The word Christmas comes from the Old English Term “Cristes maesse,” meaning “Christ’s mass.” That was the name of the Christian worship service held on 25th December to honour the birth of Jesus. The first recorded use of the word Christmas was in 1038.
Here we have compiled some more interesting facts about Christmas, some of which you may not already know.
Jesus’ Birth Date
Although 25th December marks Jesus’ birth, it is not known exactly when he was born. Some believe Jesus was actually born in Spring and that the 25th December was chosen as it ties in with the Winter solstice and Pagan festivals.
Decorating with Evergreens
The custom of decorating homes with evergreens at Christmas began in the Tudor times. For Christians evergreens are a symbol of eternal life and the promise of spring’s return.
In medieval times the icy winds of winter were also thought to bring evil spirits with them. It was believed that Holly and Ivy could ward off these unwanted guests.
The Legend of the Mistletoe
Have you ever wondered why people kiss under mistletoe? One legend has it, from Norse Mythology, that the goddess Frigg cast a spell that no plant grown on earth could be used as a weapon against her son, Baldur. As Mistletoe doesn’t grow out of the earth (it grows on branches of hawthorn, poplar, and lime trees), her spell didn’t reach it. Mythology has it that Baldur was killed by an arrow made from Mistletoe by Loki.
Frigg declared that the Mistletoe will be a symbol of love after her son’s death and that anyone who passed underneath it would receive a kiss.
The Christmas Cracker
The Christmas Cracker was invented over 150 years ago by Tom Smith, who was an enterprising baker in London’s East End. The inspiration came from French bonbons and the crackling sound from his log fire. Smith patented his first cracker in 1847 and perfected his mechanism in the 1860s.
The Legend of Santa Claus
There are many stories that have inspired the figure of Santa Claus and his role. One is that he’s based on the Christian bishop, St Nicholas. During his lifetime, St. Nicholas was well known for his generosity of giving to the needy, his love for children and concern for sailors. Following his death, stories of his kindness passed through generations to create the figure we know of today.
Before 1931, there were many depictions of how Santa Claus looked around the world. But in 1931, Coca Cola commissioned an illustrator, Haddon Sundblom, to paint Santa for their Christmas advertisement. Sundblom’s paintings depicted a warm, happy character, who is now used to this day.
The First Christmas Tree
Queen Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert, is usually credited for introducing the Christmas tree to England in 1840. However, records show that it was actually Queen Charlotte, the German wife of George III, who set up the first tree in December 1800, at Queen’s Lodge, Windsor.
The Christmas Turkey
The turkey is one of the most thought of meats when we think of Christmas dinner. For many, it simply wouldn’t be Christmas without it. Although turkeys aren’t native to the UK, they have been eaten here for hundreds of years.
In the early 16th century, it was recorded that Henry VIII was apparently the first British monarch to enjoy turkey on Christmas day. It took over 400 years for the turkey to go from a luxury item to one of the most popular festive centrepieces across the UK.
The Largest Gingerbread House
In 2013, a Guinness World Record was achieved for the largest gingerbread house ever made in Texas. The house covers an area of 2,520 square feet and contains a whopping 35.8 million calories.
The First Christmas Carols
Carols were first performed in the 13th century and were not always about Christmas or singing, but were stories told to others. The early days of wassailing (a Norse tradition) saw groups of revellers travelling from house to house to toast the occupants and wish them good health. St. Francis of Assisi took this old tradition and turned it into what we know today as carolling.