Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas facts (LBE & FD)

The common abbreviation for Christmas to Xmas is derived from the Greek alphabet. X is letter Chi, which is the first letter of Christ's name in the Greek alphabet.


Oliver Cromwell, in England banned Christmas Carols between 1649 and 1660. Cromwell thought that Christmas should be a very solemn day so he banned carols and parties. The only celebration was by a sermon and a prayer service.


In 1643, the British Parliament officially abolishes the celebration of Christmas.


The Puritans in America tried to make Thanksgiving Day the most important annual festival instead of Christmas.


Silent Night was written in 1818, by an Austrian priest Joseph Mohr. He was told the day before Christmas that the church organ was broken and would not be prepared in time for Christmas Eve. He was saddened by this and could not think of Christmas without music, so he wanted to write a carol that could be sung by choir to guitar music. He sat down and wrote three stanzas. Later that night the people in the little Austrian Church sang "Stille Nacht" for the first time.


St Francis of Assisi introduced Christmas Carols to formal church services.


Telesphorus, the second Bishop of Rome (125-136 AD) declared that public Church services should be held to celebrate "The Nativity of our Lord and Saviour." In 320 AD, Pope Julius I and other religious leaders specified 25 December as the official date of the birth of Jesus Christ.


26 December was traditionally known as St Stephen's Day, but is more commonly known as Boxing Day. This expression came about because money was collected in alms-boxes placed in churches during the festive season. This money was then distributed during to the poor and needy after Christmas.


Melbourne, Australia has a sporting Boxing Day tradition. The Melbourne Cricket Ground hosts a Cricket test match. Sometimes this attracts 90, 000 spectators. Cricket is Australia's premier Summer sport.


The first printed reference to Christmas trees appeared in Germany in 1531



In 1836, Alabama is the first state in the USA to declare Christmas a legal holiday.


In 1843, the first Christmas card was printed in England for Sir Henry Cole. He was busy man who wanted to save time in his own Christmas letters, but was also interested in encouraging the expansion of the postal system. 1000 copies of the card were sold at one shilling each. It was not until the 1860s that the production of cards accelerated, with cheaper printing methods. Then in 1870, the Post Office introduced a half penny stamp for sending cards.


In 1856, President Franklin Pierce decorates the first White House Christmas tree.


In 1907, Oklahoma became the last USA state to declare Christmas a legal holiday.


At midnight on Christmas Eve 1914 firing from the German trenches suddenly stopped. A German brass band began playing Christmas carols. Early, Christmas morning, the German soldiers came out of their trenches, approaching the allied lines, calling "Merry Christmas". At first the allied soldiers thought it was a trick, but they soon climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the German soldiers. The truce lasted a few days, and the men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings, sang carols and songs. They even played a game of Soccer.


In 1937, the first postage stamp to commemorate Christmas was issued in Austria.


In 1974, the Australian city of Darwin is devastated late on Christmas Eve and in the early hours of the morning by Cyclone Tracy.


In 1834, Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert brought the first Christmas tree to Windsor Castle for the Royal family.


6 December is St Nicholas's Day - the first of the gift giving days, especially in Holland and Belgium.


Some priests in Australia advise you to say "Happy Christmas", not "Merry Christmas", because Merry has connotations of getting drunk - which brings its own problems. One should say "Happy" instead.


The actual gift givers are different in various countries:


Spain and South America: The Three Kings

Italy: La Befana (a kindly old witch)

England: Father Christmas

France: Pere Noel (Father Christmas)

Russia: In some parts - Babouschka (a grandmotherly figure)

Other parts it is Grandfather Frost.

Germany: Christkind (angelic messenger from Jesus)She is a beautiful fair haired girl with a shining crown of candles.

Scandinavia: a variety of Christmas gnomes. One is called Julenisse

Holland: St Nicholas.


Every year since 1947 the people in Oslo have given a Christmas tree to the city of Westminster. The gift is an expression of goodwill and gratitude for Britain's help to Norway in the 1939-1945 war.


The first American Christmas carol was written in 1649 by a minister named John de Brebeur and is called "Jesus is Born".


Mexicans call the poinsettia "Flower of the Holy Night" - the Holy Night is the Mexican way of saying "Christmas Eve".


Tom Smith who owned a sweet shop in London was the originator of the cracker. In the 1840s Tom found that people like sugar almonds, but while he was in France he discovered a variety of sweets wrapped up in a twist of paper. These bonbons were popular, so Tom decided to copy them. When Tom noticed that young men were buying them to give to their sweethearts he began to place "love mottoes" on small slips of paper inside the sweet wrapping.In 1846 Tom's thoughts turned towards Christmas - instead of sweets he thought he would place toys and novelties inside the twisted wrapping. He experimented with this and the idea of producing a wrapping that could be pulled apart - just like the cracker as we know it today.


The word carol is derived from the old French word caroller which derives from the Latin choraula. This itself was derived from the Greek choraules.


Births on 25 December:


W C Field (1946)


Alice Cooper (1945)Princess Alexandra (1936)


Paul Borget (1935)


Charles Spencer Chaplin (1889)


Deaths on 25 December:


Conrad Hilton (1979)


Humphrey Bogart (1957)


Dorothy Wordsworth (1855)


Sir Isaac Newton (1727)


The biggest selling Christmas single of all time is Bing Crosby's White Christmas.


In Switzerland during the Reformation, al instrumental and choral music was banned from churches. In Germany, disapproval of carols resulted in some being converted into hymns.


Tinsel on the Christmas Tree is attributed to a woman whose husband died. She was left to bring up a large family of children herself. She was left to do everything working so hard and she was determined to make a happy time for them at Christmas. She prepared a Christmas Tree to surprise them on Christmas Day. Unfortunately spiders visited the tree, and crawled from branch to branch, making webs all over it. The Christ Child saw the tree and knew she would be devastated to find this on Christmas morning. He changed the spiders' webs to shining silver.


The first church the Dutch built in New York City was named in St Nicholas' honour -St Nicholas Church.


Many Christmas customs are carryovers from pre-Christian celebrations. Hanging gifts on trees is supposed to stem 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, made certain that it never touched the ground, and dedicated it to the Goddess of Love, which explains the kissing that goes on under it. 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.


In Christmas tree decorations, angels are usually portrayed as wimpy blondes in girl's blouses and sandals. In the Bible, however, angels are muscular bullies who frequently goad humans into fistfights. Life isn't all harps and heavenly choirs for angels; there's a strict career structure. The only angels mentioned by name in the Bible are archangels, the eighth-ranking order of angels.


Visitors to Bethlehem rarely exceed a few thousand at Christmas. In 1995, there were rowdy celebrations of the first Christmas in a Palestinian-controlled Bethlehem. The Christmas Eve service televised on 25 December is celebrated not in the Church of the Nativity, which stands over the place where Jesus was said to have been born, but in the nearby Franciscan Church of St. Catherine.


The largest functional Christmas cracker was 45.72 metres long and 3.04 metres in diameter. It was made by Australian international rugby player Ray Price in Markson Sparks of New South Wales, Australia and was pulled in the car park of the Westfield Shopping Town in Chatswood, Sydney, Australia on 9 November 1991.


A goose was customary Christmas fare until Henry VIII took it upon himself to tuck into a turkey. Mince pies were once shaped like mangers and are thought to date back to the sweetmeats formerly presented to the Vatican on Christmas Eve.


The freedom-fighter and religious activist thought to have been born between 6 BC and 30 AD, by the name of Jesus Christ from the Greek christos, "the anointed one". He was born in a stable in Bethlehem. He started out as a carpenter, but became a missionary following his baptism by a cousin, John. After proclaiming himself the Messiah, Jesus was betrayed by a disciple and crucified. He is later said to have risen from the dead.


If you're wondering why men may have not flocked to kiss you under the mistletoe, the answer may be that it was said that it will only work if the person you are kissing is a virgin. On the sixth day of the new moon, a Druid priest used to cut mistletoe from an oak tree with a sacred sickle. A passing virgin was called upon to catch the falling plant, which was not allowed to touch the ground.


The first commercial Christmas card, produced in 1846, featured a drawing of family members happily toasting each other with glasses of wine - a shockingly decadent portrait that was immediately condemned by temperance advocates. In New South Wales, Australia, the average daily mailbag of six to seven million items of mail can triple over Christmas. The heaviest day ever was on 23 December 1997, when a record 23 million items were delivered in this state in Australia.


Santa's Reindeers are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.


Saint Boniface is said to have substituted a fir tree for the pagan oak in the eighth century as a symbol of faith. Martin Luther fostered the Christmas tree cult by using a candlelit tree as a symbol of Christ's heavenly home, while trees decorated with candles, fruit and paper flowers were introduced into Britain soon after Queen Victoria's marriage.


The Celts used to bring a large log indoors as a tribute to the sun god. In Cornwall, revellers would chalk a symbol of a man on the log in a cheery reference to the human sacrifices who used to be thrown on the bonfire.



Ancient Roman observances of the Natalis solis invicti and the Saturnalia occurred in December and involved much feasting, singing, parades and other forms of celebrating. Not to be outdone, when the Church adopted Christmas it introduced a major Christian celebration and feasting became a part of the festivities. As the centuries wore on, depending upon the country, a Christmas goose, turkey or other animal was adopted as the main course in the Christmas feast.


The Christmas tree was first decorated with lights in the 16th century. It is believed that Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, was the first to add lighted candles to the tree. He was so taken with the Christmas night sky that he wished to bring "the lights of the stars" into the home of his family. From this, decorating the tree with ornaments, messages and notes, and small gifts emerged in later centuries leading to our customs today.


Hanging the Christmas stocking on the hearth on Christmas Eve in the hope that it will be filled with presents the next morning is a custom that goes back about 400 years. It derived from the custom in Holland of children placing wooden shoes next to the hearth the night before the arrival of St. Nicholas. The children would fill their shoes with straw and food for St Nicholas's for the donkey that carried the gifts. In exchange he would leave them a small gift such as small cakes, fruits and other gifts. Stockings were substituted for the shoes in Britain, most of Europe and in North America.


A wreath with holly, red berries and other decorations began from at least the 17th century. Holly, with its sharply pointed leaves, symbolised the thorns in Christ's crown-of-thorns. Red berries symbolised the drops of Christ's blood. A wreath at Christmas signified a home that celebrated to birth of Christ.


On Christmas morning since medieval times, church bells have been rung to announce to the world the coming of the saviour. It was customary from the 18th century to wear clothes and carry a small bell to signify the birth of Christ. The ringing of the bells was to signify the importance of His Birth.

9 comments:

Intense Guy said...

Now that is a comprehensive, one stop for everything you want to know about Christmas for sure!

Happy Christmas Tori!

...and thanks for all the info! I find some of the traditions to be bewildering - such as the yule log and mistletoe and now I see there is a crazy patchwork quilt of many cultures all merged together (but not quite blended).

Tori_z said...

Iggy:
Just goes to show that there's no right or wrong way to celebrate, doesn't it?

Happy Christmas to you too! :)

MarmiteToasty said...

I should really start to think about crimbo LOL....... only two weeks to go and I aint given it a thought except for a couple of cards flying across the pond....

Maybe I'll give it a miss this year..

x

MarmiteToasty said...

ps......... LOVE your list of wonderful interesting crimbo things.....

One of the nippers I childmind's mum is Dutch and they dont do crimbo and last weekend, I think, celebrated whatever it is the dutch celebrate.......

x

LadyStyx said...

Interesting read. I'd seen some before. You missed the one about the carol of The 12 Days of Christmas though...

Tori_z said...

Toasty:
Well, if you want to give Christmas a miss this year, then that's up to you.

Styxie:
I'm sure there are loads of facts I missed, but I was trying not to make the post too long. ;)

ChicagoLady said...

Very informative list. Happy Christmas! (Don't want you thinking I want drunk for Christmas, lol)

Punkn said...

That is one heck of a list! Some really interesting information there. Oh, and Happy Christmas Tori!!!!

Tori_z said...

Chicago & Punkn:
Glad you enjoyed the list.

And...

Happy Christmas to you too! :)