The most contemplative season of the year has begun, and all world travelers and adventurers have returned home to roost, at least for a short time, to enjoy the Christmas holiday. But even at Christmas time, there’s still room to have a little fun – and luckily, Christmas’ litany of traditions, both ancient and modern, offer countless curiosities to put us in the holiday spirit. Voilà: Our collection of 10 Christmas curiosities!
- At the end of the 1990’s, a study considered whether or not Santa Claus could actually exist from a scientific perspective. Using the available statistical information, it was determined that Santa’s sleigh would have to move at a speed of 1040 km/hour to deliver his presents by morning.
- Some people enjoy an imposing Christmas tree practically dripping with ornaments, while others take a more ecologically-centered approach, painting their tree directly onto a wall. But into the 20th century, it was actually common to hang the tree from the ceiling, like a gigantic piece of mistletoe. Great, more space for presents!
- In Great Britain and the USA, there are seminars for would-be Santa Clauses, where you can learn what it takes to be Santa. Together with a cadre of well-trained Christmas elves, they learn about the newest must-have toys, CD’s and computer games.
- Where does Santa Claus really live? Well, that depends on who you ask: In the USA and Europe, it’s believed he lives at the north pole. In Finland, tradition holds that he lives in Lapland (where he has even constructed his own Christmas village). The Swedish Tomte, in contrast, has no fixed residence at all. The same goes for St. Nicholas: While the Swiss believe he rides a donkey out of the Black Forest along with his “Schmutzli”, the Dutch say he comes by steamship from Spain.
- Everything seems to be a little bit different at Christmas time, and that includes fashion. During the holidays, you can throw your traditional fashion sense out the window, and revel in the exuberant tastelessness. A particular development of recent years has been the “Ugly Christmas Sweater” trend. You’ll see everything from winter landscapes to tinsel or even Christmas ornaments.
- Girl power! Male reindeer actually lose their antlers every year around the Christmas season. In contrast, female reindeer – who, by the way, are the only species of reindeer with antler-equipped females – don’t lose their antlers until much later in spring. That means that all of Santa’s reindeer should actually be female, and Rudolf should really be named Rudolfine.
- The University of Scranton analyzed letters written by children to Santa from 1998 to 2010, and concluded that children have become progressively more rude over time.
- Everyone knows Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” – in particular the joyful ending of most versions of the tale, where a previously bitter but freshly softened Ebenezer Scrooge dines with the poor Cratchit family. But in the original version of the story, Scrooge doesn’t share a Christmas feast with the Cratchits, but rather with his well-heeled nephew.
- The celebration of Christmas was banned in England from 1646 to 1660. Oliver Cromwell, head of state at the time, considered the festivities immoral and anyone caught indulging in the Christmas spirit was handed a lengthy prison sentence.
- There’s nothing more heartwarming than hearing a children’s choir sing “We wish you a merry Christmas”! But in the 16th century, this song was actually a drinking song. A bit like Halloween today, it was sung from house to house by friends and family as a type of kind-hearted “demand” for drinks and snacks. That explains many of the song’s odd lyrics, such as the line “We won’t go until we get some, so bring it out here.”
And with that, happy holidays!