Some interesting facts about Christmas

Published 11:50 am Thursday, December 8, 2022

It’s that time of year! Christmas is almost here; I enjoy this holiday mainly because I like reasons to buy gifts for people. I would instead give them than receive them, but with an eight-year-old at home, a Christmas is an event. I was thinking about the Christmas holiday, so I thought I would write down some of the things I was thinking about. Some interesting things about Christmas that you may or may not know, for instance.

The origins of Christmas stem from both the pagan and Roman cultures. The Romans actually celebrated two holidays in December. The first was Saturnalia, a two-week festival honoring their god of agriculture, Saturn. On December 25, they celebrated the birth of Mithra, their sun god.

Not all Christians celebrate Christmas on the same day! In countries with large populations of Orthodox Christians, such as Russia, Ukraine, and Romania, Christmas Day falls on January 7. Some Greek Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7, too.

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The name “Christmas” comes from the old English phrase Cristes maesse, which means “Christ’s mass.” But what about “Xmas”? Many people think this is just a modern-day abbreviation, but it dates back to the 16th century! The “X” is said to represent the Greek letter “Chi” — the first letter in the Greek word for Christ, Χριστός

Christmas trees became popular in Victorian Britain. But these were first seen in 16th Century Germany where, at Christmas time, people decorated fir trees with fruit and nuts — and later sweets, paper shapes, and candles. Amazingly, historians think the origins of this festive tradition may date back to the Romans and Ancient Egyptians, who used evergreen plants and garlands as symbols of everlasting life.

Have you wondered how Santa got his name? It’s from Sinterklaas, which means Saint Nicholas in Dutch, the language of the Netherlands. St. Nicholas was a Christian bishop who lived in the 4th century — known for being kind and generous, he later became the patron saint of children.

Santa isn’t the only Christmas character — there are many more worldwide! In Italy, for example, a kind witch called La Befana is said to fly around on a broomstick delivering toys to children! And in Iceland, children leave shoes under the window for 13 mischievous trolls called the Yule Lads. If the child has been good, they’ll find sweets in their shoe — but if they’ve been bad, the Yule lads will leave them a rotten potato!

Have you ever wondered where the song Jingle Bells came from? And have you noticed that the song doesn’t have the word Christmas in it? Or Jesus or Santa Claus? That’s because it wasn’t originally a Christmas song! In fact, the jolly anthem was written in 1850, entitled One Horse Open Sleigh, for the American holiday, Thanksgiving!

Finally, what if Christmas was illegal? In 1644, Christmas celebrations were made illegal in England and, soon after, in the English Colonies in America, too! At that time, members of the government felt that the religious meaning of Christmas had been forgotten, so they banned the holiday festivities. However, some people still celebrated in secret until Christmas was once again legal… almost 20 years later!

We wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas from all of us here!