Reindeer, elves and magical snowmen – Christmas season is the most wonderful time of the year. While you must be perfectly aware that this great Christian celebration originally known as Christ’s Mass marks the birth of Jesus Christ and falls on December 25 (or January 7 in the Christian Orthodox tradition), there are a lot of fascinating and even surprising things about it you might have never heard of. Here are some of them for you to get into the Christmas spirit and test your knowledge.
- The tradition is believed to have originated in Ireland in the VII-VIIIth centuries with the celebration falling on April 20. Soon it made it to the British Isles.
- Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol was published in the XIXth century and transformed the views on Christmas that began to be seen as a family holiday. In America, Washington Irving’s short stories depicting Christmas traditions he had seen in Birmingham, England influenced spreading of the Christmas celebration. Ignored in the course of the American Revolution as an English custom, Christmas was officially proclaimed a federal holiday in 1870.
- Although the exact date is unknown, some historians claim that Christmas was initially celebrated around March or April. The most widely accepted reason to move the date is to Christianize the pagan holiday of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti in honor of the Sun. This is thought to have been done for Jesus to be associated as the Sun of Righteousness.
- In Pakistan, this day is known as Bara Din meaning ‘Big Day’ which is a celebration in honor of Jinnah, its founder.
- In Sweden, it is Jultomten (‘the Christmas Gnome’) who brings the presents. And one of the most important parts of the celebration is… Donald Duck cartoon broadcast at 3 pm on December 24th.
- There are some a bit weird English traditions that didn’t make it to America like leaving Santa brandy and mince pie, tossing children’s letters to Santa directly to the fire, hanging stockings around one’s bed, wearing colorful paper crowns as a mandatory element of the celebration, and taking the Christmas tree and all decorations down within 12 days of Christmas to avoid bag luck for the rest of the year.
- Spiders and spider webs decorations on a Christmas tree are considered a sign of good luck and prosperity in Poland.
- The tallest Christmas tree in the world was erected in Seattle, Washington in 1950. It was a 67.36 m (221 ft) Douglas fir.
- It was calculated that to deliver gifts to every home on Earth on Christmas Eve, Santa would have to travel at a speed of 650 miles/second.
- Traditional dishes vary from roast turkey, bacon-wrapped chipolatas, roasted potatoes and veggies in England, pumpkin and pecan pies as dessert in America to roasted sheep heads in Norway and KFC in Japan. Eating until we can’t move unites all of us, though.
- In the USA, around 3 billion Christmas cards are sent annually. Christmas cards have been traditionally exchanged among friends and family members in the run-up to the festival since their introduction in 1843. With a huge range of cards and ecards available, one can easily find a perfect card to say ‘Merry Christmas’ and make one’s holiday greeting personalized.
For many of us, Christmas is a favorite holiday for its delicious meals, gift-giving, and family time, but there is a lot more to Christmas. Celebrated all over the world, this holiday is rich in traditions that go back hundreds and thousands of years. Read part II…
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