5 Things You May Not Know About Christmas
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)
5) Santa is real. And also Turkish.
The Santa Claus that slides down chimneys and delivers presents may not be real, but the jolly Santa figure had to come from somewhere. Santa Claus is based on the fourth century figure, St. Nicholas of Myra, the world’s most popular non-Biblical saint. Born in Patara (a modern-day area of Turkey), this ancient Santa figure was known to slip presents and coins into people’s shoes while they were sleeping. Many other stories sprung up around the figure (many of them myths), including the story of three girls who could not marry because they did not have any dowry. Supposedly, Saint Nick got wind of their problem and threw bags of coins down the chimney, which conveniently landed in their stockings that were hanging on the fireplace. The women found the money and were then allowed to marry. And so, the stocking tradition was born.
I have no idea where the idea of Santa as an overweight, red-faced grandpa came from, though, because according to my research (read: the Google search I just did), Santa looked more like this:
Do you know any fun facts about Christmas? What are they?
Image via Shutterstock.