You probably think you know everything you need to know about Christmas. It’s widely considered to be the most wonderful time of the year, and for many of us, it’s a holiday that we’ve always celebrated and looked forward to. It’s also a time where we buy presents for our loved ones, decorate a Christmas tree with as many baubles and sparkling lights as possible, sing carol songs, and consume far too many mince pies and mulled wine. However, are you actually aware of why these things are associated with Christmas (and the general festive season) in the first place?
From the original colour of Santa’s famous bright red suit, to the number of brussels sprouts that sadly get thrown away on the 25th December each year, here are the most interesting facts you didn’t know about Christmas. After reading, go and test your colleagues, friends and family with all your new-found festive knowledge!
Facts about Santa Claus
Santa is based on a monk called St. Nicholas
The jolly, red-cheeked Santa Claus that we know and love today is actually based on a monk called St Nicholas. Believed to have been born sometime around 280 A.D in what is now known as modern-day Turkey, St. Nicholas was admired for his kindness, giving away his inherited wealth and helping people in need. Due to many legends about his acts of kindness, his reverence spread (particularly in Holland), and he became the saint of both children and sailors. He started to gain popularity in American culture in the 1770s when Dutch families gathered to honour his death.
Santa didn’t always wear a red and white suit
Santa’s suit wasn’t always red, and many people believe that it changed to this colour because of Coca Cola’s Christmas advertising campaigns. However, it was Thomas Nast, a political cartoonist, who drew Santa Claus for 30 years, starting with an illustration for Harper’s Weekly in 1862. In this time, his attire changed from tan to red, though Nast also drew him wearing a green suit.
Santa’s reindeer were first introduced in 1821
In 1812, the author Washington Irving (who helped to popularise St Nichola’s stories in America), first referenced him flying above trees to deliver presents to children. It wasn’t until later, in 1821 that the New York printer, William Gilley, published a booklet by an unknown author that mentioned reindeer. Two years later, the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas (The Night before Christmas) first referred to them by name, though Rudolph didn’t come along until his famous song was released in 1949.
Facts about Christmas trees
Real trees take between 6 and 10 years to grow
The most popular types of real Christmas trees used in homes, commercial buildings and public spaces are evergreen firs, spruces and pines because they tend to drop less needles. These types of trees are grown from a seed sown into the ground (which has been taken from the cone of a mature tree), and they’re harvested to be decorated when they reach a desired height of between 6 and 7 feet. This can be a lengthy process, taking between 6 to 10 years in total!
They became popular in Britain in the 1830s and 1840s
It is believed that the tradition of decorating a Christmas tree came from 16th century Germany, where devout Christians began bringing decorated evergreen trees into their homes. It wasn’t until sometime in the 1830s that they came to Britain, although they gained popularity in the UK and US when Queen Victoria’s German husband, Prince Albert, first had a Christmas tree put up in Windsor Castle in 1841. A drawing of their tree was published in the Illustrated London News in 1848 and Godey’s Lady’s Book, Philadelphia in 1850, which helped to popularise the tradition.
Artificial trees were first made from feathers
Like the tradition of bringing real Christmas trees into the home, artificial trees originated in Germany. Near the end of the 1800s, metal wire trees were covered with goose, turkey, ostrich or swan feathers, and these were dyed green to imitate pine needles. They began to be made from brushes by the Addis Brush Company in the 1930s. interestingly these artificial trees were made by the same machinery as their toilet brushes!
Facts about Christmas presents
Not everyone believes that Santa delivers presents
In the UK, US and many other parts of the world, it is of course believed that Santa Claus delivers gifts to children, ready for them to excitedly open on Christmas day! However, in parts of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Czech Republic they believe that these are brought by the Christkind (or ‘Christ Child’). Alternatively, in Spain they believe that presents are given are given by the Wise Men (or Three Kings), and in parts of Italy, they believe they are from an old lady called Befana.
We spend a lot of money on gifts – especially Lego
An adult in the UK is said to spend around £330 buying Christmas presents every year, and 58.5% of a person’s budget for the festive season will be allocated to buying gifts. This is hardly surprising, as the average child in the UK will wake up to 16 presents to open on Christmas morning, and nearly 28 Lego sets are sold every second during the Christmas period. Unfortunately, though, each year we spend a combined total of around £700 million on unwanted presents!
We put presents in stockings because of St. Nicholas
Like Santa Claus, the reason we hang stockings on the fireplace and put gifts inside them can be traced back to the monk St. Nicholas. According to tradition, three very poor sisters left their stockings drying over their fireplace one night. St. Nicholas was known for sharing his wealth, and in an act of kindness, he gave them three bags of gold. In one version of the tradition, he threw the bags down the chimney, and one of these landed directly inside one of the stockings.
Facts about Christmas dinner and treats
A traditional Christmas dinner varies around the world
When many of us think of a Christmas dinner, turkey is the first thing that comes to mind. Despite this, a traditional Christmas dinner looks very different depending on where you are in the world. In Puerto Rico, people enjoy the national dish of a roast suckling pig, while the Swedish enjoy a boiled ham which is glazed with eggs, breadcrumbs and mustard. In Japan, KFC has also become a popular tradition, with many families travelling to the fast food restaurant on Christmas day! KFC’s popularity can be thanked by their famous advertising campaign, ‘Kentucky for Christmas’, which was run in Japan in 1974.
17.2 million Brussels sprouts are thrown away every year
Brussels sprouts; much like Marmite, people seem to either love them or hate them. This seems to be backed up by the fact that a whopping 17.2 million of the opinion dividing green vegetables are thrown away every Christmas. there’s a very good reason you should be eating your Brussels sprouts, though; they’re actually a great source of vitamin C. As a matter of fact, an 80g serving contains around 4 times more vitamin C than an orange!
Mince pies did actually used to contain meat
We might refer to a mince pie’s fruit filling as mincemeat, but this much-loved Christmas treat did, in fact, used to contain meat. When they first started being consumed in the Middle Ages, they contained finely minced meat and chopped up fruit in a preserving liquid. This meat was usually mutton, but the pies also sometimes contained beef, rabbit, pork or game. They have also had various names over the years, including shrid pies and crib cakes.
Facts about Christmas carols
Christmas carols originated from pagan songs
During pagan celebrations of the Winter Solstice (the shortest day of the year, occurring in December), people sang songs and danced around stone circles. Early Christians took over the pagan celebrations, replacing their songs with Christian ones. However, it was in AD 129 that a Roman bishop decreed that a song called Angel’s Hymn should be sung at a Christmas service in Rome. By the Middle Ages, groups of people were travelling from house to house, singing carols during the Twelve Days of Christmas.
The first song ever broadcast on radio was a carol
On Christmas Eve in 1906, Reginald Fessenden, a Canadian inventor, become the first human voice to be broadcast on the radio. He played the popular Christmas carol, O Holy Night on the violin and sang the final verse of the song while broadcasting from his Brant Rock radio tower in Massachusetts, USA. He was assisted by his wife, Helen, and a friend. This was also the first wireless radio forecast, reaching vessels all over the south and north Atlantic.
Get your business ready for Christmas with phs Greenleaf
At phs Greenleaf, we can provide a range of services to get your business premises looking bright and festive for the Christmas period! From real and replica Christmas trees, to interior and exterior lighting displays, contact us today to find out what we can do for your business.