10 Interesting Christmas Facts to Impress Your Friends and Family
For those of us who are a little out practice when it comes to dinner table conversation or you need to redirect the topic away from controversial fare, these Christmas facts will come to your rescue. You can also use them to spice up your annual Christmas letter, give your social media posts some flare, or study up for holiday-themed trivia night. It's likely not news to anyone that there's a lot more to Christmas than giving and receiving gifts. It’s an age-old celebration with centuries of tradition and deep symbolism behind virtually every aspect of the holiday.
From the religious elements you may already enjoy every year to pagan origins and some factoids that are just purely entertaining, even the holly jolliest Christmas fans will learn something from this list. There's a little something that touches on every aspect of the holiday. Take a few moments out from the breakneck pace of the holiday season, grab a Christmas cookie and check this list twice.
- Christmas wasn't always on December 25
While Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, the actual date is lost to history. There's no mention of December 25 in the Bible and many historians say Jesus was really born in the spring. Some historians posit the date was originally chosen because it coincided with the pagan festival of Saturnalia, which honored the agricultural god Saturn with celebrating and gift-giving.
- Gifts have both Christian and Pagan origins
Christians may have grown up learning that we give gifts at Christmas to mimic the presents the Three Wise Men brought the baby Jesus. But like so many other traditions, that also has its roots in Saturnalia. The pagans originally gave offerings to the gods, too.
- Evergreens are an ancient tradition
The tradition of Christmas trees goes all the way back to ancient Egyptians and Romans, who decorated with evergreens during the winter solstice to signify that spring would return. So, if you deck your halls with a green tree, wreaths or evergreen garland, you're honoring history.
- The Dutch gave us the idea to leave cookies and milk
If your kids leave Santa a little snack to keep him sated on your journey, thank the Dutch. On St. Nicholas' feast day on Dec. 6, Dutch children leave him food and drink to be exchanged for gifts overnight.
- Rudolph was a marketing ploy
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer first appeared in 1939 when the Montgomery Ward department store asked one of its copywriters to create a Christmas story for kids that the store could distribute as a promotion. The adorable movie featuring the island of misfit toys and Herbie the elf hit the airwaves (and our hearts) in 1964.
- Christmas wreaths are religious symbols
The Christmas wreath first originated as a symbol of Christ. The holly represents the crown of thorns Jesus wore at his crucifixion and the red berries stand for the blood he shed. So, when you see a wreath this holiday, you'll remember the reason for the season.
- Silent Night is the most recorded song
We all know the same few handfuls of Christmas songs play at stores and on the radio in a loop all season long. But one of them has been adapted more than others. Silent Night ears that title, as the most recorded Christmas song in history. It's had more than 733 different versions copyrighted since 1978.
- Celebrating Christmas used to be illegal
From 1659–1681, anyone caught making merry in the colonies would face a fine for celebrating. By the Revolutionary War, the day had so little significance that Congress even held their first session on December 25, 1789. Christmas wasn't even proclaimed a federal holiday for almost another century, proving that the Grinch's attitude toward the holiday was alive and well long before he was.
- Settlers created the first American eggnog
The Jamestown settlers created the first American batch of eggnog, although it likely bore little resemblance to today's comforting tipple. The word nog comes from the word grog; or any drink made with rum. An early nog didn't have the rich, milky base we now ladle out of grandma's cut-crystal punch bowl.
- The Rockefeller Christmas tree started small
The first Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center probably looked more like Charlie Brown's than the resplendent one today. Construction workers first placed a small, undecorated tree while working there in 1931. Two years later, another tree appeared in its place, this time draped in lights. It just kept getting bigger every year. Today, the majestic tree bears more than 25,000 twinkling lights and sees millions of selfie-takers each season.