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Interesting Facts About The Origins Of Christmas And Christmas Traditions

Probably the most celebrated holiday in the world, Christmas as we know it today is a byproduct of hundreds of years of both secular, and religious traditions from around the globe. We take a look at some the origins of the Christmas traditions we know and love .

Christmas has its roots in Pagan festivals such as Saturnalia (December 17-December 23), the Kalends (January 1 -5, the precursor to the Twelve Days of Christmas), and Deus Sol Invictus or Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun (December 25).

The well-known Mistletoe is an evergreen parasitic plant, growing on the branches of trees, where it forms pendent bushes, 2 to 5 feet in diameter

Mistletoe was sacred to ancient people because it remains green and bears fruit during the winter when all other plants appear to die. Druids would cut the plant with golden sickles and never let it touch the ground. The word Mistletoe is from the Anglo-Saxon word misteltan, which means “little dung twig” because the plant spreads though bird droppings.

Evergreens (from the Old English word aefie meaning “always” and gowan meaning “to grow”) have been symbols of eternal life and rebirth since ancient times. The pagan use, and worship of evergreen boughs and trees has evolved into the Christianized Christmas tree we see today.

Yule log – Ancient Norwegians used the Yule log in their celebration of the return of the sun at winter solstice. “Yule” came from the Norse word hweol, meaning wheel. An enormous log is typically burned during the Twelve Days of Christmas (December 25-January 6), and is said to offer health, fertility, and luck as well as the ability to ward off evil spirits.

Christmas Colors associated with the holidays are traditionally green, red, and gold. Green has long been a symbol of life and rebirth; red symbolizes the blood of Christ, and gold represents light as well as wealth and royalty.

The Twelve Days of Christmas – Many European countries believed that both good and evil spirits were active during these days. These spirits eventually evolved into Santa’s elves, especially under the influence of Clement C. Moore’s famous story The Night Before Christmas.

Christmas Tree

Christmas Trees have been sold in the U.S. since 1850. The trees usually grow for about 15 years before being harvested – with approximately 30-35 million real (living) Christmas trees sold each year in the United States.

Bonus Christmas Tree Fact: President Teddy Roosevelt, an environmentalist, banned Christmas trees from the White House in 1912.

According to the Guinness World Records, the tallest Christmas tree ever cut was a 221-foot Douglas fir that was displayed in 1950 at the Northgate Shopping Center in Seattle, Washington.

Flying Reindeer: Most of Santa’s reindeer have male-sounding names, such as Blitzer, Comet, and Cupid. However, male reindeers shed their antlers around Christmas, so the reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh are probably female.

Norwegian scientists also hypothesized that Rudolph’s red nose is probably the result of a parasitic infection of his respiratory system. According to some, Santa’s ‘flying’ reindeer were powered by special mushrooms.


  • Sweden: God Jul
  • Finland: Hyvää Joulua
  • Norway: Gledelig Jul
  • Germany: Froehliche Weihnachten
  • Mexico: Feliz Navidad
  • England: Happy Christmas
  • France: Joyeux Noël
  • Italy: Buon Natale
  • Ukraine: Srozhdestvom Kristovym
  • Greece: Kala Christouyenna

Images courtesy of Botanical, Home & Beyond The Garden Gate.

Interesting Facts About The Origins Of Christmas And Christmas Traditions

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