With the holiday season coming to a close, and Christmas finally being here, I wanted to share some fun facts that I got while reading Mark Forsythe’s, A Christmas Cornucopia.
Have you ever wondered why we practice some of the traditions that we do? Why is Santa a jolly, old fat man, and not a wise old saint that looks more like the pope? Where did Rudolph come from? Why do we buy and practice the tradition of the Advent Calendar? And how accurate is the advent calendars that we purchase, that come with little treats and toys?
Where did Christmas come from??? And how did we choose December 25th? Is that really the night Jesus was born?
You’ll find some very interesting facts about the holiday that we cherish and love!
Let’s start with the date: 12/25
Long ago, people began to wonder about the birth of Jesus Christ. When did it happen? They had some facts to go by, like the date of his crucifixion, so they started there. Back in those days, it was believed that great men did everything in nice, even numbers, completing a circle, so to speak. So it was widely assumed that he died on his birthday. His crucifixion date being 4/9 – they calculated backwards, and came up with a date of 3/28 for his birthday. AGAIN, back in these times, a BIRTH date, naturally meant the date of conception. So assuming that 3/28 was the date that Mary conceived from the Holy Spirit, meant that nine months later was the night that Jesus was born….so they calculated between the dates of 12/23-12/28 – and came up with the nice, round number of 12/25.
The Christmas Tree
In the times of early AD, Adam and Eve were a great hit! Plays named Paradise Plays were practiced to tell of their story. A tree, adorned with apples, and a snake, were the props, of course. Later on, people started putting up these kinds of trees in their homes, sans the snake, but decorated with apples, wafers, gingerbread, and tinsel. Some trees also had tapers, bright objects, rosy cheeked dolls, and real watches. A union jack usually topped the tree.
The earliest recorded tree was in 1419 in the Hospital of the Holy Spirit. In 1848, Queen Victoria illustrated the London News with her Christmas tree and how it was decorated and adorned. Starting a trend, of some sort.
In 1850, Charles Dickens wrote an essay on Christmas Trees, making them all the rage in London.
The mistletoe, in my opinin, is a very strange tradition. I gotta kiss someone who stands under it? What if I don’t want to? There is a norse story including Baldr, Frig, and mistletoe being Baldr’s undoing. However, it’s not true that Frig wanted everyone to kiss under it. She actually tortured the one responsible for killing Baldr with the mistletoe.
The truth is that no one really knows why we kiss under the mistletoe. If we backtrack our steps, our first stop is in 1819 – when Washington Irving wrote Old Christmas and it accounts for the tradition, but if you go further back to 1784 a musical called Two for One was released and in the lyrics contains the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. So between these periods, the tradition started, and no one really knows the source.
This is kind of a cute tradition, where we use a calendar that has doors, or windows, or pockets of some kind. And our children take out a sweet for each day of advent. From 12/1-12/25. However, the true day of Advent is the Sunday closest to 11/30 – but merchandising and such didn’t make it possible for the calendar to be accurate and be mass produced at the same time.
In the 1850’s, a fellow named Gerhard Lang was a little boy, and was obsessed with Christmas. His mother, Mrs. Lang made him an Advent calendar to pretty much keep him patient until Christmas day. she stalled him by attaching sweets to her advent calendar so that he can have one sweet a day until Christmas.
When he was grown, Gerhard became a publisher and mass produced the Advent Calendar, complete with sweets for all the world to enjoy.
In the 1880’s there was a town called Truro, and on Christmas Eve, the people would get very, very drunk while celebrating. So instead of letting them stay in the Pub, the Pastor – Edward White Benson – would try to lure everyone out of the pub and into the church by having his choir sing Christmas carols.
Back in those days carols were not sung in Church yet, and they were really folk songs. So they were fun, whimsical, and that’s the start of it all. Now from the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas Day, there are some radio stations that ONLY play carols! …which I actually really love.
FUN FACT: Jingle Bells was actually a folk song written in AMERICA, about Thanksgiving, NOT Christmas.
Rudolph – The Red Nosed Reindeer
So, basically back in 1939 – A gentlemen named Robert L. May was commissioned by Montgomery Ward Department Store to write a story that would help sell coloring books for Christmas. He did, and that was that.
Now – SANTA CLAUS
WOW – there was so many references, and it’s such a great backstory. I can’t possibly fit it all into this blog post, but I’ll give you the most important parts.
- Santa is big and fat, because back in the early 1800’s Christmas was associated with feasting, drinking, and being merry, so it was plausible that Santa would be big and jolly.
- Santa Claus AKA St. Nicholas is a real person! He has a grave in Italy that you can actually visit. He was born in AD 270 in a town called Patara, in Turkey. It was widely known that he always smelled INCREDIBLE. Also, something that I found interesting, is that there is some kind of fluid that leaks from his grave, that people used to come from all around to collect, and it still smells incredible. It’s been tested, and it’s basically pure water. And since there is no water leaking into his casket, it’s a wonder and a mystery, on how or why it’s leaking out.
- Saint Nicholas’ backstory is basically that he helped his neighbor by giving him money in a time of need, anonymously. He allegedly also saved some sailors, resurrected some children (boys), and performed other sorts of miracles before he died.
- Santa Claus came to be in America from John Pintard and Washington Irving. John Pintard was hell bent on spreading the story of Santa Claus and Christmas. And Washington Irving was making fun of it. Mr. Irving, however, did not think any of his stories were going to stick, which they did.
- Then Clement Clarke Moore wrote “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and then the rest is history. That poem is actually a blueprint of how we view Christmas and Santa Claus. Then in 1850 Louisa May Alcott wrote about Elves, and in 1869 George Webster wrote Santa Claus and his Works and placed Santa in the North Pole. Children needed an address when they wrote their letters.
- In 1923 Coca-Cola started a campaign and basically created, in illustration, the Santa Claus that we all know and love. Red suit, black boots, and rosy cheeks.
I hope that you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed researching and writing it!
Happy Christmas to ALL, and to ALL a Good Night!!