Don’t you just love Christmas trivia?
Of course you do. You can use it at the Christmas get-together to get the conversation flowing, or better still: win! If you happen to be playing a game that is based on information about this, one of the most important holidays of the year for Christian influenced civilizations everywhere.
So, since Christmas 2015 is just a few days away, here’s 6 intriguing Christmas facts for your amusement or personal knowledge.
1. Why December 25th?
The most sincere answer is that no one knows for sure. But there are various accounts claiming various explanation.
One explanation is that this was the date for Christ’s birth hinted at indirectly, because the Bible mentions his conception on the 25th of March. However, others contest this saying that the Hebrew terms for date were misinterpreted.
Another is that Pope Julius the Ist just chose 25th December (for whatever reasons), to end the whole confusion and have a firm Nativity date. It’s a fact that he really did chose 25 December for Christmas officialy.
Still, another explanation is that when Christianity was in its early days, it had to tread carefully as it wrested followers from other older religions. So it used the method of taking famous holidays from such cults and transforming them into Christian ones. As such, it would seem more than a coincidence that the Roman Saturnalia was celebrated precisely on the 25th of December. And that the first attested celebration of Christmas on the 25th was at the behest of the first Christian Roman Emperor (Constantine the Great)…
Yours to decide. The fact is, we now celebrate Christ’s birth on the 25th of December, despite mentions in the Bible of shepherds herding animals at his birth (which tends not to happen in the winter).
2. The Name Itself
The etymology of Christmas leads back to the “Christes Maesse” from Old English, which means “Christ’s Mass”. It’s a very old term, originating around 1123 in the mentioned form. Then, it started being used as one word starting with the latter half of the 14th Century.
3. Who is Santa Claus
Another case of a mixing of elements from various other cultures and stories, modern day Santa Claus draws its roots from the British personage of Father Christmas, first attested in a carol from the period in which the Richard Smart, Rector of Plymtree lived (1435-1477).
But there are many more influences after that: the Greek Saint Nicholas, the Dutch Sinterklaas, as well as many authors who took the character further and embellished him with their own additions. To name but a few (and the most crucial in his development): Washington Irving, Thomas Nast, Charles Dickens and the anonymous one who wrote the poem “A visit from Saint Nicholas” (1823).
4. Rudolph The Branding Success
Though at some point in his various stages of evolution Santa Claus did become the guy who drives a wagon filled with gifts that can simply fly through the sky, the whole reindeer thing didn’t happen until much later. In 1939, to be exact, when a copywriter named Robert L. May created the now legendary character for a marketing campaign for a department store.
Goes to show that legends are still being created in our times, eh?
5. Space Honors
Switching off to more modern events, Christmas is so influential that it, of course, couldn’t help but make a name for itself in space related events either.
In 1965, the Gemini VI astronauts Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra smuggled a harmonica and some bells on board their ship and waited until they were in space to alert mission control that they had just spotted an object that “looks like a satellite going from north to south, up in a polar orbit.”
After which, they proceeded to sing Jingle Bells, in honor of having “seen” Santa, the mysterious object they were not so subtly hinting at, from space. The song thus became the first song broadcast from space.
6. A Powerful Time Of Year
Perhaps one of the most impressive feats ascribed to the Christmas holiday is how its ability to make men reflect more on the better part of human nature actually leads to some startling practical results. Like what is now known as the Christmas Truce of 1914.
What minor military engagement does this pertain to you ask? Oh, just the First World War, during which, after its first few months, in the first winter, German soldiers facing English ones across the trenches came out in the week leading to Christmas to wish them Merry Christmas in English.
After the initial seconds of the “it’s a trap” reflex, the English soldiers came out as well and both groups shook hands over no man’s land, exchanged holiday greetings and even gifts.
The biggest of which was of course, the few days of interrupted violence and death.
So, remember the power of Christmas and the good it can do. Put a smile on your face and get ready to go make others smile as well in a few days. You know what? Why not start right now?