Quirky Christmas Facts

The following text is originally lifted from the trivia section of The Jakarta Post dated Wednesday, 5 December 2007 and Wednesday, 12 December 2007.

~Compiled from various sources~

  • Christmas was once a moveable feast celebrated at many different times during the year. The choice of 25 December was made by Pope Julius I, in the 4th century A.D., because this coincided with the pagan rituals of Winter Solstice, or Return of the Sun. The intent was to replace the pagan celebration with the Christian one.
  • The custom of singing Christmas carols is very old — the earliest English collection was published in 1521.
  • Postmen in Victorian England were popularly called “robins”. This was because their uniforms were red, like the bird. The British Post Office grew out of the carrying of royal dispatches. Red was considered a royal colour, so uniforms and letter-boxes were red. This is why Christmas cards often picture a robin delivering Christmas mail.
  • Hallmark introduced its first Christmas cards in 1915, five years after the founding of the company.
  • The traditional flaming Christmas pudding dates back to 1670 in England, and was derived from an earlier form of stiffened plum porridge.
  • Originally, Christmas decorations were home-made paper flowers, or apples, biscuits and sweets. The earliest decorations to be bought came from Nuremberg in Germany, a city famous for the manufacture of toys.
  • Long before it was used as a “kiss encourager” during the Christmas season, mistletoe had long been considered to have magic powers by Celtic and Teutonic peoples. It was said to have the ability to heal wounds and increase fertility. Celts hung mistletoe in their homes in order to bring themselves good luck and ward off evil spirits.
  • Candy canes began as straight white sticks of sugar candy used to decorate the Christmas trees. A precentor at Cologne Cathedral decided to have the ends bent to depict a shepherd’s crook and he would pass them out to the children to keep them quiet during the services. It wasn’t until about the 20th century that candy canes require their red stripes.
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas was originally written to help Catholic children in England remember different articles of faith during the persecution by Protestant monarchs. The “true love” represented God, and the gifts all different ideas: the Partridge in a pear tree was Christ; Two Turtle Doves were The Old and New Testaments; Three French Hens were Faith, Hope and Charity — The Theological Virtues; Four Calling Birds were the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists; Five Golden Rings were the first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch which relays the History of man’s fall from grace; Six Geese a-laying were the six days of Creation; Seven Swans a-swimming were the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments; Eight Maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes; Nine Ladies Dancing were the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit; 10 Lords A-Leaping were the 10 commandments; 11 Pipers Piping were the 11 faithful apostles; 12 Drummers Drumming were the 12 points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed.
  • On Christmas Day of 1989, Eastern Europe was permitted to celebrate Christmas freely and openly for the 1st time in decades. Church masses were broadcast live for the 1st time in history.
  • The actual gift givers are different in various countries:

ü England : Father Christmas

ü France: Pere Noel (Father Christmas)

ü Germany: Christkind (an angelic messenger from Jesus)

ü Holland: St Nicholas

ü Italy: La Befana (a kindly old witch)

ü Spain and South America: the Three Kings

ü Russia: Babouschka (a grandmotherly figure) or Grandfather Frost, depending on the region

ü Scandinavia: a variety of Christmas gnomes.

  • The story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer started as a bed-time story. American Robert May told it to his daughter Barbara. The point of the story was to show that it was not always bad to be different. He repeated his story to his work colleagues at a Christmas Party in 1938 and by Christmas 1947 over six million copies of the story had been sold all over the world.
  • Hanging up a stocking is closely related to Saint Nicholas’ habit of dropping money down chimney pots to help people. Legend has it that an elderly man had three daughters but no money to give them for a dowry. When St Nicholas dropped some money down the man’s chimney it fell into the stockings of his daughters, which were hanging to dry over the fireplace.
  • The world’s first singing commercial aired on the radio on Christmas Eve of 1926 for Wheaties cereal. The four male singers, eventually known as the Wheaties Quartet, comprising an undertaker, a bailiff, a printer and a businessman, performed the song for the next six week. The commercials ere a resounding success.
  • Child singer Jimmy Boyd was 12 years and 11 months old when he sang the Christmas favourite, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. The song hit the top of the pop charts.
  • In 1830, an Englishman called John Calcott Horsley produced smalls cards featuring the festive season and a seasonal greeting. These became very popular and when the postage stamp was introduced people could pay for the cards to be delivered.
  • The first charity Christmas card was produced by UNICEF in 1949. The picture chosen for the card was painted not by a professional artist but by a seven-year-old girl. The girl was Jitka Samkova of Rudolfo, small town in the former nation of Chzechoslovakia. The town received UNICEF assistance after World War 2, inspiring Jitka to paint some children dancing around a maypole. She said her picture represented “joy going round and round”.
  • According to a survey, 7 out of 10 British dogs get Christmas gifts from their doting owners.
  • The image we have of Father Christmas comes from an advertising campaign run by Coca Cola between 1931 and 1964. The original paintings for this were by Haddon Sundblom.
  • The magazine Harpers published a series of the engravings between 1863 and 1886 and the designs have become very popular over the years.

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