Things you may not know about Christmas
December 17, 2008 11:09am CST
1.Think your Christmas Eve is stressful? Spare a thought for poor old Santa. He has less than one millisecond to deliver his presents to each household in the world - and that's if he does a 30-hour working day, allowing for the various time zones. Naturally he makes a bit of time back by skipping all the people on the naughty list. 2.Christmas trees have been popular in Germany since the 16th century but only made it over to Britain three hundred years later. Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, originally came from Germany and made a tree part of the official celebrations at Windsor Castle. 3.The most expensive Christmas card in the world is a hand-drawn card that John Lennon sent to Beatles manager Brian Epstein. It sold at auction for £5,600 in April 2000. 4.Baubles were probably invented thanks to alcohol. Around 200 years ago, Bohemian glass blowers used to enjoy a cold drink in their hot factories, and when tipsy would start competing to see who could blow the biggest glass bubbles. These then evolved into Christmas decorations. 5.The USA's official national Christmas tree, in Kings Canyon National Park, California, is almost 280 feet tall and 2,000 years old. A little girl who saw it in 1925 commented what an impressive Christmas tree it would make, and the President agreed, making it the country's official Christmas tree in 1926. 6.The first fairy lights are said to be have appeared in 1882, when Edward H. Johnson - a friend of inventor Thomas Edison - had 80 tiny lightbulbs made especially for his home Christmas tree. Before this, people would use candles and set fire to their tinsel all the time. 7.Christmas cards were introduced in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole. Before then it was tradition to write long, detailed letters to friends and family at Christmas, but Mr Cole couldn't be bothered with all that effort. He commissioned an artist to design some cards and filled them with a short greeting, saving us all a lot of writing each year. 8.Traditional Christmas meals in England used to involve pig's heads and mustard. But when Queen Elizabeth I heard the news of the destruction of the Spanish Armada on Christmas Eve 1588, she declared that everybody in England should eat the dish she had enjoyed earlier that day - roast goose. When turkeys were introduced to Britain in the 1700s, they became a popular replacement. 9.Mulled wine doesn't just make you happy because of the alcohol in it - neurologists have found that traditional Christmas spices like cinnamon, cloves and ginger release feel-good hormones in the body. 10.Spiders are a big part of Christmas in the Ukraine. Trees are decorated with fake spiders and webs, and a real spider web found on Christmas morning is believed to bring good luck. 11.'Silent Night' was first performed in Austria in 1818. Legend has it that the church organ in Oberndorf broke on Christmas Eve, leaving the priest - Joseph Mohr - with no music for his Christmas service. He handed the words to a poem he had written to a friend and asked that he write some guitar music to accompany it, and 'Silent Night' was born. 12.Christmas was banned across England in 1647, when Oliver Cromwell's puritans were in charge. Pro-Christmas riots broke out across the country but the holiday wasn't officially restored until King Charles II took over 13 years later. 13.The popular abbreviation 'Xmas' isn't merely popular because it's quicker to type on a mobile phone. 'X' is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ - Xristos - so the shortened spelling of Christmas has been around for hundreds of years. 14.The Beatles and the Spice Girls are the only acts to have ever had three consecutive Christmas number one records - the Beatles from 1963 to 1965 and the Spice Girls from 1996 to 1998. 'Bohemian Rhapsody' by Queen is the only record to have been Christmas number one twice - in 1975 and 1991. 15.Popular Christmas song 'Good King Wenceslas' is about Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia. He was a 10th century king who legend has it is sleeping inside a mountain in the Czech Republic with a huge army of knights, ready to wake and save the Motherland when he's needed.