5 Christmas History Facts
Mainly Useless History Facts and Stats
As we all start to festively wind down for the festive season, we got to thinking about our favourite cracker jokes and whether we could fit any into our final few articles of the year (you may have noticed we haven’t posted too many of late and that’s because we know you’ve no doubt had hundreds of other emails, we didn’t want to fill your inbox).
Anyway. We thought, oooh cracker jokes… but apart from the obviously hilarious dad jokes…
The best thing to find in a cracked (except a corkscrew, because someone forgot to buy one) is obviously an interesting factoid!
So with that, and our minds are filled with random facts, mainly useless (to be fair). We want to share with you 5 Christmassy Facts that you can share around your table this Christmas - and sound like a genius.
Festive Facts for the Christmas Table
When did Christmas become Xmas?
The first examples of Xmas being used are found in 15th century ecclesiastical writings.
The X originally represented the first letter of the Greek word Xριστóς, which means Christos (anoint with oil). And the suffix Mas which in latin means Mass.
The word gained more popularity in the 20th century perhaps because it was shorter than Christmas and easier the fit on the shop sale hoardings, or because it was the same length as the word ‘sale’.
Today, Christmas is by far the more popular term, as we can see here using Google Trends to see over - since 2004 the term Christmas (red) has been searched far more than Xmas (blue).
When was the first Christmas Card sent?
Queen Victoria sent the first Christmas (post)card in 1843. It was sent using the penny post, and this first Christmas card had just a small run of 1000 - though this was of course plenty as no one knew what these amazing cards were.
You can read more about the first Christmas card on the Postal Museum website.
How did the Robin become associated with Christmas?
The association of the robin redbreast with Christmas has deep roots in European folklore and traditions. In Christian lore, the robin is said to have gained its red breast by pulling a thorn from the crown of Jesus during the crucifixion, symbolizing a selfless act. This narrative, coupled with the robin's presence in winter gardens and Victorian-era Christmas cards (a tradition continuing to this day), contributed to its festive symbolism.
Victorian England further solidified the robin's link to Christmas through popular holiday cards, where its red breast was featured in snowy scenes. The bird's resilience during winter, remaining visible when other birds might be scarce, made it a symbol of hope. Additionally, literary references, such as Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," reinforced the robin's role in Christmas lore. Altogether, these cultural elements intertwined to establish the robin redbreast as a cherished symbol of the Christmas season in European traditions.
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What is the history of Boxing Day?
Boxing Day, observed on December 26th (St Stephens Day) in the United Kingdom, has roots in historical acts of charity and appreciation. One theory suggests that the name originates from the tradition of opening alms boxes in churches, collecting funds during the Christmas season to distribute to the poor. Another explanation ties Boxing Day to the practice of employers giving Christmas boxes or gifts to their service workers and apprentices as a token of gratitude for their year-round efforts.
Over time, Boxing Day has evolved into a public holiday marked by various activities, including sports events, shopping, and gatherings with loved ones. While the specific customs may vary, the essence of the day often involves expressions of generosity, relaxation, and community spirit.
Facts About The Christmas Cracker!
Christmas crackers have a fascinating history that dates back to the mid-19th century in England. The credit for their invention is often given to Tom Smith, a London sweet shop owner. The story goes that in the 1840s, Smith was inspired by the French tradition of wrapping sugared almonds in twists of paper. Seeking a way to boost his confectionery sales, he expanded on this idea.
In 1847, Smith introduced his version of the festive cracker. Instead of sweets, he included small toys, love messages, and jokes inside the twisted paper. The outside of the cracker was adorned with colorful designs and would make a popping sound when pulled apart. The initial name was "cosaques," inspired by the sound of the cracking whips used by Cossack soldiers.
The popularity of Christmas crackers grew over the years, and by the late 19th century, they had become a staple of British Christmas celebrations. The inclusion of paper hats and jokes became integral to the tradition. Today, Christmas crackers are not only popular in the United Kingdom but also in many other countries that have adopted this charming holiday custom. The pulling of Christmas crackers is often part of the festive meal, and the colorful hats and small surprises inside add an element of fun and festivity to the Christmas table.
Want to know more about the origins of the Christmas Cracker, check out the V&A website.
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