This the season to be jolly. With these 25 festive facts, the season will also be super informative.
1. America’s first batch of eggnog was crafted at the Jamestown settlement in Virginia.
The Jamestown settlers created America's first batch of eggnog in 1607. The word “nog” comes from the word “grog” which refers to any drink made with rum.
It’s said to bear little resemblance to the rich, milky drink we enjoy today.
2. Candy canes originated in Germany.
According to the National Confectioners Association, a choirmaster from the Cologne Cathedral in Germany gave candy canes to young children to bribe them into staying quiet during the marathon church services.
But wait. There’s more.
Initially, these candy canes were straight white sticks but were later shaped into the letter “J” for Jesus. The red stripes that followed symbolized his blood.
3. Christmas wreaths are religious symbols.
The Christmas wreath is more than just a decorative item; it symbolizes Christ. Holly stands for the crown of thorns worn by Jesus while red berries represent the blood that He shed for us.
4. Christmas wasn’t always on December 25.
Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, but it’s not his actual date of birth.
The Bible does not mention December 25 as the day of Jesus’s birth and many historians say that Christmas could very well have been a spring event.
December 25 was likely chosen because it coincided with the pagan festival Saturnalia (December 17-23) — a celebration the Christian church disapproved of.
5. Coca-Cola played a big role in popularizing Santa’s image.
In the early 1930s, Coca-Cola hired an illustrator, Haddon Sundblom, to depict the character for the company’s Christmas promotional ads.
The artist, inspired by the 1823 poem “A Visit from St.Nicholas,” painted Santa in the image we know today — a warm, jolly old man in a red suit with rosy cheeks, a snow-white beard, and eyes that twinkled like the stars.
6. “Jingle Bells” was composed as a Thanksgiving song.
Jingle Bells, initially known as “One Horse Open Sleigh,” was written by James Lord Pierpont — the organist at Unitarian Church — in the mid-1850s for a Thanksgiving concert. It was later re-released under the title everybody loves: “Jingle Bells.”
In December of 1965, “Jingle Bells” became the first song to be broadcasted in space.
7. Mistletoe is considered an aphrodisiac by the druids.
Did you know that the druids considered the mistletoe as an aphrodisiac — a symbol of fertility and virility? They treated it as sacred because the plant remained green and bore fruit even during the harsh winter weather.
The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe makes total sense now!
On a completely unrelated note, mistletoe translates to “dung on a stick.” Eek.
8. Once upon a time, it was illegal to celebrate Christmas.
Christmas has its roots in pagan festivals so it’s only natural that it was not immediately accepted by religious fanatics. From 1659 to 1681, celebrating the festival was considered illegal in Boston — yes, the hotspot of revolution today. Anyone caught celebrating it was fined.
Total grinch behavior, if you ask me.
9. Rudolph only joined Santa’s gang in 1939.
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer was a marketing gimmick, just like Santa.
Man, is anything real anymore?
The reindeer was conceived in 1939 when Montgomery Ward asked Robert L. May to create a Christmas story for the coloring books they gave away each year to shoppers as part of their department store’s promotions. As many as 2.4 million copies were distributed in the first year of its publication, making it a big hit.
10. Santa has his own postal code.
Want to ask Santa for a special something this year? Well, Canada may just be able to help you out.
Every year, thousands of letters to Santa make their way to the Canadian post offices. Their employees have been kind enough to write back and keep the joy of Christmas alive. The Santa letter program has a special postal code. So, if you want to get in touch with Santa, you can write to him at Santa Claus, North Pole, H0H 0H0.
11. Surprisingly, Black Friday is not the busiest shopping day of the year.
Black Friday, which is the day after Thanksgiving, is thought to be the busiest day of the year, but that’s far from the truth. We live busy lives, so it’s only natural that the weekend before Christmas — Friday and Saturday, to be precise — sees nearly half of the holiday retail traffic due to last-minute shopping.
12. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621.
In October 1621, the Mayflower pilgrims — founded by the Plymouth colony — shared a three-day harvest feast with the Wampanoag tribe. It went down in history as the first Thanksgiving to ever be celebrated in America.
13. The tradition of hanging stockings was originally a Dutch custom.
According to a legend, the practice originated from a poor widower. He had three daughters that he wanted to marry off but he didn’t have enough money for their dowries.
St. Nick was wandering through the town and learned about them. The ever-generous St. Nick wanted to help so he crept down their chimney and filled the girls’ freshly-washed stockings, which were hung to dry, with gold. This saved them from a miserable life on the streets.
14. Turkey was, very likely, not on the menu during the first Thanksgiving celebration.
It’s hard to believe this, but Turkey was absent from the Thanksgiving menu in 1621.
While the meal lacked the star of the show we know today, participants did dine on other food like ducks, geese, and swans. Deer may also have been in the equation, as the Wampanoag Native Americans are said to have brought five deers to the event.
15. Santa Claus gets gifts too.
On St.Nicholas’ feast day, Dutch children would leave out food and drinks for the generous man who brought them gifts every year. The tradition of leaving cookies and milk for Santa on Christmas Eve spread to America where it continues to be honored.
16. The use of Evergreens dates back to the pagans.
The use of evergreens, which represent the continuity of life and nature even in the face of winter’s stormy weather, goes back to the pagans. They used fir or pine trees during the winter solstice to signify that better days (spring) would return. They were decorated with fruits and nuts and not the bling we use today.
17. Washington Irving, the man who wrote “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” created many Santa legends
Washington Irving, who brought the famous headless horseman to life, is partially responsible for creating a favorable image of Santa.
In 1819, he created a picture of Santa on his sleigh. He dreamed up St.Nicholas as a beloved character who was often seen as stern. His idea was later illustrated in 1863 by cartoonist Thomas Nast in Harper’s Weekly.
Centuries later, we can credit Irving for laying the groundwork for the jolly old man that we all know today as Santa.
18. “Xmas” has been used as a symbolic stand-in for Christmas since the 1500s.
The word “Xmas” is not a recent invention. It dates back to the mid-16th century. It has its roots in the Greek letter X or Chi — which is the first letter of the Greek word for Jesus Christ’s name. So, Xmas literally means Christmas.
19. The Catholic Church tried to ban Krampus.
Krampus, the half-man, half-goat figure, was said to resemble the devil.
The demonic character wandered the streets with his weapons during Christmastime to punish naughty children. It’s a scary tradition but one that stuck around even though the Catholic Church tried to ban it in the 12th century.
20. The character of Santa Claus is based on St.Nicholas
Santa did not come straight out of the holy books. He was created.
The character of Santa Claus is based on a Turkish monk named St.Nicholas who was famous for his generosity towards the poor and needy. After he was sainted, he became known as a protector of children who loved giving gifts to them secretly.
As his story spread, he came to be known as “Sinterklaas” by the Dutch — a word that later changed to Santa Claus in the English-speaking world.
21. Sarah Hale is the “Mother of Thanksgiving.”
Sarah Josepha Hale is the 19th-century writer and editor who penned “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” But she’s also widely known as the Mother of Thanksgiving. In 1863, Sarah is said to have convinced President Abraham Lincoln to make Thanksgiving a national holiday but this was only after she wrote him letters for a whopping 17 years.
Talk about dedication!
22. In America, 46 million turkeys are cooked every Thanksgiving.
Turkey is to Thanksgiving what Christmas trees are to Christmas — non-negotiable.
Millions of American families gather around the dinner table to enjoy this almighty bird on Thanksgiving every year, and a large number of these families continue the tradition on Christmas day. So, this number — which is a lot larger if you factor in the Turkeys cooked on Christmas — is not really a head-turning statistic.
23. George W. Bush led the turkey-pardoning bandwagon.
Pardoning turkeys started in 1989 when George W. Bush pardoned the first turkey. He noticed that the 50-pound bird looked queasy at his official Thanksgiving proclamation.
The tradition has continued since then and the pardoned birds that were lucky enough to be absent from the family's dinner table went on to serve different purposes. For example, in 2005 and 2009, the birds participated in the annual Thanksgiving parades as grand marshals in Disneyland and Walt Disney World Parks.
24. Butterball Turkey-Talkline is your go-to resource for all things turkey.
Cooking turkey can be overwhelming which is why Butterball, a turkey company, started a Turkey-Talk Line in 1981. The service is available to U.S. and Canadian homes and is open throughout November and December.
If you’re not partial to voice calls, you can also ask questions via email and online chat.
While they started at 11,000 inquiries, the company now expects to answer more than 100,000 turkey-related questions every holiday season.
25. Pairing Football with Thanksgiving began in the 1870s.
Turkey Day football began in 1876 when students from Princeton and Yale squared up on the field. At that time, football wasn’t a professional sport yet but it was still finding its footing as an 11-on-11 hybrid game of rugby.
As the tradition continued, the NFL was later founded in 1920. The league now hosts as many as six matches on Thanksgiving every year.