55 Fun Christmas Facts to Get You in the Holiday Spirit
'Tis the season for Christmas trivia! Here are some festive facts your whole family can enjoy.
The holidays are drawing closer, and that means it's time to finish up your shopping, trim your tree, and get those Christmas greetings in the mail. In 2020, your celebrations will likely be different than usual—smaller, and hopefully safer—so, you may need an extra dose of seasonal spirit this year. If that's the case, or if you're in need of some great icebreakers for festive family video chats, read on for TK fun Christmas facts that'll fill you—and anyone you're chatting with—with the magic of the holidays! And for what to stream this season, This Is the Single Most Popular Holiday Movie of All Time, Survey Says.
“Jingle Bells” was the first song played in space.
It's hard to imagine what you'd want to rock out to if you were to ever float among the stars. But the crew of NASA’s Gemini 6A space flight got into the Christmas spirit and made history when they played “Jingle Bells” on December 16, 1965, earning the jolly jingle the Guinness World Record for being the first song ever played in space. Well, as far we know, at least…
For some other worthy candidates for that honor, check out The 50 Best One-Hit Wonders of All Time.
And it was originally a Thanksgiving song!
“Jingle Bells” may be one of the most well-known Christmas songs, but it was originally composed as a Thanksgiving tune. Written by Unitarian church organist James Lord Pierpont in the 1850s, in Savannah, Georgia, the song was “first performed during a Thanksgiving concert at [his] church,” Time explains.
The tradition of hanging stockings comes from a legend about marriage.
Have you ever wondered why we hang up stockings—which are basically fancy socks—during the holiday season only to wake up on Christmas morning to find them filled with tiny gifts? According to the Smithsonian, one of the most popular legends about the tradition’s origins is the tale of a poor widower who worried that he wouldn’t be able to marry off his three daughters because of his lack of wealth.
Fortunately, Smithsonian explains, “St. Nicholas was wandering through the town where the man lived and heard villagers discussing that family’s plight. He wanted to help but knew the man would refuse any kind of charity directly. Instead, one night, he slid down the chimney of the family’s house and filled the girls’ recently laundered stockings, which happened to be drying by the fire, with gold coins. And then he disappeared.” In the morning, the family found the gifts, and the daughters became eligible to wed. 'Twas a Christmas miracle!
For how the Queen and her family will be celebrating, check out 15 Royal Christmas Traditions That You Need to Know About.
The NORAD Santa Tracker was created due to a child’s misunderstanding.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, has been tracking Santa's journey around the world since 1958. According to their website, the innovation was set into motion in 1955, when “a young child [accidentally] dialed the unlisted phone number of the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, believing she was calling Santa Claus after seeing a promotion in a local newspaper." The commander on duty, Colonel Harry Shoup, saw an opportunity to create a little Christmas magic, and assured the youngster that CONAD would guarantee Santa a safe journey from the North Pole, sparking the idea to track Santa’s travels each year to the delight of children all over the world.
If you gave all the gifts listed in the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” it would equal 364 presents.
Sing along: “On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me / A partridge in a pear tree.” Let’s keep going! “On the second day of Christmas my true love sent to me / Two turtle doves, and / A partridge in a pear tree.” If you continue to sing the famous festive tune and count up all of the gifts that are bestowed upon the lucky singer in the lyrics—French hens, turtle doves, calling birds, and so much more—you’d end up with 364 presents.
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In Ukraine, spiders are considered symbols of good luck at Christmas.
When you think about Christmas creatures, reindeer and polar bears probably jump to mind… but what about spiders? In Ukraine, families often add spider web ornaments to their trees as a nod to a lovely seasonal story about the critters once using their silky string to decorate the tree of a poor widow and her children.
Santa has a postal code in Canada.
If you are in Canada and want to become pen pals with Santa Claus, you can send him a letter via the Canada Post mail system. The address? Santa Claus, North Pole, HOH OHO, Canada. And don't be surprised when you get a letter back! He has some helpers who keep up with his correspondence.
For everything you didn't realize about that evergreen in your living room, here are 27 Amazing Christmas Trees Facts to Make the Holidays Extra Magical.
There is a Christmas tree in Spain worth $15 million.
Most of us have Christmas decorations that we hold dear for sentimental reasons, but the ornaments that adorn the Christmas tree at the Kempinski Hotel Bahia, near Marbella, Spain, have a different type of value. According to CNN, the tree is festooned with red, white, pink, and black diamonds, as well as jewelry from Bulgari, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Chanel. And just for good measure, you'll also find 3D-printed chocolate peacocks, feathers, ostrich eggs, and bottles of perfume on the tree, which is worth a whopping $15 million!
The Christmas tree pickle is a tradition to keep eager kids calm on Christmas morning.
According to Today, the Christmas pickle is more than just a common ornament, it's a tradition. As the quirky tradition goes, the first child to find the glass pickle hidden in the tree on Christmas morning either wins a prize or the privilege of opening the first gift. The goal? To keep kids from rushing through the process of opening presents, and instead take the time to enjoy each one.
For some fascinating regional holiday traditions, check out 17 Ways Christmas Is Different Across the U.S.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was originally created as an advertising gimmick.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has been a popular holiday character for some time now, and one that many recognize from the beloved 1964 TV movie of the same name. However, according to the Smithsonian Insider, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer first appeared in 1939 when Montgomery Ward department store asked one of its copywriters, 34-year-old Robert L. May, to create a Christmas story the store could give away to shoppers as a promotional gimmick.” And thus Rudolph was born, with Montgomery Ward distributing 2.4 million copies of the story in the first year of its publication.
Eggnog dates back to medieval times.
Eggnog is a signature beverage of the holiday season, and one that has a history dating all the way back to medieval times and a drink called “posset.” Made with sweetened and spiced milk curdled with ale or wine and served hot, according to Healthline, monks in the 13th century “enjoyed this mixture with the addition of eggs and figs.”
Tinsel was once made of real silver.
Throwing some tinsel on your Christmas tree is a quick and inexpensive way to jazz up your holiday décor, and has been for years. However, it used to be a much pricier adornment. According to the BBC, tinsel has its origins in the early 1600s in Nuremberg, Germany, where people "used thin strands of real silver in their trees to reflect candlelight, as they used to put real candles in their trees.” And since silver was expensive, being able to use tinsel in your tree was something of a status symbol.
Americans expect to spend around $850 on Christmas gifts each year.
In 2020, U.S. consumers on average expected to spend $805 on gifts this holiday season, according to a Gallup poll.
But they actually end up spending nearly $1,500 on presents.
Despite intent to stick to a Christmas-gift budget that's under $1,000, most Americans tend to go a little overboard. In an October 2019 study, Deloitte found that U.S. consumers spend around $1,496 during the giving season.
The Statue of Liberty is the largest Christmas gift ever given.
Standing over 150 feet tall and weighing 225 tons, the Statue of Liberty is an impressive figure. And since it was considered a holiday gift when it was given to the U.S. by France in 1886, it's officially the largest Christmas present in the world. That's a lot of wrapping paper and ribbon!
Thomas Edison and his business partner invented Christmas lights.
Thomas Edison has gone down in history as one of America’s greatest inventors. We can thank him for the light bulb, phonograph, and even the movie camera. But did you know he is also partly responsible, along with his friend Edward H. Johnson, for inventing Christmas lights? According to the Library of Congress, Edison created the first strand of electric lights in 1880, which he hung outside his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, during Christmastime that year. However, it was Johnson, his partner at Edison Illumination Company, who, in 1882, became the first to wrap a strand of hand-wired red, white, and blue bulbs around a Christmas tree. And the rest, as they say, is history!
The first tree at Rockefeller Center was an unadorned tree from construction workers.
The first Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center in New York City went up in 1931. However, it was hardly the big spectacle it is today. Instead, it was a 20-foot tree with no ornaments that was set up by construction workers who were laboring at the center’s construction site. A second tree went up two years later, this time a 50-footer with lights, sparking the annual tradition.
Today, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree features more than 25,000 lights.
Today, if you visit Rockefeller Center during the Christmas season, you’ll surely be blown away by the sight of the sparkling tree. The towering tree is decorated each year with over 25,000 lights, according to Time. Can you imagine checking every bulb to see if it works?!
The first Christmas card ever sent is worth almost $30,000.
On November 24, 2001, a Christmas card was sold at auction in Devizes, Wiltshire, U.K., for £20,000, or $28,158, making it the most valuable Christmas card in the world. That's because it was "considered the world's first Christmas card," according to Guinness World Records, which notes that it "was sent by Sir Henry Cole, a Bath-born businessman, to his grandmother in 1843 and is hand-colored by the London illustrator John Calcott Horsley." The lithographed illustration depicts a multigenerational family enjoying a Christmas party and there are only 12 of the original 1,000 cards still in existence.
These days, over a billion and a half Christmas cards are sent each year in the U.S.
These days, around 1.6 billion people in the U.S. still manage to send out the old-fashioned greetings each year. According to data from Hallmark via The Atlantic, “Millennials represent nearly 20 percent of the dollars spent on greeting cards, and their spending is growing faster than that of any other generation.”
And the smallest Christmas card in the world is invisible to the human eye.
Most Christmas cards are big enough for a seasonal illustration or photo as well as space inside for a heartfelt message. But in 2010, nanotechnologists at the University of Glasgow created a teeny-tiny Christmas card that could fit onto the surface of a postage stamp 8,276 times or onto a regular-sized Christmas card around half a million times.
While the card is invisible to the human eye, Professor David Cumming discussed producing the microscopic greeting card with Time, saying, “The process to manufacture the card only took 30 minutes. It was very straightforward to produce as the process is highly repeatable. The design of the card took far longer than the production.”
Christmas Day boasts the lowest number of relationship breakups.
The holidays aren’t always easy on romantic relationships, but if you and your significant other make it to Christmas Day, you can probably take the day off from worrying that you're going to break up. A 2010 study conducted by Facebook found that December 25 had the fewest number of breakups. The weeks leading up to Christmas on the other hand? Yikes!
And it's the most popular time of year to propose.
According to The Washington Post, wedding experts and social media data indicate that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are the two most popular days of the year to propose. In addition, the wedding app Bridebook also estimated that around 100,000 proposals were likely to take place during the Christmas season in 2018, as Harper’s Bazaar reported.
A record number of babies is conceived around Christmas.
Studies have shown that September is the most popular time for babies to be born in the U.S. Check the calendar and that means that those little ones were conceived around the holiday season when couples are feeling rather, er, cozy.
The largest gingerbread house ever made was as big as a real house.
If you think that putting together a regular-sized gingerbread house is tricky, try making one that’s big enough to walk into. In November 2013, a group from Traditions Club in Bryan, Texas, constructed a gingerbread house that was 160 feet long, 42 feet wide, and 10.1 feet tall. Made with a wood base, it reportedly took 1,800 pounds of butter, 7,200 eggs, 3,000 pounds of sugar, 7,200 pounds of flour, and over 22,000 pieces of candy to cover the record-breaking structure!
And the largest snowflake ornament ever was over 10 feet tall.
According to Guinness World Records, the largest Christmas snowflake ornament ever was created by Universal Studios Japan in October 2019. It stood an incredible 10 feet and 5 inches tall, truly a tree topper to top all tree toppers. The tree it was placed upon also earned a Guinness title for the most lights on an artificial Christmas tree: a whopping 591,840.
Americans spend nearly $2 billion on holiday treats every year.
It used to be just candy canes and gingerbread. But these days, the Christmas sweets industry is booming. “It’s candy-cane ice cream, candy-cane lattes, candy-cane marshmallows,” Christine Couvelier, president of the food development firm Culinary Concierge, explained to USA Today in 2017. And boy, do we buy into it: Americans spend an estimated $1.93 billion on holiday treats, according to the National Confectioners Association.
There are nearly 750 different versions of “Silent Night.”
“Silent Night” has long been a staple of the holiday season, when the hauntingly beautiful carol can be heard almost everywhere you go. So it makes sense that it is, in fact, the most recorded Christmas song in history. According to Time, as of 2014, there had been over 733 different versions of “Silent Night” copyrighted since 1978—and more continue to pop up every year!
Home Alone is the highest-grossing Christmas movie of all time.
When Macaulay Culkin starred as a young boy accidentally abandoned by his family during the holidays in 1990's Home Alone, the child actor became an instant star and the film an instant Christmas classic. According to Forbes, Home Alone remains the highest-grossing Christmas movie of all time in the U.S., earning $285.76 million at the domestic box office. It’s followed by 2000’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas ($260.04 million), 2018’s Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch ($189.67 million), and 2004’s The Polar Express ($183.37 million).
Decorating Disney World involves 8.5 million lights.
While many people head to Disney World in the summer, others like to visit the most magical place on Earth during the most magical time of year. And to prepare for the festivities, Disney embarks upon a remarkable setup. According to Trip Savvy, preparing for the holidays Disney-style involves “unloading 150 semi-trailer truckloads of decorations, stringing 15 miles of garland and 8.5 million lights, hanging 1,314 wreaths, and trimming some 1,300 trees with 300,000 yards of ribbon and bows across Disney World's four theme parks, two water parks, and over two dozen Disney World resort hotels.”
The tradition of putting up Christmas trees is more than 500 years old.
Putting up a Christmas tree has been a part of American holidays for years. However, it’s a tradition that can be traced back to Germany. According to History.com, “Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes.” The custom didn't come to the U.S. until the late 1700s or early 1800s, via German settlers in Pennsylvania.
At first, Christmas trees weren’t accepted in the U.S.
Christmas trees weren’t an immediate hit in America when they were first introduced to the U.S. by German settlers due to the fact that they weren’t seen as Christian. "As late as the 1840s, Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans,” according to History.com.
There are more than 630 different kinds of Christmas trees.
When you go with a real Christmas tree over an artificial one, you have more than a few different options to choose from. For example, there are about 630 species of conifer trees alone, including popular choices like balsam fir, Douglas fir, and Fraser fir.
And the U.S. grows 77 million of them annually.
According to History.com, more than 1 million acres of American soil have been planted with Christmas trees. And at about 2,000 trees per acre, that adds up to around 77 million Christmas trees planted in the U.S. each year!
In fact, they're grown in all 50 states—yes, even Hawaii!
No matter where you live in the U.S., you can find a homegrown Christmas tree, likely from a nearby farm. That's because Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states, including Hawaii and Alaska, according to History.com.
The biggest elf gathering ever included over 1,700 of Santa's elves.
You might think that Santa’s little helpers would be busy making toys for children all year long. But on November 25, 2014, 1,762 elves came together in Bangkok, Thailand, to set the record for the largest gathering of Santa's elves ever.
But one of the biggest stateside gatherings is Elfapalooza in Alabama.
The people of Mobile, Alabama, are apparently determined to beat the record for the largest gathering of Santa’s elves. That’s why American elves meet up at the annual Elfapalooza event, which includes karaoke, best elf contests, and an elf march!
Stockbridge, Massachusetts, recreates a Norman Rockwell Christmas painting each year.
The picturesque town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, becomes even more picturesque during the holidays when it transforms into a Norman Rockwell painting. Each December, according to the town's website, Stockbridge recreates the Sunday scene depicted in Rockwell's 1967 work, Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas (Home for Christmas), complete with vintage automobiles parked in the spots occupied in the painting. It's pretty much the most wholesome, dare we say Rockwellian, example of American culture we could ever imagine!
Arizona has a 30-foot Christmas tree made of tumbleweeds.
There are real Christmas trees, artificial Christmas trees, and in Chandler, Arizona, there’s a 30-foot Christmas tree made out of tumbleweeds. It takes 1,200 tumbleweeds to create the structure, which is then covered in glitter as well as 20 gallons of flame retardant, according to Fodor’s Travel.
You can recycle your Christmas tree by donating it to elephants.
When the holidays are over and it’s time to get rid of your Christmas tree, you could drag it to the curb to be picked up by garbage collectors or you could donate it to a zoo so that it can be fed to a hungry elephant. Zoos around the world, including The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee, accept evergreens, which are enjoyed by the giant herbivores as a seasonal snack.
Mistletoe translates to "dung on a stick."
When you find yourself standing under a sprig of mistletoe, it’s time for a Christmas kiss. But, while mistletoe was once considered an aphrodisiac by the Druids, it also happens to mean “dung on a stick.” According to Interflora, the original name for mistletoe was mistaltan—mistal comes from the Anglo Saxon word for "dung" and tan means "stick." How utterly unromantic!
Poinsettias have been a symbol of Christmas for over a century.
These beautiful red and green flowering plants have been associated with Christmas for over 100 years. Back in 1828, the American minister to Mexico, Joel R. Poinsett, brought a poinsettia home to America from his post down south. Getting their name from Poinsett, the plants gained popularity in the U.S. after stores in New York began to sell them at Christmas in 1870 and by the 20th century, "they were a universal symbol of the holiday," according to History.com.
Santa has more than 30 different names.
Did you know that Santa Claus is known by a number of festive names around the world? In Hungary, for instance, he goes by Mikulás, while those in Brazil refer to him as Papai Noel. He'll also answer to Hoteiosho in Japan, Julenisse in Norway, and Père Noël in France. And those are just a few of Kris Kringle's 30-plus international monikers.
You can visit Santa’s village all year round in Canada.
Santa’s Village is a festive theme park that’s open 365 days a year in Canada, so you can visit during the winter months or camp there during the summer. Many movies have also been filmed at the seasonal location, including Hallmark’s Christmas in Grand Valley and Netflix’s The Knight Before Christmas starring Vanessa Hudgens.
Santa performers can make up to $1,200 an hour.
Santa Claus may be a one-of-a-kind Christmas character, but plenty of performers dress up as the festive figure each year to make extra money. During the holidays, mall Santas earn around $30 an hour but can make up to $100 per hour for their work. However, Dan Greenleaf, a professional freelance Santa who runs his own booking agency, told CNBC that when he’s hired to visit parties, homes, or other events, the “typical hourly mid-range is about $150.” And if you’re really good at delivering a jolly "ho, ho, ho," then you can potentially make $500 an hour. Greenleaf even says one of the Santas who works for him was offered $1,200 by a Manhattan client for just one hour on Christmas Day!
Around 28 Lego sets are sold every second during the Christmas season.
If there’s a child in your life, then there’s a good chance that they’ve asked for at least one Lego set as a gift over the years. In fact, they probably ask for one each year. That’s why, during the Christmas season, almost 28 Lego sets are sold each and every second, according to National Geographic Kids.
The day after Christmas is National Candy Cane Day.
December 26 isn't just Boxing Day—it's also National Candy Cane Day, "and while that doesn’t mean it’ll keep us from munching on the sugary sticks as early as Thanksgiving, it does give us a chance to indulge as much as we can before New Year’s," notes National Today.
People in Japan eat KFC on Christmas.
In America, families who celebrate Christmas might enjoy a turkey or ham for their holiday dinner. But over in Japan, modern holiday festivities often involve eating KFC at Christmas. According to the BBC, it’s estimated that 3.6 million Japanese families enjoy the fast-food chicken on December 25.
The credit goes to Takeshi Okawara, the manager of the first KFC in the country, who overhead a couple of foreigners talking in his store after it opened in 1970 about missing turkey on Christmas. "Okawara woke up at midnight and jotted down an idea that came to him in a dream: a ‘party barrel’ to be sold on Christmas," according to the BBC. He “hoped a Christmas dinner of fried chicken could be a fine substitute, and so he began marketing his party barrel as a way to celebrate the holiday.”
The man who wrote The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is credited with creating the modern view of Christmas.
While he is most famously associated with Halloween thanks to his creepy classic, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving was actually partially responsible for shaping the Christmas traditions we know and love today. "Among Irving’s biggest contributions to Christmas in America was his promotion of St. Nicholas as a beloved character, laying the groundwork for the figure we’d eventually embrace as Santa Claus," the National Endowment for the Humanities notes.
The yule log calls back to a holiday tradition from the Iron Age.
According to History.com, that log-shaped, chocolate-y dessert that you present to your guests every year has its roots in Gaelic and Celtic Winter Solstice traditions. "To cleanse the air of the previous year’s events and to usher in the spring, families would burn logs decorated with holly, pinecones or ivy," the site states. "Wine and salt were also often used to anoint the logs. Once burned, the log’s ashes were valuable treasures said to have medicinal benefits and to guard against evil." Over the centuries, the good-luck ritual developed into this tasty holiday treat.
A handwritten copy of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas was sold for $280,000.
In 2006, an unnamed business executive purchased one of four known handwritten copies of Clement Clarke Moore's poem, A Visit From Saint Nicholas, which is better known now as 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, at auction. The 1860 poem, also signed by the author, went for $280,000 and was reportedly read out loud by the buyer at a holiday party.
Mariah Carey wrote "All I Want for Christmas Is You" in 15 minutes.
Yep, that's right. It took Mariah Carey less than half an hour to co-write her now-ubiquitous Christmas pop song. Her collaborator Walter Afanasieff told Billboard, "That’s why it’s so popular—because it’s so simple and palatable!”
Children have been leaving cookies and milk out for Santa since at least 1896.
No one knows exactly why it's now customary to leave out cookies and milk for Santa Claus, but, per NPR, the first recorded reference to the tradition is from a Santa-themed magazine for children that was published in the late 19th century. A young girl wrote to St. Nicholas: An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks that she and her brother were planning to leave the snack out for their Christmas visitor in case he was hungry.
Tens of thousands of people go to the ER each year with decorating-related injuries.
Make sure you have a spot when you're stringing those lights! According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2018, 17,500 people sought treatment at a hospital for injuries sustained while decorating for the holiday.
Santa Claus wasn't always partial to the color red.
These days, Santa is almost always depicted as a jolly, bearded man in a bright red suit with furry white trim. But this color scheme is a surprisingly recent development. Prior to the 1870s, Santa was shown wearing a range of colors, including brown, white, green, tan, and blue. Per The Guardian, Thomas Nast, a Harpers Bazaar caricaturist, is credited for originating the red-suited version of Santa we know so well today. Even though he himself had also drawn him in other hues, this is the one that stuck.