More random facts about Christmas =)
December 6th is "St Nicholas's Day" - the first of the gift giving days, especially in Holland and Belgium.
The first American Christmas carol was written in 1649 by a minister named John de Brebeur and is called "Jesus is Born".
Mexicans call the poinsettia "Flower of the Holy Night" - the Holy Night is the Mexican way of saying "Christmas Eve"
Tinsel on the Christmas Tree is attributed to a woman whose husband died. She was left to bring up a large family of children herself. She was left to do everything working so hard and she was determined to make a happy time for them at Christmas. She prepared a Christmas Tree to surprise them on Christmas Day. Unfortunately spiders visited the tree, and crawled from branch to branch, making webs all over it. The Christ Child saw the tree and knew she would be devastated to find this on Christmas morning. He changed the spiders' webs to shining silver.
Many Christmas customs are carryovers from pre-Christian celebrations. Hanging gifts on trees is supposed to stem from tree worship of the Druids, and the belief that the tree was the giver of all good things. The Druids are also partly responsible for the use of mistletoe at Christmastime. They regarded the mistletoe as sacred, made certain that it never touched the ground, and dedicated it to the Goddess of Love, which explains the kissing that goes on under it. Originally, when a boy kissed a girl, he plucked a berry from the cluster and presented it to her. When the berries were gone, so were the kisses.
In Christmas tree decorations, angels are usually portrayed as wimpy blondes in girl's blouses and sandals. In the Bible, however, angels are muscular bullies who frequently goad humans into fistfights. Life isn't all harps and heavenly choirs for angels; there's a strict career structure. The only angels mentioned by name in the Bible are archangels, the eighth-ranking order of angels.
Santa's Reindeers are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. ((and now Rudolph))
Gift giving, Christmas drinks, Christmas Cards and many other Christmas traditions are not modern gifts of capitalism (though capitalism sure does love it) – they actually come to us via the Ancient Romans who exchanged all of those things on New Year’s Day (Strenae, named after Strenia the goddess of New Year’s gifts). This was initially shunned by the Church (“(Do not) make vetulas, [little figures of the Old Woman], little deer or iotticos or set tables [for the house-elf, compare Puck] at night or exchange New Year gifts or supply superfluous drinks [another Yule custom].” -St Eligius, 7th century) but old habits die hard and it eventually transferred to Christmas.
Santa Claus is actually based on the early Church Bishop Saint Nicholas. He was born during the third century (around 270 AD), in the village of Patara in Turkey, and was known for secretly giving gifts of money to the poor. The modern image of him as a jolly man in red most likely comes from the 1823 poem “A visit from St Nicholas” also known as “The Night before Christmas”.