Christmas wasn’t always celebrated on December 25th:
Though Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, there is no mention of December 25 in the Bible. (Most historians believe he was actually born in the spring.) It didn't become the official holiday until the third century. Some argue that the date was picked because it coincided with the pagan festival of Saturnalia, which honoored the agricultural god Saturn by celebrating and gift-giving.
Prince Albert (Queen Vic’s husband, not the other one) popularised the Christmas tree in England:
The origin of Christmas trees goes all the way back to ancient Egyptians and Romans, who marked the winter solstice with evergreens as a reminder of spring, according to History.com. But it wasn't until Prince Albert of Germany introduced the tree to his new wife, Queen Victoria of England, that the tradition took off. A drawing of the couple in front of a Christmas tree appeared in Illustrated London News back in 1848, and royal fever did its work.
St. Nick was actually more generous than jolly:
You probably knew that the idea of Santa Claus came from St. Nicholas. According to legend, the fourth-century Christian bishop gave away his abundant inheritance to help the needy and rescued women from servitude. As his story spread, his name became Sinter Klaas in Dutch, which later morphed into Santa Claus.
According to Coca-Cola, Santa used to look a lot less jolly — even spooky. When the company hired an illustrator named Haddon Sundblom in 1931 to create images of Santa for magazine advertisements, the warm and friendly Santa we know today was born.
The tradition of hanging stockings started with an accident:
According to legend, it came from the tale of a poor man who couldn't afford his three daughters dowries. Apparently St. Nick dropped a bag of gold down their chimney one night so that the eldest could get married — but it fell into a stocking that was drying by the fire!
Celebrating Christmas used to be illegal:
Although the Jamestown settlers created the first American batch of eggnog, by the time the Puritans settled Boston, Christmas was outlawed. (The word nog comes from the word grog; that is, any drink made with rum.) From 1659 to 1681, you'd face a fine for celebrating the once-pagan day. And after the Revolutionary War, the new Congress found the day so unimportant that they held the first session on December 25, 1789. It wasn't proclaimed a federal holiday for nearly another century.
Christmas decorating sends nearly 15,000 people to the ER:
From hanging lights on ladders (Mollie Meldrum take note) to taking a roast out of the oven, making merry can prove hazardous. In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 14,700 people visit hospital emergency rooms in the US each November and December from holiday-related decorating accidents. To top it off, dried Christmas trees spark about a hundred fires, cause an average of 10 deaths, and result in $15.7 million in property damage.
Santa has his own zip code in Canada:
Every year, letters to Santa Claus flood post offices across the world. Some Canadian Post Office workers even started answering them — but as more letters arrived, they set up a special zip code for Santa as part of a "Santa Letter-Writing Program" literacy initiative. The zip code? HOH OHO.
The term "Xmas" dates back to the 1500s:
According to “ From Adam's Apple to Xmas: An Essential Vocabulary Guide for the Politically Correct”, the word "Christianity" was spelled "Xianity" as far back as 1100. X, or Chi, in Greek is the first letter of "Christ" and served as a symbolic stand-in. In 1551, the holiday was called "Xtemmas" but eventually shortened to "Xmas."
About 90% of Americans celebrate Christmas:
However less people think of Christmas as a religious holiday nowadays. According to surveys, only 51% of those people who celebrate attend church on Christmas.
Mistletoe was considered an aphrodisiac:
The holiday flora is an ancient symbol of fertility and virility — and the Druids believed it was an actual aphrodisiac. The name itself even has a funny meaning: Mistle thrush birds eat the plant's berries, digest the seeds, and then the droppings eventually grow into new plants. So, the Germanic word for mistletoe literally means "dung on a twig."
Ham, not turkey, is the festive favourite:
The dinner debate rages on. Searches for "ham" and "turkey" both spike during the month of December, according to Google Trends data. (Though it's nowhere near how frequently "turkey" is hunted for online in November!) But despite the popularity of both festive entrees, spiral-cut ham remains the more popular choice for a Christmas table.
Candy canes got their start in Germany:
The National Confectioners Association says a choirmaster originally gave the candies to young children so they'd stay quiet during long church services. But when a German-Swedish immigrant decorated his tree with candy canes in 1847, they became popular as a Christmas candy.