Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Facts

Here are some interesting things you might not know about Christmas:

• Christmas is celebrated every December 25 and was declared a national holiday in 1870.

• Jesus’s exact date of birth is mentioned nowhere in the Bible, nor is there any other reliable evidence when he was born.

• The Roman Catholic Church declared December 25 as the Feast of the Nativity in the third century C.E. ; the first known Feast was held in 336 C.E.

• The Feast of the Nativity was created to counter popular Roman pagan winter solstice celebrations.

• In Norman England the Feast of the Nativity was marked by feasting, gambling, dancing, and games—activities frowned upon at other times of the year.

• Calvinist Puritans and Cromwell’s Puritan Commonwealth condemned Christmas in the mid-1600s as a Popish holiday. Older, bawdier customs persisted nonetheless.

• English colonists brought Christmas customs with them to the New World in the early seventeenth century.

• The Massachusetts Bay General Court banned the keeping of Christmas in 1659. King James II forced the Court to lift the ban in 1681.

• Christmastime rowdiness peaked in the early nineteenth century when packs of mischief-making young men would wander city streets, drinking and fighting, banging and blowing on homemade instruments, and enter the homes of the elite for food and drink.

• By the mid-1800s an emerging middle class popularized new Christmas customs, including Santa Claus, the family dinner, and decorated trees, which domesticated the holiday and resolved complicated interrelationships between faith, market, community, and family.

• Santa Claus was popularized by Clement Clarke Moore, whose 1822 poem “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” was reprinted in newspapers around Christmastime.

• The custom of keeping a decorated evergreen tree in the household during Christmastime arrived in America via Germany and the Nordic countries around the mid-1800s.

• Sending Christmas cards became popular in the late 1800s after German immigrant Charles Prang perfected multicolor lithography.

• Santa’s credibility as an American folk hero depends on his role as a highly successful manufacturer and distributor of toys, placing him in the pantheon of America’s captains of industry.

• New York City was the fi rst to erect a Christmas tree in a public square, in 1912. In 1923 President Calvin Coolidge began the tradition of an annual National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony.

• In 1939, Montgomery Ward distributed free to its customers nearly two and a half million copies of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, a story written by its ad department.

• In 1998, Americans spent more than $160 billion on presents, about $700 per person.


By Len Travers
Greenwood, 2006

Did you know the Puritans did not celebrate Christmas? Or that trick or treating on Halloween began in the late 1930s?  Every holiday has a history, and this book sets out to tell it.

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