When there’s an awkward silence at the Christmas dinner table, why not bring up some of these fun Christmas-filled facts to get an interesting conversation started?
1. Santa Claus is actually based on a real person, St Nikolaos of Myra who lived during the fourth century. Born in Patara (in Turkey’s Mediterranean coast), legend has it, he was able to resurrect children and calm storms though his prayers.
2. In St Nikolaos of Myra’s most famous exploits, he aided a poor man who had three daughters and could not afford a dowry (money brought by a bride to give to her husband) for them. This meant they would remain unmarried. So Nikolas, going undercover, threw three purses into the home’s open window for the daughters.
3. According to myth, a precursor to the modern Santa Claus was the Viking god Odin. To deliver both gifts ad punishments to children during the wintertime, he rode his flying steed, Sleipnir who had eight legs. Children would fill their boots or stockings with treats such as hat and carrots for Sleipnir upon their visit.
4. The first person to decorate a Christmas tree is believed to be German professor, Martin Luther who lived from 1483-1546. According to stories, he was so moved by the beauty of stars shining between the branches of a fir tree, that he brought home an evergreen tree and decorated it with candles to share the image with his children.
5. On a snowy Christmas Eve in the year 1843, Columbian professor Clement Clarke Moore penned the whimsical tale, ‘A Visit From St Nicholas’ to read to his children. The tale, now known as, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ would eventually help define Santa Claus mythology.
6. Legend has it that kissing under the mistletoe comes from ancient Norse mythology. The story goes that beloved god Baldur was killed by an enemy’s arrow made of mistletoe. His mother, goddess Frigg wept tears onto the arrow which transformed into white berries. After placing them on Baldur’s wound, he was brought back to life. Overjoyed, Frigg blessed the mistletoe plant and promised a kiss to all who passed beneath it.
7. According to the Guinness world records, the tallest Christmas tree ever cut was a 221-foot Douglas fir that was displayed in 1950 at the Northgate Shopping Centre in Seattle, Washington.
8. The traditional three colours of Christmas are green, red, and gold. Green has long been a symbol of life and rebirth; red symbolises the blood of Christ, and gold represents light as well as wealth and royalty.
9. The world’s largest Christmas stocking measured 106 feet and 9 inches (32.56 m) long and 49 feet and 1 inch (14.97 m) wide. It weighed as much as five reindeer and held almost 1,000 presents. It was made by the Children’s Society in London on December 14, 2007.
10. In Poland, spiders or spider webs are common Christmas trees decorations because according to legend, a spider wove a blanket for Baby Jesus. In fact, Polish people consider spiders to be symbols of goodness and prosperity at Christmas.
11. The earliest known Christmas tree decorations were apples. At Christmastime, medieval actors would use apples to decorate paradise trees (usually fir trees) during “Paradise Plays,” which were plays depicting Adam and Eve’s creation and fall.
12. “Silent Night” was first sung as part of a church service in Austria. A guitar was used because the church organ was so badly rusted it couldn’t be played.
13. The popular Christmas song “Jingle Bells” was actually written for Thanksgiving. The song was composed in 1857 by James Pierpont, and was originally called “One Horse Open Sleigh”.
14. We frequently abbreviate Christmas as X-mas because of ancient tradition. X is the Greek letter “chi” which is an abbreviation for the word “Christ” in Greek.
15. Charles Dickens grew up during a ‘Little Ice Age’ and hence it snowed for each of his first 8 Christmases influencing his writing and hence today’s tradition of a ‘White Christmas’.