12 Facts of Christmas
Collected by Emer O'Shea
The 25th of December is never mentioned in the Bible. The date became intertwined with Christmas as it coincided with a Pagan Festival Saturnalia, honouring the God Saturn. Norsemen (Scandinavians) celebrated Yule from 21st December, winter solstice, rejoicing that the worst of winter was behind them, celebrating by burning logs that lasted up to 12 days.
Tree decorating is a tradition that came from the Ancient Egyptians and Romans who marked the Winter solstice with evergreens to remind them that spring and green would return.
St. Nikolas was a Christian bishop who gave away his inheritance to needy women rescued from servitude. His name was Sinter Klass in Dutch, later morphing into Santa Claus.
Coca Cola helped play a part in immortalising the jolly man in a red suit, with a 1932 ad by illustrator Haddon Sundblom. Sundblom used himself as a model!
Jingle Bells in Space! Astronauts Thomas P. Stafford and Wally Schirra were scheduled to re-enter Earth's atmosphere on December 16th, 1965 aboard Gemini 6 when they reported to Mission Control that they had sighted some sort of U.F.O. The U.F.O. was piloted by a man wearing a Red Suit as they played Jingle Bells in the background.
Hanging stocking by the fire was a tradition, said to come from the generosity of St. Nick who dropped gold down the chimney for a poor man who could not afford his daughters' dowries.
Rudolf the Reindeer came from a department store in Chicago as a marketing idea in 1939. The department store used to give away free books to kids each Christmas, and Robert L. May, a catalog writer thought Rudolph would be a great character in one.
While not entirely synonymous with Christmas, Black Friday can be seen as a mark of the Christmas shopping period, signaling when retailers would move from being financially ‘in the red’ to being profitably the black.
Christmas playing cards given to POWs in German camps contained secret escape maps when moistened.
Oliver Cromwell considered the decorating, singing, and celebrations of Christmas sinful, banning Christmas. In 1644, an Act of Parliament effectively banned the festival. In June 1647, the Long Parliament passed an ordinance confirming the abolition of the Feast of Christmas. Charles II later restored it.
Leaving Christmas cookies is another Nordic tradition where Odin had an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir. Kids would leave treats for Sleipnir, hoping that Odin would favour them with gifts in return.
Christmas Crackers were created by confectioner Tom Smith in 1847. Mimicking the wrapping of French bonbons, he placed toys and jewelry in packaging with twisted ends. Inspired by the crackling sound of logs on the fire, he came up with the cracking mechanism that created a ‘pop’ as the bonbon wrapping was broken.