Facts you may not know about Christmas

Published 7:10 am Thursday, December 23, 2010

Trivia has always been fascinating to me.

I love reading about different historical, informational and even random facts, finer points that are often left out of the main story.

During the time leading up to this holiday season, my mind has been running with questions about certain Christmas traditions and where they originated.

While I know the story of Christmas from the Bible and where the idea of Santa Claus began, I didn’t know much about the smaller customs like kissing under the mistletoe or where the word X-mas came from.

What I have found researching the answers to these questions is that Christmas traditions are a blend of old cultures as well as new.

Here are just a few Christmas trivia facts I found:

The word Christmas is Old English, a contraction of Christ’s Mass.

In the word X-mas, the “X” comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός, translated as “Christ“.

Elves are actually modern day versions of “Nature folk” described in Pagan religions of the past.

The tradition of burning a Yule log actually has its roots in ancient Scandinavia. Supposedly the Yule log was a source of good luck and its remnants were saved to inspire good fortune throughout the year. It was such a wide belief that people even threw the ashes in wells to make the water safer to drink.

If you counted all the gifts that were given in the song “Twelve Days of Christmas” you would realize that the number of gifts being presented is 364 in total.

Every year since 1947, the people of Oslo, Norway have given a Christmas tree to the city of Westminster, England. The gift is an expression of good will and gratitude for Britain’s help to Norway during World War II.

Christmas was illegal in England from 1647-1660. This was enforced by the then leader Oliver Cromwell who believed it was immoral to hold celebrations on one of the holiest days of the year. The celebration of Christmas was therefore a criminal offense which could lead to an individual being arrested if they condoned any revelry during holiday.

It has been confirmed that at least 3,000 tons of foil are used to wrap turkeys annually.

You will walk an average of five miles between the parking lot and stores during the holiday season.

Norwegians once believed that witches and devious spirits were likely to steal their brooms on Christmas Eve.

There is an old wives’ tale that suggests that bread baked on Christmas Eve is mold resistant.

Many Christmas customs are carryovers from pre-Christian celebrations. Hanging gifts on trees stems from tree worship of the Druids, and the belief that the tree was the giver of all good things.

The Druids are also partly responsible for the use of mistletoe at Christmastime. They regarded the mistletoe as sacred making certain that it never touched the ground. The Druids also dedicated it to the Goddess of Love, hence the kissing tradition. Originally, when a boy kissed a girl, he plucked a berry from the cluster and presented it to her. When the berries were gone, so were the kisses.

It was also once believed that any woman who went under mistletoe and was not kissed would not marry the coming year.

More diamonds are sold around Christmas than any other time of the year.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” appears on TV more often than any other holiday movie.

Germany made the first artificial Christmas trees. They were made of goose feathers and dyed green.

In 1843, “A Christmas Carol” was written by Charles Dickens in just six weeks.

Traditionally, Christmas trees are taken down after Epiphany.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: amanda.vanderbroek@r-cnews.com or call (252) 332-7209.