Weird Christmas Facts & Fun

This time of year I love to look up weird things about the holiday. Yeah, I know I have too much time on my hands. Nonetheless, here they are for your amusement:

How Do You Say, Merry Christmas?

Glaedelig Jul – Danish

Vrolijike Kerst – Dutch

Hyvvaa Joulua – Finnish

Frohe Weihnachten – German

Kala Christouyenna – Greek

Gledileg Jol – Icelandic

Buon Natale – Italian

God Jul – Norwegian

Feliz Natal – Portuguese

Heri za Krismas – Swahili

God Jul – Swedish

Iyi Noeller – Turkish

And the ever popular “Merry Christmas”

Christmas Trivia

1. Christmas Eve in Japan is a good day to eat fried chicken and strawberry shortcake. (the Colonel will be glad to hear it.)

2. Alabama was the first state to recognize Christmas as an official holiday, and the tradition began in 1836.

3. In 1647, the English parliament passed a law made Christmas illegal. The Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell, who considered feasting and revelry on what was supposed to be a holy day to be immoral, banned the Christmas festivities. The ban was lifted only when Cromwell lost power in 1660. (And it took them 13 years to get rid of the doof? Jeez!)

4. Michigan has no official state song, but one, ‘Michigan, My Michigan,’ is frequently used. The words were written in 1863, and the melody used is that of the Christmas song “O Tannenbaum”. (Leave it to my home state to have no imagination)

5. Franklin Pierce was the first president to decorate an official White House Christmas tree. (Do you think he did it personally? What about all those White House decorator duded?)

6. Electric Christmas lights were first used in 1854. (Which the fire department was very happy about.)

7. One town in Indiana is called Santa Claus. There is also a Santa, Idaho. (Talk about Santa coming to town.)

8. The Puritans forbade the singing of Christmas carols. (I wonder what they thought of beat poetry.)

9. America’s official national Christmas tree is located in King’s Canyon National Park in California. The tree, a giant sequoia called the “General Grant Tree”, is over 90 meters (300 feet) high, and was made the official Christmas tree in 1925. (And no doubt we’re paying that electric bill somehow.)

10. The first department store to feature a visit with Santa was the J. W. Parkinson’s store in Philadelphia in 1841. Astonishingly, no other department stores copied this event until 1890 when a store in Boston repeated it. Before long lines of children formed at stores across America to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him their Christmas wish list. The department store Santa has been immortalized in films such as Miracle on 34th Street and Christmas Story. (You’d think a store that innovative would still be around today.)

11. The most popular Christmas song of all time is Bing Crosby’s version of “White Christmas.” And “Silent Night”-arguably the most recognizable Christmas hymn-was written in 1818, by an Austrian pastor, Joseph Mohr. As Christmas Eve came, that year, the organ in his church was broken, so together with his friend, Franz Gruber, he wrote this new tune for the service that night, and played it on his guitar for his congregation.

12. “Jingle Bells” was originally written for a Thanksgiving celebration, in 1857.

13. The Christmas abbreviation-Xmas-is thought by some to be sacreligious, but in fact the first letter of the Greek word for Christ is chi, which is X. Before the invention of the printing press, “Xmas” was often used, in print, to save time and ink.

14. We celebrate Christmas on December 25th because in the fourth century, Pope Julius I announced that Christ’s official birthday would be December 25th. Prior to his ruling there had been a great deal of confusion. No-one was certain about the year, let alone the month or the day. (So, due to mass Alzheimer’s, the Pope picked a random date?)

Why?

Why are there Twelve Days of Christmas? Traditionally, it took the ‘Three Kings’ this number of days to find the baby Jesus. Their arrival on the twelfth day was celebrated in the form of the Feast of Epiphany in medieval France, and later in other countries.

Where did the Candy Cane come from? In a small Indiana town, there was a candymaker who wanted to spread the name of Jesus around the world. He invented the Christmas Candy Cane, incorporating symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ. He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy to symbolize the Virgin Birth. The candymaker formed the stick into a “J” to represent the name of Jesus. It can also represent the staff of the “Good Shepherd.” He thought the candy was too plain so he stained it with a red stripe to symbolize the blood shed by Christ on the cross.

Christmas Games – Weird Ones

Shoe the Wild Mare

Shoeing the Wild Mare is a traditional Christmas game that goes back to at least the early 17th century.

Get a narrow(a few inches wide),strong wooden beam and suspend it from the roof with two even length ropes. The beam is the ‘mare’ of the title and should be level yet high enough above the floor so that a player’s feet are off-ground. A player ‘the farrier’ then sits on the ‘mare’ in the centre, a leg either side. This player has a hammer and has to give the underside of the beam “four time eight blows” at a designated spot. If he falls off, it is someone else’s turn.

Much hilarity, and the odd broken shoulder ensues. (Odd broken shoulders????)

Snapdragons

Apparently this is the best game ever to play on Christmas Eve. Make sure you have the fire department on speed dial though.

Very popular from the 16th to the 19th centuries, Snapdragons (or Flapdragons) has explicably declined in popularity.

Gather everyone around the dining room table, place a large flat dish in the centre. In the dish scatter a good handful of raisins then pour on top a layer of brandy or cognac. Set fire to the brandy and dim the lights. Players take it in turns to pluck a raisin out of the burning liquid and eat it quickly down. For a more competitive edge to the game use larger dried fruit such as apricots, one of which has a lucky sixpence stuffed inside.
Equipment needed: plate, matches, raisins, brandy, address of nearest accident and emergency department

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17 thoughts on “Weird Christmas Facts & Fun

  1. Goodness – you did a lot of research! I like the snapdragons game. Sounds exciting! LOL. The Shoeing the Wild Mare sounds like a dangerous teeter-totter game. This was a fun read and now I know how to say merry christmas in a bunch of languages (well, at least until I leave this page when they will immediately be lost in the dark recesses of my terrible memory). Yikes.

    LOL Teens,
    You have dark recesses in your memory too? 😉
    WC

    Like

  2. The info about the candy cane was something I knew. Very cool.
    The different translations of “Merry Christmas” enlightened me.
    I really like “God Jul”.
    God Jul, cool.
    I even knew about Silent Night.
    Great story, even better song.
    Thank you for spreading the “Yuletide news”.
    The ‘net needs more posts like this.
    ~m

    Oh what a cute name for xmas website – Yuletide News – I wonder if anyone has taken it?
    A 🙂

    Like

  3. Wow! Thanks Mother Christmas! I feel so knowledgeable now!! 🙂

    Oh dear, I’m Mother Christmas now? Does it mean I have to wear red velvet and carry a muff, all year round? 😉
    WC

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  4. Those games sound like something a group of drunk teens would come up with. “Hmmm….how can we injure, maim, or kill ourselves tonight, all in the name of Christmas fun?” lol

    Interesting reading Annie! Lots of good fun and I needed that smile tonight. Thanks!

    Jennifer

    Hey Jennifer,
    They do sound like drunken teen aged fun, don’t they? At least they’re PG, right? 😉
    A

    Like

  5. Wow.

    It amazes me how arbitrary many of the traditions started out, how entirely inaccurate and random. LOL.

    Feliz Natal!

    BTW, you forgot to post that in NYC, it is very popular to eat Chinese on Christmas day… if you’re Jewish! 😉

    Oooh, I didn’t know that one. I likey. Cuz I really like Chinese food – can never get enough of shrimp chow mein or orange chicken. Yummy! 🙂
    A

    Like

  6. And a joyeux noel to you wc from pere noel 8)

    Joyeux Noel to you Pere Noel – have you gotten your red suit out of the dry cleaners yet? 😉
    WC

    Like

  7. I loved these. Geez, I didn’t know anything about the holiday. I got your card, btw, thanks it was so great to get it.

    kim

    They are fun little factoids, eh?

    Cool, you got the card – still waiting for yours. In fact, still waiting for most of them. 🙄
    😉
    A

    Like

  8. Hi WC,

    Good stuff, but you left out that the best Xmas poem, The Night Before Christmas, was written as a present to the author’s family, and was never intended to go public, and that many of our Christmas traditions, such as having a tree in the house, were adopted from various European pagan religions by the Catholic Church, as was the winter date, in an effort to supplant those cults.

    Still, except for having it start before Thanksgiving these days, I like what we’ve done with the idea.

    A very merry Christmas to all,
    the Grit

    Hey Grit!
    You know, I ddint’ know that. I tried to find all the strange little items I could but there are so many, one measely writer chick is barely able to gather them all. Please forgive. 😉

    A very Merry Christmas to you and yours too, Grit. Hope it’s wonderful for you.

    Annie

    Like

    1. Jul
      20 – 31 December

      Celebration of the Norse New Year; a festival of 12 nights. This is the most important of all the Norse holidays. On the night of December 20, the god Ingvi Freyr rides over the earth on the back of his shining boar, bringing Light and Love back into the World. In later years, after the influence of Christianity, the god Baldur, then Jesus, was reborn at this festival. Jul signifies the beginning and end of all things; the darkest time (shortest hour of daylight) during the year and the brightest hope re-entering the world. During this festival, the Wild Hunt is at its greatest fervor, and the dead are said to range the Earth in its retinue. The god Wotan (Odin) is the leader of this Wild Ride; charging across the sky on his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir; a very awe-inspiring vision. In ancient times, Germanic and Norse children would leave their boots out by the hearth on Solstice Eve, filled with hay and sugar, for Sleipnir’s journey. In return, Wotan would leave them a gift for their kindness. In modern times, Sleipnir was changed to a reindeer and the grey-bearded Wotan became the kindly Santa Claus (Father Christmas).

      another little fact for your page

      Wow that is a great bit of Christmas trivia. Thanks! 🙂

      Like

  9. Santa Claus, Indiana has the BEST water park. The theme park is Christmas-themed, but the water park is freaking awesome. We go there every summer.

    Wow, you’ve been there? Tre’s cool, Red. Send pics!
    WC

    Like

  10. You should be getting mine today, no later than tomorrow. I had a little white dove fly it there and sometimes she’s slow. Seriously though you should get it by the end of the week for sure.

    :)kimmie

    Aw, the white dove express – well that explains it. 😉 I look forward to getting it, sweetie.
    Annie

    Like

  11. Excellent trivia post. Being avid trivialist, you even found stuff I didn’t know. Thanks!

    wow, I’m impressed that you’re impressed. I love trivia – I need things to occupy my mind. 😉
    WC

    Like

  12. I like to say “Frohliche Weihnachten!” (I don’t really know what the difference is – or if Frohe is better?!) Great post!!

    Personally, I’m just happy to pronounce any of them. 😉
    A

    Like

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