Four Facts About Christmas You Probably Didn’t Know

by Seasonal Wisdom on December 22, 2010

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Christmas may be one of America’s favorite holidays, but it’s rather surprising how little folks know about this day. Here are four strange facts about Christmas you probably didn’t know:

Christmas was Against the Law: It’s true. Christmas was declared illegal in England by Protestant extremists during the English Reformation (1640s to 1660). In other words, citizens were forbidden to sing carols, decorate their homes or prepare the traditional Christmas goose.

“… no observation shall be had of the five and twentieth day of December,
commonly called Christmas Day;
nor any solemnity used or exercised in churches
upon that day in respect thereof.”
An Order of the English Parliament, December 23, 1652

Even in the American Colonies, it was a penal offense to observe Christmas in New England. The law was declared in 1659 and continued until the 19th century, when the influx of German and Irish immigrants lessened the puritanical strictness.

In Scotland, Christmas was banned for nearly 400 years … from the 1580s until the 1950s. It wasn’t until 1958 that it became an official public holiday.


Photo: A neighbor’s tree during a recent snow storm

Christmas Trees Weren’t Popular:The Christmas tree got off to a rocky start in the United States. German settlers had brought their rich tradition to this country, and trees were found in the Pennsylvania settlements as early as 1747; but they weren’t accepted by mainstream society. Many considered Christmas trees to be dangerous pagan symbols.
The custom caught on when the English Queen Victoria was photographed with her German husband Prince Albert with a Christmas tree in the Illustrated London News in 1846.  The rest is history.

The tradition spread throughout England, Europe, Russia and the United States. By the 20th century, the Christmas tree was firmly entrenched in our nation’s culture.

Meanwhile, don’t let that Christmas tree end up in the landfill. Here are earth-friendly ways to recycle your Christmas Tree — from pine-needle bath oil to creative ideas for the garden.


Photo: Christnas decorations found while walking my pup

Santa’s Big Start: Believe it or not, but Santa Claus and Rip Van Winkle have something very important in common. Washington Irving — the author of “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” — introduced Santa Claus to the United States.

Irving adapted legends about a Dutch Saint Nicholas to create his best-selling 1809 Knickerbockers’ History of New York. In this story, he gave the first literary description of Saint Nicholas in this country.

The legend traveled fast. Before long, the character evolved into the loveable Santa Claus we know today.

Xmas Not So Bad: Those eager to keep “Christ” in Christmas needn’t worry about using “Xmas.” The letter X is the first letter in the Greek word for Christ — Xristos.

So, saying or writing Xmas is actually quite appropriate, when you think about it.

Ho ho ho… happy holidays everyone!

More strange Christmas facts you probably didn’t know. Vintage Christmas cards of the twentieth century.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Kat December 25, 2009 at 12:37 am

What fun holiday trivia. Thanks for sharing. I hadn't heard the one about Christmas being illegal before. The Protestants should have learned from the Grinch that you can keep Christmas from coming.

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Seasonal Wisdom December 25, 2009 at 3:37 pm

Hi Kat:

Isn't history strange? Ironically, one of the reasons Christmas was outlawed was because the holiday seemed too papist (or Catholic)to those in power. Anyway, I'm glad we're allowed to celebrate again now. ;)

Enjoy your holidays, and thanks for stopping by. Teresa

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myrubberboots December 25, 2009 at 5:03 pm

These are great! We were just having a conversation about Xmas. Thanks for all the great history. Merry Christmas!

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Seasonal Wisdom December 25, 2009 at 5:26 pm

Thanks, Angela. Merry merry to you. It was great meeting you via Twitter. Here's to a peaceful and prosperous 2010… Teresa

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Connie December 29, 2009 at 2:55 am

A very interesting post. Hope your Christmas was Merry, and I wish you a Happy New Year!

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Seasonal Wisdom December 29, 2009 at 3:20 am

Thanks very much, Connie. Appreciate your comments. Here's to a peaceful and prosperous new year.

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Kim and Victoria December 29, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Merry Christmas Teresa!

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Seasonal Wisdom December 29, 2009 at 6:07 pm

Miss seeing you around, Kim and Victoria. Thanks for stopping by and hope to see you again soon! Ho ho ho…

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patty craft December 29, 2009 at 9:12 pm

Love the picture with this post. I was just telling my 26-year-old daughter and her husband about how we used to melt tinsel over those old-fashioned fat bulbs! LOL

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Seasonal Wisdom December 29, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Thanks, Patty. A neighbor gave me a box full of old vintage lights, tinsel and ornaments. All barely used or never open. Can you believe that tinsel only cost 25 cents?

Happy holidays. Teresa

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Anonymous December 23, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Thanks for your posts. I've just cleaned out a bunch of news links freinds have share but will keep yours coming. JD

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Seasonal Wisdom December 23, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Thanks JD: Appreciate your message and hope you have a terrific holiday. Here are more fun facts about Christmas. Enjoy! And thanks for stopping by… http://www.seasonalwisdom.com/2010/12/fun-facts-about-christmas.html

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Jen December 13, 2012 at 6:04 am

Funny info. Most of the Repubs crying about a war on Christmas seem to be Protestants — and they’re the ones in this country who actually DID war on Christmas, because it was too papist. More people should read history. Thank you!

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Seasonal Wisdom December 13, 2012 at 6:13 am

Hi Jen: Yes, different religious groups have had different approaches to Christmas throughout the centuries. And as I always say, “history is really stranger than fiction!” Thanks for stopping by, Teresa

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