Top 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Christmas

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Christmas is the most celebrated holiday of the year, but how much do you know about it really? How many of you know who the first person to decorate a Christmas tree was? Any idea who invented electric Christmas lights? This list will give you all the answers you are looking for, and enlighten you about ten not so well-known facts about Christmas.

10. The First Person to Decorate a Christmas Tree was Martin Luther

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There are a several versions of the story regarding the first Christmas tree in history. For example, there is the story of the first ever decorated Christmas tree taking place in Riga, the capital city of Latvia. However, the most credible and accurate story credits the founder of Protestantism, Martin Luther, as the first person ever to decorate a Christmas tree. As the story goes, the German theologian and monk was walking in the woods and was inspired by the beauty of all the shining stars in the sky. He decided that, from a distance, they looked like tree branches. So he decided to cut down a small tree and take it back home. He placed many small candles on the branches of the tree, and from there, the idea of a Christmas tree was born.

9. Jingle Bells Originally Had a Different Title and Wasn’t a Christmas Song

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There’s no way you haven’t heard this Christmas song at least once in your lifetime. It plays 24/7 on TV, commercials, Christmas movies, the mall PA — hell, even in Christmas cards. What you might not know however, is that Jingle Bells wasn’t written with Christmas in mind. For that matter, “Jingle Bells” wasn’t even the original title of the song! The original title was the cheeky “One Horse Open Sleigh,” and it was written for a school celebration regarding Thanksgiving. Slowly but surely the lyrics changed, as did the title, and now you can hear it every Christmas season, in over 50 different languages if you like.

8. Edward Johnson Invented Electric Christmas Lights

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Edward Johnson was an inventor that never created anything of value. The only highlight of his career was that he often worked with the legendary Thomas Edison. All this changed in 1882, when Johnson created the first-ever electric Christmas lights, for personal use at his home in New York. Though very much a one-hit wonder, these lights were enough of a hit to permanently etch his name onto the long list of great American inventors.

7. The Magi Brought Jesus Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh for a Reason

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According to Christian tradition, the Biblical Magi -also known as Wise Men- offered gold, myrrh and frankincense as gifts for Jesus’ birth. The selection of the specific gifts wasn’t coincidental, as each one of the gifts had great symbolism.

Gold was a gift usually offered to kings at the time, so this was how the Wise Men recognized Jesus as a king and honored his Kingdom of Heaven. As for frankincense, it was and still is regularly used in religious ceremonies, and symbolized Jesus’ divinity. Finally, myrrh was frequently used at the time -due to its strong and pleasant perfume – in embalming the dead. It’s almost as if the Wise Men knew that one day Jesus would perform the ultimate sacrifice, and die for everybody’s sins.

6. Christmas Has Set Several Musical Records

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Christmas and music go together in many different ways and, as such, have set many records together over the years. For example, “Last Christmas” by Wham if the highest-selling single in UK history not to reach #1. In fact, with nearly 10 million copies sold, it’s the most commercially successful single in history not to reach #1 in any major chart.

Bing Crosby didn’t have such issues. His version of “White Christmas” is the highest-selling single of all time, with more than 50 million copies sold worldwide.

Christmas loved Elvis too. Despite his status as the highest-selling solo artist in history, the only album of his to achieve Diamond status (10 million copies sold in the US) is “Elvis’ Christmas Album,” which also happens to be the highest-selling Christmas album ever.

Last but not least, The Beatles hold the record for most Christmas number ones in the UK, topping the charts four times: 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1967.

5. The Norse God Odin was the Original Santa Claus

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Most are aware of the ferocious Norse God, Odin, but not many know that he was the mythical figure most responsible for inspiring the birth of Santa Claus.

According to Pagan myths, Odin was the leader of the Wild Hunt every Yule –the equivalent of Christmas for the Germanic Pagan Tribes- and he would ride his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir around the whole time. Sleipnir could cover long distances in a very short period of time, just like Santa’s sleigh and reindeer. According to the same traditions, children would fill their boots with carrots, straw and sugar, and place them near the chimney for Odin’s flying horse to eat while resting. Odin would then return the favor and reward those children for their kindness by leaving gifts, toys, and candies in the boots. Sound familiar?

4. White is Not One of the Traditional Colors of Christmas

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A recent poll in Australia showed most people were unaware that there are three traditional Christmas colors: green, red, and gold. The same poll also showed that many people believe white is a Christmas color, due t the whole snow thing, but clearly those people were very wrong.

The three Christmas colors all have special meaning. Green, strongly represented by the Christmas tree, symbolizes life and rebirth. Also, in some Christian nations such as Greece and Romania, green symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus. Meanwhile, red represents the blood of Jesus, as well as the apples on the tree that Eve ate from just prior to her and Adam’s banishment from Eden. Finally, gold symbolizes the bright, spiritual light that Jesus brings thanks to His birth and resurrection.

3. The First Song Ever Composed and Recorded in Space was about Christmas

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Chris Hadfield is a decorated astronaut, known for being the first Canadian in history to spacewalk. He’s also famous for composing and recording the first-ever song in space. “Jewel in the Night,” his musical best wishes to family, friends, and Mother Earth was backed by an acoustic guitar and uploaded to YouTube on Christmas Eve 2012. It has since been heard almost 250,000 times, and will probably be the first thing intergalactic carolers hear if they ever visit our little blue marble for Christmas.

2. According to Facebook, It’s Cool to Break Up with Your Partner For Christmas

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If you are in a problematic relationship and are looking for the right time to break up, we might have a great solution for you. According to a study on Facebook, two weeks before Christmas is one of the most popular times of year for people to break up. While nobody’s completely sure why, we’re guessing the fact that suddenly-single people have one less present to shop for might be at least one of the reasons.

However, we’re not encouraging anyone to break up during Christmas. In fact, like Alfie said in his eponymous film: “Couples should never split up between Thanksgiving and January 2nd. Always have a relationship to see you through the holidays. Always.”

1. Science Explains why Rudolph has a Red Nose

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We all know Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the most famous of all Santa’s helpers. However, how many of you know why he has a red nose? Some experts attempted to give a scientific answer to this question, because disease-curing wasn’t terribly interesting that day. The British Medical Journal took samples of mucus from the noses of five humans and two reindeer who all live in really cold places, just like Rudolph. The results of this scientific research concluded that Rudolf’s red nose is a result of the extremely low temperatures he has to face while flying during the icy nights, along with the excessive fatigue from overworking during Christmas.

As far as the black noses on the other eight reindeer go, they probably just have better immune systems. Also, they’re probably much much lazier than Rudolph, which is why nobody sings about them.


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11 Comments

  1. I think Santa Claus was more inspired by the Dutch Sinterklaas (saint Nicholaas) You should look it up, they also look a lot alike except for the fact that Santa Claus (being a Coca Cola invention) was a lot fatter. But in the end Santa Claus is a mashup of more then one European holiday/mythical figures.

  2. I don’t think he was a Dutch, I think the legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey which I believe makes him a Turkish, great list by the way

  3. If you first consider, Jesus, being the “reason for the season”, everything else is simply tinsel and happenstance.

    Just enjoy! He’d have it no other way.

    Peace!

  4. Sleipnir:
    8 legged horse.
    Reindeer:
    8 reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh.
    Coincidence? Or symbolism of 1 reindeer being representative of each of Sleipnir’s legs?
    Even the list could tie in to Odin’s story as he was known to have 2 ravens or crows that he could use to watch the world and report to him on any thing and any one of interest. Add in Odin also having Heimdall watching every thing in all 9 worlds of Norse myth, and you have some of the basis for the stories of Santa knowing who’s been good/bad and awake/sleeping.
    As for Saint Nick from Turkey, he was the human inspiration that was combined with parts of the mythological to create what we now know as Santa.

  5. Amazing list guys. Theodoros you did it again brother. I always learn something new when I read your pieces and that’s why you are my favourite writer.

    • In case some guys wonder….No I didn’t go crazy or something. I was just reading this list to my 5 months baby-son and he stopped crying. At the end he was laughing and had fun with the images of the list. So this was a comment from my son not a “self-treatment” …..And yeah he calls his daddy either “chap” or “brother.” He’s a tinker like that. Merry Christmas everybody !!!!!!!

  6. The problem with those Odin-St. Nicolaus connections is that there is no contemporary evidence. All those similarities are there because they were written down in a time where St. Nicolaus and even already Santa Claus were celebrated in that way.

    That Martin Luther decorated the first Christmas Tree is also quite wrong. Plants as decoration were commonly used for many festivals religious or not. If you look at pictures of German festivities around in the 1920s you often see stages decorated with pine branches. That the specific use of a Christmans Tree has a Protestant origin, might be true though, because for a long time the Catholioc church was against its use. That Luther himself put up the first one is a legend though.

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