- Early illustrations of St. Nicholas depict him as stern, commanding, and holding a birch rod. He was more a symbol of discipline and punishment than the jolly, overweight elf children know today. d
- Puritan Oliver Cromwell outlawed Christmas celebrations and carols in England from 1649-1660. The only celebrations allowed were sermons and prayers. c
- Wassail is from the Old Norse ves heill, meaning “good health.” c
- Christmas stockings allegedly evolved from three sisters who were too poor to afford a marriage dowry and were, therefore, doomed to a life of prostitution. They were saved, however, when the wealthy Bishop Saint Nicholas of Smyrna (the precursor to Santa Claus) crept down their chimney and generously filled their stockings with gold coins. c
- There are two competing claims as to which president was the first to place a Christmas tree in the White House. Some scholars say President Franklin Pierce did in 1856; others say President Benjamin Harrison brought in the first tree in 1889. President Coolidge started the White House lighting ceremony in 1923. f
- President Teddy Roosevelt, an environmentalist, banned Christmas trees from the White House in 1901. f
- It is estimated that the single “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin is the best selling single of all time, with over 100 million sales worldwide. f
- There are approximately 21,000 Christmas tree farms in the United States. In 2008, nearly 45 million Christmas trees were planted, adding to the existing 400 million trees. b
- The first person to decorate a Christmas tree was reportedly the Protestant reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546). According to legend, he was so moved by the beauty of the stars shining between the branches of a fir tree, he brought home an evergreen tree and decorated it with candles to share the image with his children. f
a Allen, Linda. 2000. Decking the Halls: The Folklore and Traditions of Christmas Plants. Minocqua, WI: Willow Creek Press.
b “Christmas Trees and More.” University of Illinois Extension. 2010. Accessed: December 6, 2010.
c Collins, Ace. 2003. Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
d Grossman, John. 2008. Christmas Curiosities: Odd, Dark, and Forgotten Christmas. New York, NY: Stewart, Tabori & Chang
e Guinness Book of World Records. 2008. New York, NY: Bantam Dell.
f Gulevich, Tanya. 2000. Encyclopedia of Christmas. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics, Inc.
g Highfield, Roger. 1998. The Physics of Christmas: From the Aerodynamics of Reindeer to the Thermodynamics of Turkey. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
h Liebman, Lisa. 2003. Leaving You: The Cultural Meaning of Suicide. Chicago, IL: Ivan R. Dee Publisher.
i Philips, Tom. “Facebook Break-Up Chart Shows That Christmas Is a Relationship Killer.” Metro.co.uk. November 2, 2010. Accessed: November 15, 2010.