s being called “the most expensive Christmas wreath in the world” — a $4.6 million creation that mixes some fancy holiday shrubbery with 17.49 karat rubies and a 3.03 karat fancy yellow diamonds.
- Worlds Tallest Christmas Tree - 65 Feet : The 20 meter (65 foot) tall tree at Galeries Lafayette a luxury shopping paradise in Paris is the tallest indoor Christmas tree in the world. It’s made of metal and stands under the gallery’s beautiful dome, where each year it’s dressed with new decorations.
- Most Expensive Dressed Christmas Tree - $11,026,900 : The most expensively dressed Christmas tree was valued at 41,329,531 AED ($11,026,900 US; £6,975,880), and was erected and displayed by the Emirates Palace (UAE) in Abu Dhabi, UAE, from 16 to 29 December 2010. The tree was covered in 181 items of jewelry and stood 13.1 m (43.2 ft) high.
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