Christmas Facts

Christmas fireplace scene

We all know these Christmas facts but do we really know the whole story behind these terms that we use all the time. Check out the Christmas terms below and get the entire backstory.


For centuries, people in the Middle Ages would wait for Christmas to come around. This joyous time of year was given its name because it celebrates Jesus Christ’s birth and service on December 25th during Holy Week.

Followers commemorate His death at Calvary with a festival called Cristes maesse (also spelled Christ’s mass). Alongside this ritual observance may be another tradition that began earlier than Christianity itself – Saturnalia.

It was an ancient Roman holiday marked by gift-giving among family members or public displays such as laurels won through athletic competition.

And did you know the X in Xmas still stands for Christ even if this term is derived from the Greek language (Xristos)?

December 25th

January 6th, known as Epiphany, was when Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Rites churches within Catholicism chose to commemorate Jesus’ birth. Based out of Rome, the Western church decided to celebrate it on December 25th due mainly to an ancient almanac notification about this date being celebrated as early as AD 336.

However, the celebration actually began due to pagan festivals and has since become interwoven with them. Thus, it falls right in line with winter Solstice celebrations across the globe.

Customs and Traditions

The variety of Christmas customs is endless, and each place has its own unique theme to celebrate. One example would be gift-giving. Commonly associated with Santa Claus in most countries worldwide, this custom shows that we’re all different individuals.

However, some things still bind us together as human beings, like sharing happiness through presents on Christmas Day!

Other traditions include a decoration such as evergreen trees or holly plants used for decorating homes during Christmastime. This is a tradition dating back centuries ago when they were symbols representing faithfulness and hope against adversity. It stayed green when other plants died off in the winter.

Gift Giving

The ancient custom of giving gifts at Christmas is an old tradition that dates back even to the time before Christ.

Rome celebrated Saturnalia, a winter feast where families would get together, and exchange presents on December 17th. Two weeks later, on January 1st, Roman New Year, it became customary for people across Europe to decorate their homes with greenery or lights and gift-giving among children and the poor.

In some European countries, the exchanging of gifts is not practiced on December 25th. For example, in Italy and Spain, children receive gifts on January 5th, which is the eve of Epiphany. Further north in Scandinavia, gifts are exchanged on December 6th during the feast of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children.

Trees and Decoration

In ancient times, people used greenery to symbolize life and warmth in the cold of winter. For example, Egyptians would decorate their houses with evergreens at the new year to scare away demons from inside them or set up trees for birds during wintertime. Similarly-minded cultures like Scandinavian Teutonic tribes also practiced tree worship before converting to Christianity.

In the Middle Ages, people in Germany would decorate a fir tree with apples and wafers on Christmas Eve. They believed that if you ate these foods, it represented paradise restored after Adam and Eve’s sin against God, leading to their eviction from the Garden Of Eden.

On them, you will often find candles symbolizing Christ, who became the light of the world after his death so we would never fear darkness again.

The Christmas tree is an evergreen plant that has been used as a symbol for Christmastime since at least the 18th century. Its popularity spread during the Victorian era when it caught on with both English royalty and commoners alike.

They decorated their trees using candles or other brittle goods strung up from branches linked by ribbons, among other things.

Mistletoe and Holly

Mistletoe was brought to Scandinavia by the ancient Celtic Druids, who used it for medicinal purposes. Since then, it has been associated with peace. It is said that during winter festivals in Denmark or Norway, you can find people kissing under this evergreen plant. They believe its powers heal everything from female infertility to poison ingestion.

The early church banned the use of mistletoe in Christmas celebrations because it was pagan. They suggested using holly as an appropriate substitute for greenery at this time-honored holiday season tradition instead.

Christmas Cards

The first Christmas greeting card was created by John C. Horsley in 1843. It featured a family party beneath which “A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” were inscribed. This practice soon became popular throughout England-speaking countries. However, it is most widespread here in America, where we send out 150 million cards every year.


The most popular type of Christmas music is still carols. The word “carol” comes from Middle English and means ‘to sing with dance.’ This fits in well with its traditional meaning as a joyful religious song – it has been performed out loud by people singing at midnight during winter celebrations for centuries.

The most popular nonreligious tune is probably Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” written for the movie ‘Holiday Inn,’ released in 1942. However, the best known of modern carols is “Silent Night, Holy Night,” composed in Austria by Franz Gruber in the 19th century.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

The story of Rudolf is a surprisingly recent phenomenon. In 1939, Montgomery Ward stores across America gave out more than 2 million copies of this little booklet entitled “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.” Robert May created him for the company’s advertising department; however, he did not initially have that famous name. They originally tried Rollo and Reginald, but nothing sounded right until May’s daughter came up with Rudolph.

The Rudolf song is a family favorite and has been enjoyed by generations of children. The author, Gene Autry, wrote the musical version in 1949, which was only second to “White Christmas” as the most popular song!

Manger Scene

The custom of setting up a nativity scene in your home to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ has been around for centuries. The first time this tradition was recorded, it happened on Christmas Eve during Saint Francis’ youth. He set up another stable with figures representing the people and animals involved that night- Mary, Joseph, the Three Wise Men, and the shepherds tending their flock.

This started what is now called “The Italian Nativity,” or more specifically known as Crèche, which is usually found throughout Italy and France.

Christmas in the Holy Land

One of the most colorful and joyous celebrations in honor of Christmas happens to be located right here on Earth. The town of Bethlehem is home to what many people refer to as “the Birthplace Of Jesus.” So it’s no wonder this small village has so much love for their Savior!

On Christmas Eve, the streets of Bethlehem are crowded with people. At the end of the procession march, church dignitaries and priests carry an image made from wax representing Jesus Christ as He was born to Mary in the manger.  Then, they walk shoulder-to-shoulder through old-fashioned narrow streets towards St Catherine’s Chapel, where they will celebrate midnight mass on this particular night.

The Patriarch of Jerusalem carries the image of Christ to a custom-built manger in front of the Grotto. Pilgrims from all over participate, and it ends when they have seen this sacred site for themselves before being lead off by an usher for one final blessing.

Santa Claus

The original Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, was born in Turkey around the year 300AD to an affluent Christian family who had converted from paganism. His piety at a young age led him into Christianity, where he became widely known for his generosity towards poor people across Europe. During this period in history, Christians were often abused or jailed because of their religion.  St. Nicholas was finally freed once Constantine became emperor.

The Dutch kept the legend of St. Nicholas alive. They practiced a tradition in which children would place their wooden shoes by the fireplace, hoping they’d get filled with treats on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, the Dutch version of St. Nicholas, Sinterklass, was misspelled from there on, becoming corrupted to the Anglican-sounding SANTA CLAUS before finally ending up as we know it today: “Santa Claus.”

In 1822 author Clement C Moore wrote his famous poem about how he visited an old man named Nick during one such evening visit – this eventually became known throughout America under its current title “The Night Before Christmas,” while spawning many other legends surrounding Kris Kringle himself!