Since this is the holidays and tonight is Christmas Eve I thought it would be most befitting to share a few little curious facts about Christmas and its traditions. I thought I could include some very interesting tidbits to help to understand the holiday season just a bit more. Happily, since I am so curiously busy tonight this post will be in list form.
1. Pig head? Yes please! The traditional Christmas dinner in England used to be a pig head prepared with a mustard sauce. Most English folk are possibly quite delighted that this isn’t the case anymore.
2. There is a special act in Britain that actually makes it mandatory to go to church on Christmas day. The act that is deemed the Holy Days and Fasting Act still exists, however, not so much enforced. Additionally no vehicle of any kind is to be used to get to the Christmas service.
3. Curiously witches and evil spirits are the greatest broom thieves! The Norwegians once believed that witches and devious spirits were likely to steal their brooms on Christmas Eve. Who knows maybe a mischievous prankster stole a few brooms during that period and the legend stuck.
4. Ever wondered where the idea of elves came from? They are actually modern day versions of “Nature folk” described in Pagan religions of the past.
6. The annual Christmas pudding was more than just a tasty treat. Small items were placed in them which had the power to predict what the New Year would bring. Coins were associated with a gain in wealth, a ring was a sign of an imminent marriage and a button signified extended bachelorhood. This idea actually goes back to the middle ages where the cake being served on the Twelfth Night would come complete with a hidden bean. Whoever found this bean was declared “king” for that one night.
7. Christmas was illegal in England from 1647-1660. This was enforced by the then leader Oliver Cromwell who believed it was immoral to hold celebrations on one of the holiest days of the year. The celebration of Christmas was therefore a criminal offense which could lead to an individual being arrested if he or she was found guilty of condoning any revelry during the period.
8. The world’s largest Christmas present was the Statue of Liberty. The French gave it to the US in 1886. It is 46.5 meters high and weights 225 tons!
10. Although now mostly vegetarian, in Victorian times, mince pies were made with beef and spices.
11. Carols weren’t sung in churches until they were introduced by St Francis of Assisi in the 13th century.
12. 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.
13. Jingle Bells was the first song broadcast from space when Gemini 6 astronauts Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra sang it on December 16, 1965. There is also a curious little fact about Silent Night being sung in the trenches during World War I since it was a song both sides could sing well.
14. The first Christmas celebrated in Britain is thought to have been in York in 521AD.
16. Krampus is the anti-Santa to encourage good behavior. People dress as Krampus and roam the streets looking for someone to beat with a stick. Since it is also a night for drinking, the beatings probably don’t hurt much. My, more like Halloween I think!
17. The “Twelve Days of Christmas ” gifts: A partridge in a pear tree, two turtledoves, three French hens, four calling birds, five gold rings, six geese laying, seven swans swimming, eight maids milking, nine ladies dancing, ten lords leaping, eleven pipers piping, and twelve drummers drumming. There are 364 gifts altogether, one for everyday of the year.
I know that this is not exactly the most concise posting but it is fun and that is what the holidays should be about. I do hope all of you have a curiously wonderful Christmas and I will hopefully be back to the mysterious curiosities that I love very soon. Until then I believe you will enjoy some of these!