13 Surprising Christmas Trivia Facts You Never Knew
Ever heard of a Christmas carp? Wonder why stockings are hung by the chimney with care? And ponder who created the candy cane? Sit by the fire, my child, and we will illuminate.
Candy Canes: Originally white—and for bored kids
The first known candy cane was made in 1670 by a German choirmaster to help children endure lengthy nativity services. They were white and modeled after shepherds’ canes. The candy cane made its way to America in 1847, when a German immigrant decorated the tree in his Ohio home with the iconic candy. Here are some more fun Christmas traditions from all around the world.
The Bible does not actually state when Jesus was born
The Gospels leave specific dates and even seasonal references to Jesus’ birth out, but mention shepherds tending their flocks when Jesus was born. This leads some to believe that he was more likely an Aries (spring) than a Capricorn (winter) baby, as spring is the season when lambs tend to be born.
The Christmas tree
Christmas trees first made an appearance with the ancient Egyptians and Romans. They used them to mark the winter solstice. The evergreens served as a reminder of the green plants that would come in the spring. However, it wasn’t until Prince Albert and his wife Queen Victoria of England appeared in a drawing in the Illustrated London News in 1848 that the tradition took off. Check out these 18 pictures that show what Christmas looked like 100 years ago.
A fishy tradition
In parts of Eastern Europe, it’s customary to keep a live fish in your bathtub in preparation for the Christmas Eve feast. Why? Some suggest it’s because the Carp is one of the oldest fish species and indispensable to the fishing industry in this part of Europe. Though mentions of carp dishes can be found as far back as the 17th century, it wasn’t until the 19th century that it became widespread, as fish was a luxury, and most common folk ate predominantly non-meat meals.
Why the bright lights?
Historians have an explanation for this bit of Christmas trimmings. They note that celebrating Christmas with light is just a natural response to the winter solstice. “If you happen to live in a region in which midwinter brings striking darkness and cold and hunger, then the urge to have a celebration at the very heart of it to avoid going mad or falling into deep depression is very, very strong,” researcher Philip Shaw of Leicester University told Livescience. These are the best small towns for Christmas lights.
“Jingle Bells” wasn’t meant for Christmas
The famous Christmas song was actually written for Thanksgiving. James Lord Pierpont originally titled the song “One Horse Open Sleigh” and performed it at his church’s Thanksgiving service in the mid-nineteenth century. Then, in 1859 the song was republished under the name “Jingle Bells”.
The origin of Christmas stockings
An old story dating back to the 3rd century Byzantine Empire (today known asTurkey) suggests that St. Nicholas would throw coins down the chimneys of poor women who couldn’t afford dowries. The legend continues that the money would land in stockings that were hung over the fire to dry. Here are more origin stories of iconic Christmas traditions.
Originally, Santa was Sinterklaas
Dutch children have long cheered the annual coming of Sinterklaas—known also as Saint Nicholas—who sports a crimson miter and rolls into town on a steamboat filled with presents in mid-November. Then, he rides around on his mighty white steed Amerigo and distributes gifts. Over time, Sinterklaas’ image was transmuted into Santa’s, and Amerigo became a sled with flying reindeer. This is the surprising history behind your favorite Christmas carols.
A name popularized by Washington Irving
While there had been mention of “Santa Claus” in the American press dating back to 1773, Washington Irving is generally considered the first man to significantly transform the Dutch Sinterklaas into “Santa Claus.” In his book History of New York, he spoofed the gift-giving legend and portrayed Santa Claus as a pipe-smoking sailor in a green coat.
It used to be illegal
The man behind the icon
There’s no shortage of fascinating Christmas trivia about everyone’s favorite jolly old elf. Inspired at least in part by Sinterklaas and the history of St. Nicholas, author Clement Clarke Moore wrote a poem titled “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” You may know it better as “The Night Before Christmas.” From this work came much of what we now associate with Santa Claus: The flying reindeer, his ample gut, and jolly laughter.
Santa has his own zip code
Every year thousands of kids write letters to Santa to let him know their wish list. Canadians set up a special zip code for Santa so all of the letters have somewhere to go. To keep things festive, the zip code is H0H 0H0. These are the best Christmas towns in every state.
Coca-Cola did not invent Santa
But his image has been used extensively in wintertime marketing materials since 1931, associating both his image and persona with the soft drink in the public consciousness. Ready for some more fun Christmas trivia? Here are more surprising facts you didn’t know about the holiday season.