Christmas traditions and practices have a long history, going back to at least the time of the ancient Egyptians. Of course, that far back in history, Christmas was about a winter solstice celebration. From pagan origins to religious aspects, some of these factoids you probably weren't aware of.
The tradition of a Christmas tree actually goes all the way back to the ancient Egyptians and Romans. During the winter solstice they decorated their dwellings using evergreens to signify that spring would return.
Turns out the classic Christmas song, "Jingle Bells, was originally written for another holiday. A gent by the name of James Lord Pierpont wrote a song called "One Horse Open Sleigh" for his church's Thanksgiving concert.
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Ok, so this one I definitely didn't get right. What is the most recorded Christmas song? I would have guessed "White Christmas." But nope, it is "Silent Night."
The term Xmas actually dates back to the 1500s! I always believed it is used as a secular term for Christmas. However, the letter "X" is the Greek first letter of Christ. Thus, it served as a symbolic term for the religious holiday. In 1551, Christmas as commonly called "Xtemmas, which later was shortened to "Xmas." Who knew that one?
Mistletoe, the ancient symbol of fertility, often is part of one's holiday decorations. Nothing like a warm winter kiss by a love one, right? Well, if you knew the origins of the name, maybe you would be considering a different name. Apparently, mistle thrush birds eat the plant's berries helping new plants germinate from their "droppings." With that bit of science background, the Germanic word for mistletoe means "dung on a twig." Not sure I can ever look at mistletoe the same anymore!
Apparently, we can thank Prince Albert for the Christmas tree tradition. Prince Albert of Germany secured a tree for his wife, Queen Victoria of England around 1848. An illustration of the family next to the tree was published in a London newspaper. In modern times, this was equivalent to going "viral" on social media.
Say it isn't so! But yes, celebrating Christmas use to be illegal in some colonies in this country! From 1659 to 1681, anyone being "merry" during the traditional Christmas holidays could face a fine. Christmas wasn't proclaimed a US holiday for another century. Indeed, the Grinch's attitude toward Christmas was quite real, even before he existed!
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Although some version of eggnog had been around since the 13th century, when was the first American version eggnog created? The story goes that the early American settlers created the first batch of the holiday treat. When milk and eggs were available, they were the important ingredients in any appropriate eggnog. However, apparently it didn't always have the creamy base we now come to appreciate. But it did have rum as that was readily available and cheap from the Caribbean!
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What is the gift that held a lifesaving secret? None other than playing cards! During World War II, the US Playing Card Company, in cooperation with US and British intelligence agencies, created a special deck of cards for soldiers. Distributed widely, they helped Allied prisoners escape German POW camps. When wet, the cards peeled apart revealing maps of escape routes. WOW, who knew?
So, was there a real Santa Claus? Should we even question it? Well, the answer is yes, the Christian bishop Saint Nicholas was the inspiration for jolly old St Nick. He was a gift-giving man who lived in Turkey and devoted his life to helping the poor.