5 Things You May Not Know About Christmas Tyler Vendetti

As a self-declared Christmas fanatic, I pride myself on being able to sing the words to nearly every holiday song and find the perfect gifts for my friends and relatives at least 5 months in advance. However, my extensive knowledge of Christmas has its limits and every once in awhile, I come across a tidbit or two that I hadn’t heard before. Recently, I stumbled upon a handful of articles filled with fun Christmas facts that totally blew my mind and so I thought I’d share some with the lovely Internet community.

1) Santa’s reindeer are all female. 

Despite all of the TV specials that depict Rudolph and his friends as a pack of guys, Santa’s reindeer are technically supposed to be all girls. While male reindeer typically shed their antlers sometime in November or the beginning of December, females shed their antlers in the spring after they give birth. Therefore, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has been wrongly identified as male this entire time. (Talk about embarrassing.) This fact isn’t entirely proven, however. Some researchers have argued that Santa’s reindeer may be “steers,” castrated reindeer that are stronger and retain their antlers for longer periods of time. Others have suggested that the male reindeer were just late bloomers and didn’t drop their head-branches (I’ve said “antlers” too many times in this paragraph; I’m just trying to switch it up…) until late December. If Santa’s deer-pack is all female, though, someone better start re-writing Rudolph’s theme song. “Then all the reindeer loved HER, as they shouted out with glee…”

2) Martin Luther was the first person to decorate a Christmas Tree.

Rumor has it that one evening, as Martin Luther was walking towards his home, he noticed the stars shining in through the evergreens and decided he wanted to recreate the scene for his family. After lugging a tree into his house, Luther decorated the tree with lit candles, thus initiating the tree-lighting tradition. I’m not going to comment on the fact that putting lit candles on an incredibly flammable tree was a totally reckless move on Luther’s part because I have 11 months out of the year to be Scrooge and I’m going to try to look on the bright side (pun definitely intended) but if I were going to point out such a detail, that’s what I would say. Candles weren’t the weirdest tree decoration back in the day, believe it or not. Even before Luther’s nighttime stroll, medieval actors used to decorate trees with apples during “Paradise Plays,” which depicted the story of Adam and Eve.

3) The “X” in “X-Mas” comes from the Greek.

One of the things that I find most shocking in life is that I used the term “x-mas” at least one hundred times without ever questioning what the “X” stood for. At first, I thought it was meant to represent Jesus’ crucifixion (if you stare at the X sideways, it kind of looks like a cross…) but then I discovered the real, more logical explanation. The word “Christmas” is derived from the Old English phrase Cristes mæsse meaning Christ’s Mass. In Greek, “X” is the first letter of “Christ” so “X-Mas” is just one big switcheroo. I can’t stop you from calling your friend Christina “X-ina” but I can at least tell you where the abbreviation comes from.

4) Candy canes represent the staffs of the shepards who visited baby Jesus.

Apparently, candy canes are not just minty snacks that “shopping mall Santa” hand out after forcing a very uncomfortable family photo out of you. Around the 1670s, a German choirmaster was looking for a way to prevent children from talking during church. He asked a candymaker to create a bunch of Christianity-themed sweets that he could use to distract the kids and lower the noise level. Under the choirmaster’s instructions, the candy maker added a hook to the top of the candy stick to help the kids remember the shepards who visited baby Jesus. Even the colors of the candy cane were intentional: white was often seen as representing “purity” and red symbolized Christ’s sacrifice. Therefore, the red and white peppermint stick is, in reality, one giant (errr, mini) religious emblem. (Source)

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  1. The idea of Santa Clause was probably influenced by St. Nick. However, we, in Europe, celebrate St. Nick on the 6th of Dec and he has nothing to do with Christmas anyhow!

  2. This was great! This best-written HelloGiggles article I’ve read yet.

  3. The traditions of the Germanic festival of Yule were “absorbed” by the Christians, and since the Heathen and Christian celebrations were aligned, they are still practiced now at Christmastime. Evergreen wreaths and garlands, Yule logs, Christmas ham (Yule boar,) carol singing, etc. Also, Santa and many of the things we associate with him, like his long beard, his clothing, his “ho! ho! ho!”, and his nickname, Old St. Nick, seem to be borrowed from the Germanic Heathen god Odin, mixed with the spirit/ideas of the Christian St. Nicholas. Interestingly enough, two of Santa’s reindeer are more recently named Donner and Blitzen (previously name, it’s said, Dunder and Blixem,) or lightning and thunder, two symbols associated with Odin.

  4. I love the first fact. Who knew Santa used female reindeer. The Martin Luther thing is a strange one.

  5. This list should be titled “5 (Only Slightly True) Things Christians Tell You To Believe About Christmas”

  6. Great post! Just came across an article on Mental Floss about reindeer.

  7. According to Christmas lore, the early Coca-Cola ads featuring Santa were what established Santa as he looks today. That’s why his suit is red and white :) That may not be true, but that’s what I heard :)

    Very interesting article, by the way :) It makes me happy to know that there are people who have actually put time and energy into figuring out whether Santa’s reindeer are male or female :)

  8. I have learnt that Americans spell shepherds “shepards” and leave cookies and milk out for Father Christmas instead of good old sherry and a mince pie.

  9. Thanks for these facts! Great to look back on how things started. Love the story about Martin Luther and history of St. Nicholas.

  10. Also, according to the church calendar, Advent starts four Sundays before Christmas and goes through Christmas Eve. The Christmas season starts on Christmas Day and goes until Epiphany starts on Jan 6, when the wise men come. Thus, the “12 Days of Christmas” start on Christmas Day. Jan 5 is the “Twelfth Night” of the season and is referred to by Shakespeare’s play. Happy Advent!

  11. How fun! I love Christmas :D

  12. The way modern Santa looks started in the 1930′s with Coca-Cola. The illustrator they hired to make Santa look more “wholesome” and “modern” modeled him after the description used in ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas. (source: http://www.coca-colacompany.com/holidays/the-true-history-of-the-modern-day-santa-claus)

  13. This was cute :)