Holiday season, and a time to relax.
A time to laugh, think, celebrate, and shake one’s tailfeather; a time to throw caution (and the staid tenor of this blog) to the wind.
Therefore, Christmas is, presently, a time when;
- Sheep wish you ‘Season’s Bleetings’
- Santa’s little Elvis makes Christmas toys as he sings ‘Love Me Tender’
- A bald man is gifted a comb and never parts with it.
- And the fear of getting stuck in chimneys is called ‘Santaclaustrophobia’.
Now that we have that out of the way, let us rewind and take a look at some of the lesser known facts about Christmas; categorized and made idiot-proof for your reading pleasure.
The History of Christmas – ‘What’s All the Fuss About..?’
1. The word Christmas is Old English, a contraction of Christ’s Mass.
2. Jesus Christ, son of Mary, was born in a cave, not in a wooden stable. Caves were used to keep animals in because of the intense heat. A large church is now built over the cave, and people may go down inside it. The carpenters of Jesus’ day were really stone cutters. Wood was not used as widely as it is today. So whenever you see a Christmas nativity scene with a wooden stable — that’s the “American” version, not the Biblical one.
3. Historians have traced some of the current traditions surrounding Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, back to ancient Celtic roots. Father Christmas’s elves are the modernization of the ‘Nature folk’ of the Pagan religions; his reindeer are associated with the ‘Horned God’, a Pagan deity.
4. Mistletoe, a traditional Christmas symbol, was once revered by the early Britons. It was so sacred that it had to be cut with a golden sickle.
5. The modern Christmas custom of displaying a wreath on the front door of one’s house is borrowed from ancient Rome’s New Year’s celebrations. Romans wished each other “good health” by exchanging branches of evergreens. They called these gifts ‘strenae’, after Strenia, the Goddess of Health. It became customary to bend these branches into a ring and display them on doorways.
6. The tradition of Christmas lights dates back to when Christians were persecuted for saying Mass. A simple candle in the window meant that Mass would be celebrated there that night.
7. Clearing up a common misconception, in Greek, X (representing the Greek letter chi) means Christ. That is where the word ‘X-Mas’ comes from. Not because someone took the Christ out of Christmas.
8. The real St. Nicholas lived in Turkey, where he was bishop of the town of Myra, in the early 4th century. It was the Dutch who first made him into a Christmas gift-giver, and Dutch settlers brought him to America where his name eventually became the familiar Santa Claus.
9. Santa’s Reindeers are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.
10. In Britain, the Holy Days and Fasting Days Act of 1551, which has not yet been repealed, states that every citizen must attend a Christian church service on Christmas Day, and must not use any kind of vehicle to get to the service.
11. In 1647, the English parliament passed a law that made Christmas illegal. Festivities were banned by the Puritan leader Oliver Crowell, for he deemed feasting and revelry to be immoral, on what was supposed to be a holy day. The ban was lifted only when the Puritans lost power in 1660.
12. In 1752, 11 days were dropped from the year when the switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar was made. The December 25, date was effectively moved 11 days backwards. Some Christian church sects, called old calendarists, still celebrate Christmas on January 7 (previously December 25 of the Julian calendar).
13. The first Christmas card was created in England on December 9, 1842 by a man named John Calcott Horsley, who lived in Italy. He was hired by Sir Henry Cole in an effort to depict the desolate living conditions of the poor. The idea was to raise awareness and encourage people to help those in need. Ironically, the result was a card portraying a happy family, including a child sipping wine. (see image)
14. In the Thomas Nast cartoon that first depicted Santa Claus with a sleigh and reindeer, he was delivering Christmas gifts to soldiers fighting in the U.S. Civil War. The cartoon, entitled ‘Santa Claus in Camp’, appeared in Harper’s Weekly on January 3, 1863. (see image)
15. Christmas became a national holiday in America on June, 26, 1870.
16. Hallmark introduced its first Christmas cards in 1915, five years after the founding of the company
17. Rudolph was actually created by Montgomery Ward in 1939 for a holiday promotion (see image). The rest is history.
18. In 1937, the first postage stamp to commemorate Christmas was issued in Austria (see image).
19. The first charity Christmas card was produced by UNICEF in 1949 (see image). The picture chosen for the card was painted not by a professional artist but by a seven-year-old girl. The girl was Jitka Samkova of Rudolfo, a small town in the former nation of Czechoslovakia. The town received UNICEF assistance after World War II, inspiring Jitka to paint some children dancing around a maypole. She said her picture represented “joy going round and round.”
Notable Quotes on Christmas – ‘Who said that…?’
1. Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the Holiday Season, that very special time of year when we join with our loved ones in sharing centuries-old traditions such as trying to find a parking space at the mall. We traditionally do this in my family by driving around the parking lot until we see a shopper emerge from the mall, then we follow her, in very much the same spirit as the Three Wise Men, who 2,000 years ago followed a star, week after week, until it led them to a parking space. – Dave Barry
2. Christmas is a time when everybody wants his past forgotten and his present remembered. What I don’t like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day. – Phyllis Diller
3. Christmas at my house is always at least six or seven times more pleasant than anywhere else. We start drinking early. And while everyone else is seeing only one Santa Claus, we’ll be seeing six or seven. – W.C. Fields
4. I never believed in Santa Claus because I knew no white man would be coming into my neighbourhood after dark. – Dick Gregory
5. Santa Claus wears a Red Suit, he must be a communist. And a beard and long hair; must be a pacifist. And what’s in that pipe he smokes..? – Arlo Guthrie
6. Mail your packages early so the post office can lose them in time for Christmas. – Johnny Carson
7. I once bought my kids a set of batteries for Christmas with a note on it saying, ‘Toys Not Included’. – Bernard Manning
8. Dear Lord, I’ve been asked, nay commanded, to thank Thee for the Christmas turkey before us… a turkey which was no doubt a lively, intelligent bird… a social being… capable of actual affection… nuzzling its young with almost human- like compassion. Anyway, it’s dead and we’re gonna eat it. Please give our respects to its family… – Berkeley Breathed
9. I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph. – Shirley Temple
10. Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people once a year. – Victor Borge
11. Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall. – Larry Wilde
12. Oh look, yet another Christmas TV special! How touching to have the meaning of Christmas brought to us by cola, fast food, and beer… Who’d have ever guessed that product consumption, popular entertainment, and spirituality would mix so harmoniously? – Bill Watterson in ‘Calvin & Hobbes’
Check out the following great Christmas reads and more at INDIAreads;
- Christmas – Selected Holiday Stories and Poems (by Louisa May Alcott)
- A Christmas Carol (by Charles Dickens)
- Horrible Harry and The Christmas Surprise (by Suzy Kline)
- Mystery for Christmas (by Various)
- Heartwarming Christmas Stories – A Cozy Collection of Fiction for The Holidays (by Various)