Christmas is celebrated all over the world, as both a religious and secular holiday. For Christians, this annual day is celebrated to remember the birth of Jesus. Gifts are given, holiday cards sent, carols sung, and special church services attended. The Christmas holiday season is viewed by many as a secular holiday filled with traditions. Many of our Christmas traditions have interesting origins. In this article, we will look at all kinds of Christmas facts, some humorous, some historical, and some just plain fun. Use our Christmas facts as icebreakers or conversation starters at parties, to challenge your friends, or to use in holiday conversations to make them more interesting. Have fun!
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Interesting Facts About Christmas
Christmas celebrations occur all over the world, although the day on which it is celebrated varies, as well as the decorations, food, and customs. Many of the origins of Christmas and its “factual” past can be contradictory, so you may find some surprises in our list of interesting facts about Christmas. Check to see how many facts in our list you already knew and then test your family and friends.
Historical Christmas Facts
- 1066 – King William I of England was crowned on Christmas Day.
- 1377 – During a Christmas feast hosted by King Richard the II of England in 1377, three hundred sheep and twenty-eight oxen were consumed.
- 1640 – Scotland abolished the observance of Christmas (until 1958 when it became a legal holiday).
- Franklin Pierce (1853-1857) is believed to have been the first President to put a Christmas tree in the White House.
- Christmas trees were banned by President Teddy Roosevelt in the White House in 1901 because the President was concerned about the environmental effects, but his sons decorated a small tree cut on the White House grounds and hid it in a closet until Christmas morning.
- 1915 – Hallmark introduced their first Christmas cards.
- Boston, Massachusetts receives a tree from Nova Scotia, Canada because of the support given to the city of Halifax in 1917 when they experienced an explosion and fire disaster.
- The people of London receive a tree for Trafalgar Square from the people of Oslo, Norway every year to thank them for their assistance during World War II.
- During World War II, the Bicycle playing card company made decks of cards and gave them to the prisoners of war in Germany with hidden escape routes revealed when the cards were soaked in water as Christmas presents.
- 1962 – the United States issued the first Christmas postage stamp.
Christmas Tree Facts
- It is believed Germany began the tradition of the Christmas tree. Additionally, tinsel, which was once made of actual silver, is traced to 1610 in Germany.
- Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states including Hawaii and Alaska, but California, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin are the top Christmas tree producing states in the U.S.
- Christmas trees have been sold in the United States since 1850.
- Every year, Europeans decorate about 50 million live Christmas trees and the United States about 35 million.
- It takes on average 6-8 years for a Christmas tree to be fully grown, but it can take as long as fifteen years.
- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil has the largest floating Christmas tree in the world; it is 278 feet tall.
- The tallest living Christmas tree in America is the 161-foot tree in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The star placed at the top is ten feet tall!
Christmas Food and Drink Facts
- A “grog” is any drink made with rum; hence the name for the egg, cream, nutmeg, and rum drink “eggnog” which originated in 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia.
- Each year, approximately ten million Christmas turkeys are eaten in the U.K. and 22 million in the United States.
- Today, wassail is hot apple cider with honey and spices, but the drink came from the Middle Ages, when it was originally made with wine, ale, or hard cider topped with stale bread or beaten eggs. Neighbors would visit on Christmas Eve and drink to each other’s health (ves heill meant “in good health” in Old Norse).
- One can eat more than 7,000 calories at Christmas when you add up the turkey, dressing, mashed and sweet potatoes, other sides, pie, rolls, and drinks.
- Ever wonder about the string on a box of animal crackers? Introduced around Christmas in 1902, the string was intended to be used to hang the cracker boxes on your Christmas tree.
- A “sugar plum” featured in Christmas poems and songs was a type of candy with dried fruit, usually a plum, and spices rolled into a ball and coated with chocolate or hard sugar candy.
- Fruitcakes last a long time intentionally. They were originally baked at the end of harvest and some of the cake was saved to be eaten at the beginning to the harvest the following year as people thought that would bring a good crop. It is the sugar and alcohol combination that helps them last so long.
Christmas Facts About Santa and His Reindeer
- Our image of Santa Claus has some interesting origins. Early pictures of St. Nicolas show him with a stern expression. Santa Claus originally appeared in a newspaper ad. Washington Irving is credited with creating Santa’s flying sleigh in 1819 and cartoonist Thomas Nast began illustrating our current image of Santa in Harper’s Weekly in 1863.
- Historically, St. Nicholas lived in the province of Lycia in the 4th century A.D. The Dutch name for St. Nicholas was Sinterklaas, phonetically changed to “Santa Clause” in the English-speaking world. Other names for this holiday figure include Le Befana in Italy, Dueshka Moroz (“Father Frost”) in Russia, Kriss Kringle in Germany, and Pere Noel in French.
- Rudolph the Reindeer was created by the U.S. department store Montgomery Ward to get children to buy Christmas coloring books, however, his nose was not red as they did not want him to appear as a chronic alcoholic.
- Clement Moore’s poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” introduced Santa’s eight reindeer named Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, and Cupid, plus Duner and Blixem (German words for thunder and lightning which later evolved into Donner and Blitzen). Although most of the names sound male, they were probably female, as male reindeer shed antlers in winter.
- Leaving food for Santa originated with Norse children, who left food out for Odin’s eight-legged horse Sleipnir. Dutch children left food in their wooden shoes for St. Nicholas’ horse, although historically there is no mention of St. Nick having a horse. Now, American children leave cookies and milk for Santa. Other children around the world leave hay, carrots, and water for Santa’s reindeer.
Facts About Christmas Songs, Books, and Movies
- “Jingle Bells,” originally called “One Horse Open Sleigh,” was composed in Massachusetts by James Pierpont as a Thanksgiving song and was the first song sung on December 15, 1965 by astronauts Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra while they were in space.
- All of the items in the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” total 354 gifts.
- Brenda Lee was only thirteen years old when she recorded “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” in 1958.
- Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol was written in six weeks. On the internet, IMDB lists 202 various A Christmas Carol film adaptations, including films with non-traditional stories.
- In Dublin in 1742 the Christmas oratorio, The Messiah, by George Frederick Handle was first performed.
- Paul McCartney’s “A Wonderful Christmas Time” is in the animated “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.”
- Stanley Weintraub wrote about a famous Christmas truce in 1914 during World War I when the Germans and British exchanged gifts and played football in his book Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce.
- The song “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” originally was sung by servants to demand alcoholic drinks from their masters. “We won’t go until we get some, so bring some out here.”
- Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” is the best-selling Christmas song with more than more than 50 million copies sold around the world.
Religious Christmas Facts
- Many people abbreviate Christmas “Xmas,” which is actually based upon X being the first letter of Jesus Christ’s name in Greek.
- First recorded in 1038, old English provided the word Christmas from Cristes mæsse, which means “Christ Mass.”
- A Christmas wreath with holly represents the blood Jesus shed (the red berries) and the crown of thorns.
- The Bible indicates a plurality of wise men, but it is tradition that says there were three, probably as a result of three gifts being given – gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
- The three traditional colors used for most Christmas decorations have religious significance. Red if for the blood of Jesus Christ, green symbolizes His resurrection, and gold His status as the King of kings.
- Christmas is not a Biblical holy day as it is not mentioned in the Bible. In fact, many of the symbols and customs we associate with Christmas began with winter solstice rituals and pagan festivals.
- The account of Jesus birth, life, death, and resurrection – what is often referred to as “The Christmas Story” appears in the New Testament Gospels of Matthew and Mark.
- The Latin word natalis, which means “day of birth,” is the origin the word Noel.
Fun Facts About Christmas
- About $1,000 is spent on Christmas gifts each year by the average American family.
- In 1836 Alabama was the first U.S. state to set Christmas as a legal holiday and in 1907 Oklahoma was the last.
- Children who write letters to Santa Clause in the United States have their letters delivered to Santa Clause, Indiana.
- It is believed that Sir Henry Cole of London, England sold the first Christmas cards in 1843. Only one thousand cards were sold.
- Over three billion Christmas cards are sold in the U.K. and the U.S. each year.
- Many people think Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States. However, the busiest shopping days of the year are the Friday and Saturday before Christmas.
- Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, was German and is credited with establishing the popularity of the Christmas tree in England in the mid-nineteenth century.
- The Rubik Cube, the largest selling Christmas toy in 1980, sold for $1.99, but now sells for nearly $10.
- The origin of stockings being hung on Christmas came from the Dutch custom of leaving shoes full of food for St. Nicolas’ donkey which would then be filled with small gifts by St. Nicholas.
- The United States Post Office anticipated delivering more than 15 billion pieces of holiday mail, including more than 850 million packages.
- The Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, first held in 1570, is one of Europe’s oldest Christmas markets and claims to be the largest in Europe. It sells gluhwein (spiced, mulled wine), sweets, sausages, and Christmas decorations and ornaments.
- Twenty-eight sets of LEGOS are sold every second during the Christmas season.
- During the Christmas season each year more than 1.76 billion candy canes are made.
- Retailers anticipated people in the U.S. would spend a total of $465 billion which would create 4.6 million jobs if the money was spend entirely on U.S. made products.
- While shopping during the Christmas season, shoppers use their Visa cards more than six thousand times every minute.
Funny Christmas Facts
Some Christmas facts tickle our funny bones or make us smile, such as the fact that the first artificial Christmas tree branches were made by a toilet brush company. We have this and other funny facts about Christmas to tickle your funny bone and help you be the life of the party. Enjoy the following list of funny Christmas facts.
- If you are really in to recycling, you can eat your Christmas tree. The needles provide vitamin C. You can also eat pine nuts, if you tree comes with pinecones! Some Christmas trees become food for zoo animals.
- Santa’s elves can be traced back to the “nature folk” of pagan religions.
- Mistletoe was an ancient symbol of virility, so someone stood under it if they were available to the opposite sex.
- Ukrainian Christmas tree decorations often include an artificial spider and web because they believe a spider web found on Christmas morning brings good luck.
- Letters to Santa Clause from the millions of kids all over the world go to a Canadian Post Office if the zip code is HOH OHO (“Ho, Ho, Ho”).
- People used to tell scary ghost stories on Christmas Eve a century ago.
- In the 1800s, artificial Christmas trees were made from dyed goose feathers or the stuff hula skirts were made from – green raffia.
- The Addis Brush Company made pine-like “branches” using the machines created to make toilet brushes. Used for artificial trees, they could hold heavy decorations and were not flammable.
- Newspaper publishers hate publishing phone numbers as the potential for a mistake is high. In 1955, Sears tried to put the number of one of their stores where children could call Santa Clause and tell him what they wanted for Christmas in the newspaper. However, the number printed was for the NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) hotline. Thus, “Santa Tracker” began. NORAD still provides flight updates on the internet, TV news, and a special iPhone app each Christmas.
- December 25 to January 5, referred to as “Christmastide” or “Twelve Holy Days,” is the derivation of the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
- Denny’s restaurants in the United States originally stayed open all day and night, so their buildings were built without locks. In 1988, they decided to close on Christmas Day, but they could not lock the doors!
- The Internet lists nearly fifty funny Christmas songs, including “Chipmunks Roasting on an Open Fire,” “Christmas Don’t Be Late” (the Chipmunk Song), and “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”
- Nearly six million dollars are spent during the holiday season on ugly Christmas sweaters.
Whether you are looking for a little-known fact to share with friends or to start a conversation at a party, or a funny Christmas fact to make people laugh, this article will give you a perfect Christmas fact for any occasion. Test yourself and others to see how much Christmas trivia is known already. Have fun!
Susan majored in English with a double minor in Humanities and Business at Arizona State University and earned a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from Liberty University. She taught grades four through twelve in both public and private schools. Subjects included English, U.S. and world history and geography, math, earth and physical science, Bible, information technologies, and creative writing.
Susan has been freelance writing for over ten years, during which time she has written and edited books, newspaper articles, biographies, book reviews, guidelines, neighborhood descriptions for realtors, Power Point presentations, resumes, and numerous other projects.