Fun Christmas Facts

Did you know? According to Christian mythology, the Christmas Tree first gained significance when Saint Boniface cut down the holy Tree of Thor in Geismar, a Germanic town, to spite the pagans there. The earliest example of the tradition other than that was in the 1440s in what is now Estonia, where a guild began putting a tree up in their hall for winter festivals. It’s not believed to be specifically connected to the Yule Log traditions of those aforementioned affronted Germanic tribes. Traditions such as holly, wreaths, an overabundance of candles, and mistletoe did come from Yule, however.

Following the Reformation, there was a great deal of confusion over whether Christmas should be celebrated or not. The Puritans rejected it outright as a pagan holiday, while others didn’t want it to be a big celebration, just a recognition of the birth of Christ. That celebration was slowly dying out as church rituals by the 18th century. The beginnings of modern Christmas were mostly Victorian in nature, and widely popularized as a holiday for family and generosity thanks to Charles Dickens and The Christmas Carol.

And speaking of Christmas and Christ, ever hear someone upset over the term Xmas? Evangelist Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham) was one of the more vocal people claiming it was an attempt to clean Christ out of Christmas. The X originated from the Greek spelling of Christ, Χριστός. This is also where the XP logo originated, ☧, also called the labarum, created from the first two letters. X-Mas, Xte-Mas, and XP-Mas were used to refer to Christmas as early as 1021 AD in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a history of the Anglo Saxons written in monasteries of the day. The term was quite commonly used in the church itself, and X was often used in writing to refer to the cross itself. So suck on that, Graham!

The date of Christmas is awash in argument as well, relating to whether Christmas began on the 25th or was moved there to coincide with other assorted Winter holidays of the time. The Roman festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (Birthday of the Invincible Sun) was specifically celebrated on the 25th. Of course there were SCADS of Winter Solstice festivals (Yule, Saturnalia, Mummer’s Day, Modranecht), and it’s worth noting that the Roman calendar listed the 25th as the solstice. In 200AD, a group in Egypt was said to celebrate the birth of Christ on May 20th… so, yeah.

I always love reading up on traditions. The historical context, and what people believe to be the historical context, are often hilariously and radically different. I read up on Scottish traditions not long ago for the same reason. You know the short kilt worn by lots of people proclaiming Scottish heritage? It was invented in the early 18th century. In England. To capitalize on an English crazy for Scottish traditions at the time. Heh.