The Christmas trees have been decorated, the halls have been decked with boughs of holly, and maybe even Santa’s reindeer’s have already started pawing the ground in anticipation of the big night. Christmas eve is almost upon us and though we all know so much about the beautiful festival, there is still a lot that remains a magical mystery to many people. So this yuletide, we decided to take a look at some of the lesser known facts about Christmas.
Christmas, a festival of love, happiness… and ghost stories?
Here’s a rather surprising Christmas tradition from the Victorian era that has sadly died out in the past century. Back in the day, it was traditional for people to gather around a fire on Christmas eve and share stories of ghosts and spectres. Why else would Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol be about ghosts? In fact, Dickens did a lot to keep Christmas spirits alive during the Industrial Revolution in England, a time when the festival was slowly dying out. But there is a more deeper explanation for this ghostly connection. Christmas falls on the pagan festival of Winter Solstice, a day which is supposed to have the longest night. This day symbolizes the death and re-birth of light and it is believed that on this day, the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is at its thinnest. And you thought Halloween was spooky!
The controversy surrounding ‘X-mas’
Christmas is often abbreviated to X-mas around the world. However, many people believe that dropping the word ‘Christ’ seems irreligious and hence avoid saying X-mas. Interestingly, the ‘X’ in X-mas is actually the Greek letter ‘chi’, which is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ. So it’s quite acceptable to write X-mas even though it is still pronounced as Christmas and not ‘ex-mas’.
Germany’s Prince Albert popularized the Christmas tree
Traditionally, the Germans were the first to bring the Christmas tree into their homes and decorate it for the festival. Prince Albert then brought it to England after he married Queen Victoria and the duo were sketched standing next to a Christmas tree. Celebrity fever was a thing even back then and it soon became a nationwide phenomenon.
The story behind Santa Claus
Most of us are aware that the modern day image of Santa Claus was crafted by the Coca Cola company and that in reality it was based on a historical figure named Saint Nicholas. But who was he really? Saint Nicholas (or Saint Nick) was a Christian bishop living in what is now Turkey in the 4th century. Apparently, Saint Nick had inherited a lot of money and he simply gave it all away to those in need. After attaining sainthood, he became the protector of children. In time his fame reached the Netherlands where he was called Sint-Nicolaas or Sinter Klaas, hence the name Santa Claus.
The Bible doesn’t mention 25th December as the birth of Christ
Even though Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, nowhere does the Bible mention a specific date. In fact, biblical scholars believe that Jesus was born sometime around spring. So why this particular date? 25th December in fact coincides with the pagan festival of Yule or Winter Solstice and it is believed that Church leaders picked this time on purpose. Even the word Yuletide has come to mean Christmastime instead of the original festival of Yule. Whatever, the case may be, yuletide has always been a magical festive time!