Christmas is a contraction of “Christ’s Mass,” which is derived from the Middle English Cristemasse, which in turn comes from the Old English Cristesmæsse, a phrase first recorded waa-aay back in 1038.
Hanging stockings out comes from the Dutch custom of leaving shoes packed with food for St Nicholas’s donkeys. He would leave small gifts in return.
The tradition of putting tangerines in stockings comes from 12th-century French nuns who left socks full of fruit, nuts and tangerines at the houses of the poor.
Boxing Day gets its name from all the money collected in church alms-boxes for the poor.
The first commercial Christmas cards were commissioned by civil servant Sir Henry Cole in London in 1843. Featuring a family drinking wine, one sold for £8,469 in 2014.
Robins on cards started as a joke 150 years ago when postmen wore red tunics and were named after them.
The christmas cracker was invented by a London sweet shop owner called Tom Smith. In 1847, after spotting French bonbons wrapped in paper with a twist at each end, he sold similar sweets with a “love motto” inside. He then included a little trinket and a “bang”. His “Bangs of Expectation” included gifts such as jewellery and miniature dolls. By 1900, he was selling 13 million a year.
According to tradition, you should eat one mince pie on each of the 12 days of Christmas to bring good luck.
It’s technically illegal to eat mince pies on Christmas Day in England. In the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas pudding, mince pies and anything to do with gluttony. The law has never been rescinded.
Why red, gold and green? Green has long been a symbol of life and rebirth; red symbolizes the blood of Christ, and gold represents light as well as wealth and royalty.
Mistletoe (Viscum album) is from the Anglo-Saxon word misteltan, which means “little dung twig” because the plant spreads though bird droppings.Chriiist-mas tiiime, little dung twig and wine...
Santa hasn’t always dressed in red. Pre 1930s there were many different variations of Santa, sporting a variety of different coloured garments and ranging in size from big to small. Some people claim the modern day image of Santa Claus was created by Coca-Cola, but this isn’t strictly true. The original red-suited Santa became popular in the US and Canada in the 19th century due to the influence of caricaturist and cartoonist Thomas Nast. Coca-Cola commissioned their depiction of Santa in 1931.
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer was invented for a US firm’s Christmas promotion in 1938.
The Yule Log was originally an entire tree that was carefully chosen and brought into the house with great ceremony and burned over the 12 days of Christmas. A Chocolate Yule Log or ‘bûche de Noël’ is now a popular Christmas desert, made of a chocolate sponge roll layered with cream. The outside is covered with chocolate or chocolate icing and decorated to look like a bark-covered log.
Traditionally, families gather together in the kitchen of their homes to mix and steam Christmas pudding on Stir-up Sunday, the last Sunday before Advent. Everyone takes a turn to stir the pudding mix and make a special wish for the year ahead.
Holly and Ivy have been used to decorate homes since the 9th century because they symbolise everlasting life. The holly represents Christ’s crown of thorns and the berries his blood.
The word “Carol” actually means dance or song of praise and joy, and they used to be sung during all four seasons, but the tradition of only singing them at Christmas is the only one to survive.Christmas facts in numbers
The origins of there being Three Wise Men aren’t clear. There’s certainly no mention of it in the bible - in the Gospel of Matthew it refers to just “wise men”.
The chances of a White Christmas are just 1 in 10 for England and Wales, and 1 in 6 for Scotland and Northern Ireland.
16 - The average number of Christmas presents a UK child receives.
6 million is the number of rolls of sellotape that will be sold in the UK in the run up to Christmas (5.99 million - the number of rolls where you can’t find where the tape ends).
13% of families in the UK always attend church on Christmas Day.
27% of families sit down to watch the Queen’s Speech.
According to a survey conducted in 2016, 57% of adults in the UK would gladly sacrifice seeing relatives on Christmas day if it meant they could spend more time on Facebook. Bah Humbug!
According to Matalan, 82% of people surveyed own a Christmas jumper, with 25-34 year olds the most likely to buy one. Over 75% of people buy their festive jumper to wear for a work event, whilst over half wear one on Christmas Day.
6.8 million - The number of iOS and Android devices that will be activated on Christmas day.
4.25 million - The approx number of British people who will travel abroad for Christmas. Good job Santa knows where to visit!
The abbreviation Xmas isn’t irreligious. The letter X is a Greek abbreviation for Christ.
For a Christmas to be officially classified as “white” a single snow flake needs to be observed falling in the 24 hours of 25th December on the rooftop of the Met Office HQ in London.
During the 20th century there were only seven official white Christmases in the United Kingdom.
Ebenezer Scrooge’s famous line “Bah Humbug” almost never existed. Charles Dickens’ initial choice was “Bah Christmas”.
The Star of Bethlehem - the one the wise men followed to find the little baby Jesus - was probably a comet, or Uranus.
Nearly 60 million Christmas Trees are grown each year in Europe.
8 million natural Christmas trees are bought by consumers in the UK each year.
In the UK, natural Christmas trees outsell artificial Christmas trees by a ratio of 3:1.
The bestselling Christmas single ever is Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, shifting over 50 million copies worldwide since 1942.
In Britain, the best-selling festive single is Band Aid’s 1984 track, Do They Know It’s Christmas?, which sold 3.5million copies. Wham! is next in the same year with Last Christmas, selling 1.4million.
The Beatles hold the record for most Christmas number 1 singles with FOUR, topping the charts in 1963, 64, 65 and 67. Cliff Richard (1960, 1988 and 1990) and The Spice Girls (1996, 1997 and 1998) have three each.
Paul McCartney earns £250,000 a year off his Christmas song, Wonderful Christmas Time.
Who earns the most royalties from their Christmas songs? Well, Mariah Carey makes about £375,000 per year from All I Want For Christmas and the Pogues make about £400,000 from Fairytale of New York. But top of the tree are Slade, who are reckoned to earn £500,000 per year from Merry Christmas Everybody,
Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen is the only record to get the UK Christmas Singles Chart Number One twice, once in 1975 and again in 1991. “Do They Know It’s Christmas” was number 1 three times (1984, 1989 and 2004), but technically it was by different groups, so doesn’t count.
Singer Brenda Lee recorded the original version of “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” when she was only 13 years old.
The first song ever broadcast was a Christmas Carol. On Christmas Eve, 1906, the Canadian inventor Reginald Fessenden (1866-1932) played “O Holy Night” on the violin and sang the final verse while broadcasting from his Brant Rock radio tower in Massachusetts.
In a survey carried out in the UK in 2016, Silent Night was voted as the nation’s favourite Christmas carol. O Holy Night was second, which has been sung by Mariah Carey, Cher and Big Crosby, and held the number one spot from 2003 to 2013. Hark The Herald Angels Sing was third.
It’s A Wonderful Life was mentioned in an FBI file in 1947, when an analyst expressed concern that the film was an obvious attempt to discredit bankers, a “common trick used by communists.” It's A Wonderful Life is my own personal favourite Christmas film.
Ever wondered why George looks strangely sweaty in the scene where he and Clarence are on the bridge? It’s because on the day of filming it was actually 90 degrees.
In White Christmas, the part of Betty is played by Rosemary Clooney, who is George Clooney’s aunt.
The story for the movie Jingle All The Way starring Arnold Schwartzenegger was based on the shopping craze for Cabbage Patch Dolls in the ‘80s.Christmas facts about the amount of money spent
Brits love Christmas (official) – UK Christmas spending hit £77.56bn in 2016, up by 1.9% on the previous year and almost double the European average.
32.56 metres - The length of the longest ever Christmas Stocking. It was also 14.97 metres wide.
62,824 - The record number of Christmas cards sent by a single person in a year.
According to the Guinness World Records, the tallest Christmas tree ever cut was a 221-foot Douglas fir that was displayed in 1950 at the Northgate Shopping Center in Seattle, Washington.
In 1999, residents of the state of Maine in America built the world’s biggest ever snowman. He stood at 113ft tall.The world's tallest snowman and, one assumes, the world's biggest carrot
The largest ever Christmas cracker was 63.1m (207ft) long and 4m (13ft) in diameter and was made by the parents of children at Ley Hill School and Pre-School, Chesham, Buckinghamshire on 20th December 2001.
The most valuable Christmas card was sold at an auction in the UK in 2001 for £20,000.
Santa Claus has different names around the world - Father Christmas in the UK, Kriss Kringle in Germany, Le Befana in Italy, Pere Noel in France and Deushka Moroz (Grandfather Frost) in Russia among others...
Japanese people traditionally eat at KFC for Christmas dinner, thanks to a successful marketing campaign 40 years ago. KFC is so popular that customers must place their Christmas orders 2 months in advance.
A large part of Sweden’s population watches Donald Duck cartoons every Christmas Eve – a tradition that started in 1960.
A Food Network survey has revealed on average, British women do not attempt their first Christmas lunch until the age of 34. Nearly half of women polled said they felt a real sense of achievement when finally dishing up the Christmas dinner and 28% of British men admit that their partner’s dinner is better than their mother’s.
57 - The number of Olympic sized swimming pools that could be filled with the beer consumed in the UK over Xmas.
957 - The typical number of calories in the average Christmas dinner.
The average Brit consumes around 7,000 calories on Christmas day, and you’ll reach your recommended daily allowance at about 2pm.
The UK Brussels Sprouts industry (and yes, it’s Brussels sprout, not brussel sprout) is worth £650 million, and the area of the country covered by Brussels Sprouts fields is the equivalent to 3,240 football pitches.
Christmas pudding was originally a soup made with raisins and wine.
In Victorian times, in a reversal of modern UK tradition, turkey was seen as an expensive meat to eat on Christmas day, and goose was often eaten by poorer families. In A Christmas Carol, Bob Cratchitt was planning to have goose before Ebenezer Scrooge surprised him with the prize turkey. Goose used to be the poor man’s Christmas dinner!
10 million - The number of Turkeys cooked in the UK every Christmas.