Christmas is coming, and with all the dinners and parties you’ll probably need as many trivia facts as you can possibly find to help with conversations. So, here are 15 facts about Christmas for you!
Christmas is quickly approaching, and with it countless dinners and parties with friends, family, and, well, pets. That’s an awful lot of conversations to be had during the holidays, so it’s always good to keep up your sleeve a few interesting facts to break the ice. “Did you know…?” is pretty much the best fail-safe conversation starter for those desperate moments when social interactions are running dry. Plus, who doesn’t love a dedicated, thematic trivia night? With that in mind, here are 15 Christmas facts and trivia you can use to impress (or annoy, if you prefer) everyone around the dinner table!
Jesus wasn’t born on December 25.
Most experts estimate Jesus of Nazareth was born during the spring (if he was born at all). Although the Bible never once mentions his date of birth, several passages would be consistent with the spring theory. There is no reason whatsoever to believe he was born anywhere near December 25. In fact, the date was probably chosen to coincide with the celebration of the ancient Roman festival of the winter solstice, Saturnalia.
Saturnalia influenced our holiday celebration more than Christ.
But the date is not all our Christmas tradition took from the ancient pagan festival. Partying and gift-giving were also part of the celebrations during this time in the ancient Roman world, something the Christ had little to do with.
Christmas trees actually originated in the pagan world.
Back in the ancient, pre-Christian world, it was very common for evergreen trees to be used as symbols for hope or everlasting life during winter. Romans, Vikings, Celts and Egyptians all brought home evergreen twigs to honor their respective Sun God around the winter solstice.
Christmas trees became popular in the Western world because of Queen Victoria.
Though Christmas trees have pagan origins, the ornamented firs we know and love today were first used in Germany during the 16th century. Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert, brought this tradition from Germany into the English court, and in the 1840s the whole royal family was sketched standing around a big Christmas tree. The Queen was so popular with her subjects that the tree was subsequently adopted throughout the rest of the Western world.
Both the Christmas tree and Christmas itself were initially rejected by religious authorities.
Due to their pagan roots, Christmas trees were originally condemned and even prohibited by both religious and official authorities. Even Christmas itself used to be altogether outlawed. From 1659 to 1681, it was illegal to celebrate Christmas at all in Boston.
Santa Claus is loosely based on a real-life person.
Saint Nicholas of Myra, also known as Nicholas of Bari, was an early Christian bishop who lived during the times of the Roman Empire in what is now Turkey. Though little is known about his life, he became famous for inheriting a massive fortune which he used to distribute gifts and good deeds. For example, he’s said to have saved three girls from being forced into prostitution by paying their dowries to their parents.
The Santa Claus gift-giving tradition originated in the Netherlands.
Based on a combination of pagan characters, such as Odin, and Christian characters, such as St. Nicholas, the legendary figure known as Sinterklaas was born. During the 19th century, the Dutch celebrated a (somewhat) secularized children’s festival on December 6, when Sinterklaas would supposedly arrive from Spain by steamboat, fly above the houses on a grey horse, and delivered presents by entering through the chimney. Later, Sinterklass was adopted by other countries and eventually became Santa Claus.
Christmas was in fact irrelevant in early America.
During and shortly after the War of Independence Christmas didn’t much matter to Americans. In fact, Congress didn’t even celebrate the holiday after winning the war, having held its first session during Christmas Day in 1789. It would take over a century after that for Christmas to be declared a federal holiday.
The same author that created the Headless Horseman also invented the image of Santa riding in a flying sleigh.
American author Washington Irving described in his 1819 short stories collection, The Sketch Book of Joseph Crayon, a recent dream in which he saw St. Nicholas flying across the sky in a wagon. The image was popularized after that. Irving would also write the gothic story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, in 1820, where he created the legendary Headless Horseman.
Rudolph was conceived by a department store.
Like Santa’s contemporary suit or Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the beloved red-nosed reindeer was also a creation of advertisement. Conceived as a marketing strategy by the Montgomery Ward department store, Rudolph was meant to invite kids to buy coloring books. He was almost named Rollo or Reginald, too!
“Jingle Bells” was originally supposed to be a Thanksgiving song.
Published as “One Horse Open Sleigh” in 1857, James Lord Pierpont wrote the song’s lyrics inspired by Thanksgiving, with the intention to use them for that season alone. It took decades before it was actually associated with Christmas.
There’s a Santa Claus Village in Finland, labelled as his official home.
Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland in Finland, is home to an enchanting Christmas attraction marketed as Santa Claus’ village. The amusement park features thematic shops, restaurants, Christmas landmarks, and live reindeers.
More than 14,000 people are sent to the hospital each year due to Christmas-decorating accidents.
The Consumer Product Safety estimates that around 14,700 people were sent to the ER due to holiday-related injuries. On average, 240 decorating accidents occur daily during November and December, with 41% of them being falls, 10% lacerations, and 5% back strains. There is even an average of 3 deaths involving falls from ladders.
During the Christmas of 1914, right in the midst of World War I, a truce was held between German and British forces on the frontline.
The soldiers started singing carols, and the morning after the Germans walked over and across the battlefield chanting, “Merry Christmas!” in English. They reached the other side, shook hands with the English, and both sides even exchanged cigarettes as gifts.
In 2010, the Colombian army decorated several jungle trees with lights during Christmas in an attempt to reach guerrillas, get them to demobilize and rejoin civil society.
As the irregular fighters walked passed them, the trees were suddenly lit and alongside a sign asking them to come back home. As a result, over 330 guerrilleros and guerrilleras laid down their weapons. The campaign won multiple international awards, including one for strategic marketing excellence.
Now you’re prepared for those tedious nights with your extended family. Hopefully you’ll have a good time! And Merry Christmas!
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