Fun and Festive Facts about Christmas
  • In A.D. 350, Pope Julius I, bishop of Rome, proclaimed December 25 the official celebration date for the birthday of Christ.
  • Christmas has its roots in pagan festivals such as Saturnalia (December 17-December 23), the Kalends (January 1 -5, the precursor to the Twelve Days of Christmas), and Deus Sol Invictus or Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun (December 25).
  • Christmas wasn’t declared an official holiday in the United States until June 26, 1870.
  • Alabama was the first state in the United States to officially recognize Christmas in 1836.
  • Oklahoma was the last U.S. state to declare Christmas a legal holiday, in 1907.
  • Most of Santa’s reindeer have male-sounding names, such as Comet and Cupid. However, male reindeers shed their antlers around Christmas, so the reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh are likely not male, but female.
  • According to the Guinness World Records, the tallest Christmas tree ever cut was a 221-foot Douglas fir that was displayed in 1950 at the Northgate Shopping Center in Seattle, Washington.
  • Christmas trees have been sold in the U.S. since 1850.
  • President Teddy Roosevelt, an environmentalist, banned Christmas trees from the White House in 1901.
  • Christmas trees usually grow for about 15 years before they are sold.
  • The earliest known Christmas tree decorations were apples. At Christmastime, medieval actors would use apples to decorate paradise trees (usually fir trees) during “Paradise Plays,” which were plays depicting Adam and Eve’s creation and fall.
  • 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.
  • The first printed reference to a Christmas tree was in 1531 in Germany.
  • The Germans made the first artificial Christmas trees out of dyed goose feathers.
  • In Poland, spiders or spider webs are common Christmas trees decorations because according to legend, a spider wove a blanket for Baby Jesus. In fact, Polish people consider spiders to be symbols of goodness and prosperity at Christmas.
  • The traditional three colors of Christmas are green, red, and gold. Green has long been a symbol of life and rebirth; red symbolizes the blood of Christ, and gold represents light as well as wealth and royalty.
  • The British wear paper crowns while they eat Christmas dinner. The crowns are stored in a tube called a “Christmas cracker.”
  • The ancient Druids, considered mistletoe sacred because it remains green and bears fruit during the winter when all other plants appear to die. Druids would cut the plant with golden sickles and never let it touch the ground. They thought it had the power to cure infertility and nervous diseases and to ward off evil.
  • The poinsettia is native to Mexico and was cultivated by the Aztecs, who called the plant Cuetlaxochitl (flower which wilts). For the Aztecs, the plant’s brilliant red color symbolized purity, and they often used it medicinally to reduce fever. Contrary to popular belief, the poinsettia is not poisonous, but holly berries.
  • Santa Claus is based on a real person, St. Nikolas of Myra (also known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker, Bishop Saint Nicholas of Smyrna, and Nikolaos of Bari), who lived during the fourth century.
  • Commissioned by Sir Henry Cole (1808-1883), British illustrator John Callcott Horsley (1817-1903) designed the first ever Christmas card. It caused some controversy because it depicted a small child drinking wine.
  • Top five most popular Christmas songs: “White Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire),” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”
  • The Oldest Christmas song is “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” and “Winter Wonderland” (both 1934)