It is December 25, 2022, Christmas Day. Billions around the world recognize Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. We found some great pieces of trivia for some of the holiday’s most favorite traditions.
Christmas is derived from the Old English Crīstesmæsse which means Christ’s Mass. Today, Christmas is a public holiday in most countries. Only about a dozen countries do not recognize Christmas as a public holiday. Christmas traditions vary around the world and have evolved over time. They borrow from other traditions and cultures, too. Over time, beliefs and customs blended as peoples migrated and attitudes changed.
One of the most popular Christmas customs is gift-giving. This custom has its roots in the Magi who brought gifts to Jesus shortly after his birth. Unfortunately, the gift-giving aspect of Christmas has led to its commercialization. On average, Americans spend $700 on Christmas gifts and goodies. Altogether, this equals $465 billion. In recent years, there has been a call to simplify the holiday and to get back to the “reason for the season.”
One hundred years after the founding of the United States, Christmas became a federal holiday.
While plain, unflavored candy sticks and canes existed as early as the 1600s, it wasn’t until 1920 that the hooked version became exceptionally popular. Bob McCormack of Albany, Georgia took the peppermint candy, gave it a red and white striped twist. His handmade candies were given a manufacturing boost when his brother-in-law and priest, Gregory Keller, invented the machine that launched Bob’s Candies into mass production. However, Keller’s invention wasn’t the first of its kind.
Another tradition that blossomed in the United States during the 1920s, the poinsettia’s legend takes place in Mexico. According to the legend, a girl wanted desperately to celebrate Jesus’s birthday. Worried, the girl feared she would have no gift to offer because she was so poor. An angel tells her to give any gift with love. After gathering weeds from alongside the road, the young girl placed them in the manger. Miraculously the weeds bloomed into beautiful red stars.
Evergreens, fir trees, and other plants have been a part of the winter festivals and traditions since ancient times. The first person to place a tree in a house for the purposes of Christmas may have been the German preacher Martin Luther in the 16th century.
Legendary stories about the third century St. Nicholas later become part of the inspiration for the modern-day Santa Claus.
In Victorian England, sending Penny Post was inexpensive and frequent. Not responding to it was equally inexcusable. Being popular and busy led Sir Henry Cole to invent a holiday card nearly out of necessity. In 1843, he asked his friend, J.C. Horsley to illustrate a design he had in mind. Soon, Cole was off to the printer and the first Christmas card mailed in the Penny Post.
Wassailing and caroling history go hand in hand. Originally, wassail referred to a mulled, sweet drink. It came to be known as going from house to house during the winter months and eventually as caroling. The carolers are often given hot beverages to drink to keep them warm as they travel. Learn more about 7 Beloved Christmas Carols & Their Origins.
A Christmas Carol
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was published on December 19, 1843, and tells the story of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge. So popular was the novella, the first theatre production took place within weeks of its publication. Since then, films, stage, and novels have presented a variety of adaptations much to the audiences’ delight.
- Other traditions include:
- taking pictures with Santa
- baking cookies and goodies to exchange, such as fudge and gingerbread men
- hanging lights
- making ornaments
- going to holiday concerts
- watching holiday-themed movies, both old and new
- opening Advent calendars