If you need a fun fact to pull out at a holiday party or to redirect the dinner table conversation away from more controversial fare, these surprising Christmas facts will come to your rescue.
Christmas wasn’t always on December 25
Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, but the precise day has been lost to history. The Bible makes no reference to December 25 and many historians agree that Jesus was most likely born in the spring. According to some historians, the date was initially picked because it was on the same day as the paganism festival of Saturnalia, which celebrated and gave gifts to the agricultural deity Saturn.
Gifts have both Christian and Pagan origins
Christians might have learned as children that the reason we give gifts at Christmas is to resemble the gifts the Three Wise Men gave the baby Jesus. But that has its origins in Saturnalia as do so many other customs. The pagans originally gave offerings to the gods, too.
You can thank Prince Albert for your Christmas tree
Brew a cup of tea when trimming your tree this year to pay homage to its origins. When Prince Albert of Germany got a tree for his new wife, Queen Victoria of England, the tradition really took off across the pond. A drawing of the couple in front of a Christmas first tree appeared in Illustrated London News in 1848. To use modern parlance, the idea went viral.
St. Nick was more generous than jolly
You probably already know that St. Nicholas is where the concept of Santa Claus originated. The saint didn’t actually have a beard or wear a crimson suit; that appearance arrived much later. The Christian bishop freed women from slavery and left the needy a sizable legacy in the fourth century. His name is Sinter Klaas in Dutch; Santa Claus is his English translation.
Astronauts broadcast ‘Jingle Bells’ from space’
In 1965, nine days before Christmas, two astronauts on board Gemini 6 reported seeing a ‘unidentified flying object’ entering Earth’s atmosphere while orbiting in a polar orbit from the north to south. Just as things got tense, they interrupted the broadcast with ‘Jingle Bells,’ as Wally Schirra played a small harmonica accompanied by Tom Stafford shaking a handful of small sleigh bells.
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