Christmas Eve on December 24 kicks off a series of holiday traditions. Some are ancient practices with a modern spin, while others date back hundreds of years.
Around the world, Christmas Eve is celebrated with a variety of foods. In Italy, they celebrate the Feast of Seven Fishes. Russians traditionally serve a 12-dish Christmas Eve Supper before opening gifts. Meanwhile, in Bulgaria, the Christmas Eve meal consists of an odd number of meatless dishes.
Besides food and religious services, the holiday is when Santa Clause takes to the sky in his sleigh to deliver Christmas gifts around the world. Other names for the white-bearded man in a red suit include Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, and Saint Nicholas. No matter what he is called, the legend of Santa is based on a real-life man named Saint Nicholas of Myra.
- “Jingle Bells” was written for Thanksgiving, not Christmas. The song was written in 1857 by James Lord Pierpont and published under the title “One Horse Open Sleigh”.
- “Jingle Bells” was also the first song to be broadcast from space.
- Rudolph’s red nose is probably the result of a parasitic infection of his respiratory system.
- In Germany, Poland, and Ukraine, finding a spider or a spider’s web on a Christmas tree is believed to be a harbinger of good luck.
- Santa stretches time like a rubber band, in order to deliver all the gifts in one night. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), there are 2,106 million children under age 18 in the world. If we assume that each household has in average 2.5 children, Santa would have to make 842 million stops on Christmas Eve, traveling 221 million miles. Given the different time zones, Santa has 36 hours to deliver gifts, therefore his average speed would be approximately 650 miles per second.
- According to data analyzed from Facebook posts and statuses, couples are more likely to end their relationship two weeks before Christmas and two weeks after Valentine’s day, during the spring break.
- Japanese people traditionally eat at KFC for Christmas dinner. Every Christmas, kids, and grown-ups head to the closest KFC to enjoy some fried chicken – the closest food to turkey that you can get in Japan. It’s all thanks to a successful “Kentucky for Christmas!” marketing campaign in 1947.
- The first artificial Christmas Tree wasn’t a tree at all. It was created out of goose feathers that were dyed green. The first artificial Christmas trees were developed in Germany in the 19th century, due to major continuous deforestation.
- Iceland has 13 Santas and an old lady who kidnaps children. Christmas in Iceland is a colorful fusion of religion, fairy tales and folklore. Instead of one Santa, the kids are visited by 13 Yule Lads that either reward children for good behavior or punish them if they were naughty.
- Candy Canes have an ulterior motive! A German choirmaster invented Candy Canes in the 1600s as a way to keep children quiet during Christmas church ceremonies.
- On Christmas Eve 1968, Apollo 8 astronauts read from the Bible to one of history’s largest TV audiences while circling the moon.
- Each year more than 3 billion Christmas cards are sent in the U.S. alone.
- All the gifts in the Twelve Days of Christmas would equal 364 gifts.
- Alabama was the first state in the United States to officially recognize Christmas in 1836
- Christmas wasn’t declared an official holiday in the United States until June 26, 1870.
- Oklahoma was the last U.S. state to declare Christmas a legal holiday, in 1907
- There are two competing claims as to which president was the first to place a Christmas tree in the White House. Some scholars say President Franklin Pierce did it in 1856; others say President Benjamin Harrison brought in the first tree in 1889. President Coolidge started the White House lighting ceremony in 1923
- President Teddy Roosevelt, an environmentalist, banned Christmas trees from the White House in 1901.
- During the Christmas season, nearly 28 sets of LEGO are sold every second.
- Many of the most popular Christmas songs, such as “White Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire),” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” were written or co-written by Jews
- Assuming Rudolph was in front, there are 40,320 ways to rearrange the other reindeer.
- Scientists calculated that for Father Christmas to deliver all gifts to people around the world, on Christmas Eve, he would have to visit 822 homes a second, traveling at 650 miles a second!
- To deliver gifts on Christmas Eve to every child on Earth, Santa would have to travel 221 billion miles, spending .0002 of a second at each home.
- Coca-Cola played a part in Santa’s image. Before Coca-Cola decided to use his image for advertising, Santa’s looks tended more spooky than jolly. Then, in 1931, the beverage company hired an illustrator named Haddon Sundblom to depict the jolly old elf for magazine ads.
- Hanging stockings started by accident. Legend has it, we hang stockings by the chimney with care thanks to a poor man who didn’t have enough money for his three daughters’ dowries. Generous old St. Nick dropped a bag of gold down their chimney one night after the girls had hung their freshly-washed stockings there to dry. That’s where the gold ended up, and the tradition stuck.
- A large part of Sweden’s population watches Donald Duck cartoons every Christmas Eve since 1960.
- The first performance of the carol Silent Night took place in the church of St Nikolaus in Oberndorf, Austria, on Christmas Eve 1818.
- The NORAD Santa Tracker was created due to a child’s misunderstanding. The North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, has been tracking Santa’s journey around the world since 1958. According to their website, the innovation was set into motion in 1955, when “a young child [accidentally] dialed the unlisted phone number of the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, believing she was calling Santa Claus after seeing a promotion in a local newspaper.” The commander on duty, Colonel Harry Shoup, saw an opportunity to create a little Christmas magic, and assured the youngster that CONAD would guarantee Santa a safe journey from the North Pole, sparking the idea to track Santa’s travels each year to the delight of children all over the world.
- The famous political cartoonist Thomas Nast established Santa’s official residence as the North Pole in several illustrations in the 1800s, according to NPR. At the time, there had recently been a series of expeditions to the Arctic, and the North Pole was thought of as a mythical, magical place.
- According to the American Christmas Tree Association, nearly 94 million households displayed a Christmas tree in 2020, and a whopping 85 percent of those trees were artificial.
- The Elf on the Shelf was inspired by the creators’ own toy elf, Fisbee, who they grew up with in the 1970s. They told HuffPost that Fisbee “would report to Santa Claus at night and be back in a different position in our house the next day.”
- ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ was a box-office flop. Believe it or not, the enduring Christmas classic initially bombed at the box office. It wasn’t until 1974, when its copyright expired and television networks could air it for free, that it cemented its place as one of the most beloved Christmas movies of all time.
- ”Twas the Night Before Christmas’ actually has a totally different title. Clement Clarke Moore’s iconic 1823 poem is actually called “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” It’s more commonly known as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” because of its famous first line.
- ‘Jingle Bells’ was the first song played in space. On December 16, 1965, the classic Christmas song was broadcast during NASA’s Gemini 6A space flight, according to Guinness World Records.
- Bing Crosby’s classic song “White Christmas” is not only the best-selling Christmas song, but the best-selling single of all time.
- Rudolph was a marketing gimmick. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer made his debut in 1939 in a giveaway coloring book created by a copywriter for the Montgomery Ward department store.