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Christmas Trivia Facts

12 Things That You Never Knew About Christmas

Many Christmas customs have been adopted over the centuries from different cultures and their end of year annual festivals. History of Christmas is full of examples of various traditions that evolved over time and became customary parts of our Christmas celebrations today. Here are some trivia facts about Christmas and how they originated.

1. Christmas Candles

Christmas lights are an important part of Christmas tree decoration. But before electricity was invented, Christmas trees were lighted with actual candles, which is believed to have started in the 18th century. This presented a fire hazard, especially if one used evergreen pine trees, which can be flamable. As a result containers filled with water had to be kept near the Christmas tree just in case.

An illustration of lit Christmas candles
Lighted Christmas candles are one of the most enduring
and an essential part of decorating Christmas trees.

2. Christmas Tree Display

The custom of erecting decorated Christmas trees started in early modern Germany, around the 15th century. The typical triangular shape of Christmas tree is symbolic of the Trinity and its top points to haven, all of which has roots in Christianity. One of the long standing modern Christmas traditions in New York is Christmas tree on display at Rockefeller Center. It's the construction industry workers that are responsible for the tradition of having a Christmas tree on display at Rockefeller Center in New York City. They are credited with placing an undecorated tree at the site in the early 1930s.

The triangular shape of Christmas tree
The triangular shape of the Christmas tree is symbolic of the Trinity,
with its top seemingly reaching the haven.

3. White House Christmas Tree

One of the recent American customs is that of Christmas tree at the White House. Since the mid-1960s, The National Christmas Tree Association has maintained a presence in the White House at Christmas by donating a Christmas tree to the First Family.

4. Christmas Tree Ornaments Origin

Traditionally Christmas tree was decorated with edibles like apples, wallnuts or dates. Later on different types of candies were added as decorations, while nowadays we use many different types of decorations, mostly of unedible type. Widely available today, manufactured Christmas tree ornaments were first sold by the former Woolworth department store in 1880.

Christmas Nativity scene
In the early days, Christmas trees used to be decorated by edibles,
such as apples, wallnuts and dates. These are still used in the nativity scenes.

5. Tinsels

Originally a metallic Christmas decoration, tinsels are nowadays made from plastic. It became the primary material used to make tinsel after their use for decorative purposes was at one time prohibited. This was due to lead being used in the manufacturing process of metallic tinsels.

6. Christmas Greeting Cards

Although becoming less popular owing to e-cards, Christmas greeting cards have a long history. The idea of Christmas greeting cards started in Britain in the late 1830s when John Calcott Horsley started to produce small cards that had festive scenes and a holiday greeting written inside. Similar cards were also being made in the United States at about the same time by R.H. Pease, in Albany, New York, and Louis Prang, who was a German immigrant. The idea of sending the greeting cards during Christmas gained popularity in both countries about 10 years later when new postal delivery services started.

Christmas Greeting Card
Although now largely replaced by modern electronics, Christmas postcards
and greeting cards have a long history, going back to Britain in the 1830s.

7. Origin of 'Xmas'

The word 'Christmas' is derived from the Middle English phrase Christemasse, meaning Christ's mass. This phrase originated from an earlier one, first time mentioned in writing in the 11th century. The shortened form Xmas for Christmas has been popular in Europe since the 1500s. It is believed to be derived from the Greek word 'Xristos' which means Christ. Although Xmas is used sometime, it's generally discouraged by accepted norms.

8. Candy Canes Origin

According to the National Confectioners Association, for 200 years candy canes were only made in the colour of white, as a simple stick of sugar for children to enjoy. It wasn't until in the 1950s that a machine was invented that could automate the production of candy canes, which are now traditionally white with red stripes.

Red and white striped candy canes
Today's red and white striped candy canes used to be made
in white colour only until the 1950s.

9. Boxing Day

The day after Christmas is called Boxing Day in England and it is a national holiday. Several stories exist for the origination of the name. It is believed to have originated from the practice of boys who would be going about collecting money in clay boxes. Another thought is that the term is derived from a custom in the Middle Ages, about 800 years ago, when churches would open their 'alms boxes' and distribute the contents to poor people on the day after Christmas. Alms boxes are boxes in which donations of gifts and money would be placed. Yet another belief is that it comes from a custom of masters giving their servants Christmas presents in boxes on the day after Christmas.

10. Evergreen Trees

Another of long standing Christmas traditions, evergreen trees had special meaning in winter to people, particularly in Europe, before Christianity started. Ancient peoples would hang evergreen branches over their doors and windows because evergreens were believed to ward off witches, ghosts, evil spirits and illness. For worshipers of the sun god, evergreen plants were a reminder of all the green plants that would grow with the return of summer and the sun god being strong again.

The evergreen trees used for Christmas tree decorating
The evergreen trees used for decorating at Christmas
have a special meaning in warding off evil spirits and other negativities.

11. Winter Solstice

In ancient times, many people worshiped the sun as a god in December because they thought winter occurred yearly because the sun god had fallen into ill health. They therefore celebrated the winter solstice because it was a sign that the son god would begin to regain strength and return to good health.

12. Christmas Ban

Legislators in Congress did business on Christmas Day in 1789, which was the first one to be observed under the country's new constitution. The reason for the Congressional session was because it had become unpopular then to observe and take part in English customs following the American Revolution. And when Christmas celebrations were barred in Boston earlier in 1659 to 1681, it became a costly thing to be seen participating in any event or activity related to Christmas. Anyone caught doing so had to pay five shillings.

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