Saturday, December 21, 2019


Some Christmas Facts and Trivia, Part 2



The article is American in origin, hence the weighting towards American facts and the use of words such as “we”.

Some Oz facts and trivia will be posted later.


We ship a crazy amount of packages around the holidays.

Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day last year, the U.S. Postal Service delivered an estimated 850 million packages — in addition to 15 billion pieces of mail. That's including gifts for faraway loved ones, heartfelt cards, letters to Santa, and those dreaded credit card statements after we gleefully charge all of our holiday purchases (oops). So cut your mail carrier some slack; they're really pulling double duty this time of year.


 The term "Xmas" dates back to the 1500s.

Think "Xmas" is an edgy, relatively new way to abbreviate Christmas, or a secular attempt to take the Christ out of Christmas? Think again. According to From Adam's Apple to Xmas: An Essential Vocabulary Guide for the Politically Correct, the word "Christianity" was spelled "Xianity" as far back as 1100. X, or Chi, in Greek is the first letter of "Christ" and served as a symbolic stand-in. In 1551, the holiday was called "Xtemmas" but eventually shortened to "Xmas." So really, Xmas is just as Christian as the longer version.


 About 90% of Americans celebrate Christmas.

It may feel like Christmas is everywhere from October (or earlier!) right on through New Year's, and that's because most Americans like to jingle bell rock their way right through the season. In addition, the Pew Research Center's findings found that fewer people think of Christmas as a religious holiday nowadays. Only 51% of those people who celebrate attend church on Christmas. They don't say how many of those people make that their twice-annual appearance.


Americans spend nearly $1,000 on gifts.

According to the National Retail Federation's findings in 2017, consumers say they'll spend $967.13 for the holidays on average, although individual spending can vary widely. In 2018, total retail sales in November and December hit $717.45 billion, a truly startling number. Homemade Christmas gifts, anyone?


Mistletoe was considered an aphrodisiac.

The holiday flora is an ancient symbol of fertility and virility — and the Druids believed it was an actual aphrodisiac. So keep that in mind next time someone jokes about meeting you under the mistletoe. The name itself even has a funny meaning: Mistle thrush birds eat the plant's berries, digest the seeds, and then the droppings eventually grow into new plants. So, the Germanic word for mistletoe literally means "dung on a twig." Romantic, huh?


 Ham, not turkey, is the festive favorite.

Some families cook up a turkey for Christmas dinner, others go for ham, and still more go rogue and stick a leg of lamb or another protein in the oven. For the most prevalent meat, just ask Google: Searches for "ham" and "turkey" both spike during the month of December, according to Google Trends data. (Although it's nowhere near how frequently "turkey" gets hunted online in November!) Despite the popularity of both festive entrees, spiral-cut ham remains the more popular choice for a Christmas table. The jury's still out on whether people prefer ham or turkey sandwiches the day after, though.


 Candy canes got their start in Germany.

The National Confectioners Association says a choirmaster originally gave the candies to young children so they'd stay quiet during long church services. Grandmas who still dole out sweets during long sermons, you've got history on your side. But it wasn't until a German-Swedish immigrant decorated his tree with candy canes in 1847 that they became popular as a Christmas candy. Today, we'd hardly recognize the season without those little red-and-white stripes.


The Rockefeller Christmas tree started small.

The first tree at Rockefeller Center probably looked more like Charlie Brown's than the resplendent one today. Construction workers at the center of its site first placed a small, undecorated tree there in 1931. Two years later, another tree appeared in its place, this time with lights. These days, the giant Rockefeller Center tree is laden with over 25,000 Christmas lights and visited by millions of selfie-takers each season.


 Washington Irving created many Santa legends.

You may know Washington Irving best for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and his headless horseman, but he wrote a lot about St. Nicholas, too. In fact, he was the first to imagine Santa Claus and his eight tiny reindeer. He so loved Santa Claus that in 1835, he helped found the Saint Nicholas Society of the City of New York, serving as its secretary until 1841.


 Norway donates the tree in Trafalgar Square.

Londoners and visitors probably know the tall, iconic spruce that stretches to the sky in Trafalgar Square each year, but did you know where it comes from? Every year, since 1947, the people of Norway have gifted the people of London a Christmas tree to place in the public courtyard. They donate the tree in gratitude for Britain's support for Norway during World War II. Now that's what we call goodwill toward men.


This Christmas gift held a lifesaving secret.

During World War II, The United States Playing Card Company joined forces with American and British intelligence agencies to create a very special deck of cards. They gave out the cards as Christmas gifts to help allied prisoners of war escape from German POW camps. Individual cards peeled apart when moistened, to reveal maps of escape routes. Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.


Your Christmas tree probably took a real trip.

Unless you cut it yourself, your "fresh" Christmas tree probably spent weeks out of the ground before it made it to your local retailer. And while you may have visions of hiking into the woods, 98% of American trees today are grown on farms, mostly in California, Oregon, Michigan, Washington, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, the country's top Christmas tree producing states.


Tinsel has a long history.

Tinsel was first invented in 1610 in Germany and was once made of real silver, making it far from the chintzy throwaway decoration it is now. It also has an edgy history. The U.S. government once banned tinsel because it contained lead and could contribute to lead poisoning. But never fear; now it's made of plastic, not silver or lead. However, you should still use caution if you have pets or small children, since it's still harmful if swallowed.

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