27th
Dec
2013

Posted in Reference

-It never snows on Christmas Island. Lying in the Indian Ocean, to the south of Indonesia, the 52 square mile island is a territory of Australia. The reason it is so named is because it was sighted on Christmas day in 1643 by Captain William Mynors as he sailed past on the Royal Mary, a British East India Company vessel.

-Brussels sprouts divide opinion like Marmite. Their common appellation is a result of the large numbers grown in Belgium in the sixteenth century.

-The tradition of hanging stockings by the fireplace to be filled with gifts from Santa goes back to St. Nicholas in the fourth century. As we discovered in the 'Sinterklaas' blog, the original St. Nick was very kind to the poor. Legend tells of him throwing coins down the chimneys of women too poor to afford a dowry; the coins would land in their stockings left by the fire to dry.

-In the popular Christmas poem, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, the eight reindeer are named: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. So where does Rudolph fit in? Well, the poem was first published in 1823, while Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer was a 1939 invention for the Christmas colouring book of American retail business Montgomery Ward.

-The four calling birds of The Twelve Days of Christmas song are actually blackbirds. The song used to refer to four colly birds, colly coming from the old English word for coal.

-The abbreviation Xmas still means Christmas. The Greek letter chi is x-shaped and is the initial letter of Χριστος (Christos), the Greek word for Christ. Its use as an abbreviation for Christmas dates back to at least the sixteenth century and the use of X or Xp to refer to Jesus Christ can be found in documents going all the way back to the Saxon chronicles.

-The Christmas cracker is an innovation of the mid 1800s. Londoner Tom Smith, a baker and confectioner by trade, was inspired by the French bon bon – a sugared almond in a twist of tissue paper. First to be included was the motto which began life as a love message rather than a naff joke! The cracking/snapping mechanism followed, although despite the noise produced crackers were first known as cosaques.

-The majority of UK households roast a turkey on Christmas day. The bird is not a native to our shores and hails not from Turkey, but North America. It was introduced here in the sixteenth century, but didn't become the Christmas dinner norm until the early twentieth century.

-The traditional Christmas greeting in Armenia translates, not as Merry Christmas, but as Congratulations for the Holy Birth. Christmas day there falls on January 6th as the Armenian Apostolic church goes by the Julian calendar.

-Although comparatively rare, Christmas is a surname for some. According to records, the first ever Mary Christmas got her name as a result of marriage. Whether the couple's children were named Happy and White is doubtful, but I really did go to school with a girl named Theresa Wooden!

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