50 Festive Facts


1 US scientists calculated that Santa would have to visit 822 homes a second to deliver all the world’s presents on Christmas Eve, travelling at 650 miles a second.

2 Robins on cards were a joke 150 years ago when postmen wore red tunics and were named after them.

3 Although now mostly vegetarian, in Victorian times, mince pies were made with beef and spices.

4 The tradition of putting tangerines in stockings comes from 12th-century French nuns who left socks full of fruit, nuts and tangerines at the houses of the poor.

5 Despite the tale of three wise men paying homage to baby Jesus, the Bible never gives a number. Matthew’s Gospel refers to merely ‘wise men.’

6 Carols began as an old English custom called wassailing, toasting neighbours to a long life.

7 Carols weren’t sung in churches until they were introduced by St Francis of Assisi in the 13th century.

8 Hanging stockings out comes from the Dutch custom of leaving shoes packed with food for St Nicholas’s donkeys. He would leave small gifts in return.

9 There is no reference to angels singing anywhere in the Bible.

10 Nearly 60 million Christmas trees are grown each year in Europe.

11 The word Noel derives from the French expression ‘les bonnes nouvelles’ or ‘the good news.’

12 Jesus was probably born in a cave and not a wooden stable, say Biblical scholars.

13 The abbreviation Xmas isn’t irreligious. The letter X is a Greek abbreviation for Christ.

14 The world’s tallest Xmas tree at 221ft high was erected in a Washington shopping mall in 1950.

15 The chances of a white Christmas are just one in ten for England and Wales, and onr in six for Scotland and NI.

16 Many theologians estimate that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25 but sometime in September between 6BC and 30AD.

17 James Pierpont’s 1857 song Jingle Bells was first called One Horse Open Sleigh and was written for Thanksgiving.

18 Before turkey, the traditional Christmas meal in England was a pig’s head and mustard.

19 In 1647, after the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell banned festivities. The law wasn’t lifted until 1660.

20 In 1999, residents of the state of Maine in America built the world’s biggest ever snowman. He stood at 113ft tall.

21 The Greeks celebrate Christmas on January 7, according to the old Julian calendar, while Xmas presents are opened on New Year’s Day.

22 Many parts of the Christmas tree can actually be eaten, with the needles being a good source of Vitamin C.

23 The holly in a wreath symbolises Christ’s crown of thorns while the red berries are drops of his blood.

24 The first commercial Christmas cards were commissioned by civil servant Sir Henry Cole in London in 1843. Featuring a family drinking wine, one sold for £8,469 last year.

25 Hanging presents on trees may come from the Druids who believed the tree was the giver of all good things.

26 The largest Christmas cracker – 45.72m long and 3.04m in diameter – was pulled in Australia in 1991.

27 The long shopping spree before Christmas began in America when relatives of soldiers posted overseas in the Second World War were encouraged to mail gifts early.

28 Jingle Bells was the first song broadcast from space when Gemini 6 astronauts Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra sang it on December 16, 1965.

29 Astronomers believe the Star Of Bethlehem, which guided the wise men to Jesus, may have been a comet or the planet Uranus.

30 Santa has different names around the world – Kriss Kringle in Germany, Le Befana in Italy, Pere Noel in France and Deushka Moroz (Grandfather Frost) in Russia.

31 The word Christmas comes from the Old English “Cristes maesse” meaning “Christ’s Mass”.

32 The bestselling Xmas single ever is Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, shifting over 50million copies worldwide since 1942.

33 In Britain, the best-selling festive single is Band Aid’s 1984 track, Do They Know It’s Christmas?, which sold 3.5million copies. Wham! is next in the same year with Last Christmas, selling 1.4million.

34 Upside-down artificial Xmas trees are sold to allow more gifts to be piled under.

35 Since 1947 Oslo has sent an Xmas tree to London to thank us for our help in the Second World War.

36 Christmas pudding was originally a soup made with raisins and wine.

37 London sweetmaker Tom Smith created the first Christmas crackers in 1847, based on the sweet wrapper design.

38 Santa Claus comes from a Dutch folk tale based on Saint Nicholas, or Sinterklaas, who gave gifts on December 6.

39 Boxing Day gets its name from all the money collected in church alms-boxes for the poor.

40 Kissing under the mistletoe is thought to spring from Frigga, the Norse goddess of love, who was associated with the plant.

41 The Beatles hold the record for most Xmas number 1 singles, topping the charts in 1963, 65 and 67.

42 Electric tree lights were invented by Edward Johnson in the US in 1882.

43 They may date back to pagan traditions, but the earliest known reference to a Christmas tree is in a German pamphlet from 1570.

44 The highest-grossing festive movie is 2000’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas, which has raked in #175m so far.

45 There are 13 Santas in Iceland, each leaving a gift for children. They come down from the mountain one by one, starting on December 12 and have names like Spoon Licker, Door Sniffer and Meat Hook.

46 Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer was invented for a US firm’s Christmas promotion in 1938.

47 Gold-wrapped chocolate coins commemorate St Nicholas who gave bags of gold coins to the poor.

48 The first Christmas celebrated in Britain is thought to have been in York in 521AD.

49 In Greece, Italy, Spain and Germany, workers get a Christmas bonus of one month’s salary by law.

50 In the Czech Republic they enjoy dinners of fish soup, eggs and carp. The number of people at the table must be even, or the one without a partner will die next year