Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

At Home Living: Fun Facts through Christmas History

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

At Home Living: Fun Facts through Christmas History

Article excerpt

Fa la la la la. With Christmas just days away, Americans everywhere are busy shopping, baking and carrying out age-old traditions that have been passed down from generations who came before us. Some of these customs are relatively new (Elf on the Shelf, anyone?) and others are steeped in years of repetition. Many of us are uncertain as to why we celebrate the way we do, but we continue to do so in the spirit of the season and because it's what we've always done. Here are some facts and origins surrounding the holiday season.


Gift giving at Christmas didn't come into style until the Victorian period. At one time, friends and family members exchanged presents at the beginning of the New Year to shower blessings on one another for the coming year. In 1850, Queen Victoria's children received Christmas Eve gifts, and the custom of giving gifts at Christmas quickly caught on.

[239 129 174 ] According to the American Research Group, the average American will spend approximately $861 on Christmas gifts this year, up from $801 last year.

[239 129 174 ] Americans will shell out $2.6 billion on gift- wrap alone.

[239 129 174 ] While wrapping paper is the preferred choice for most Americans, 19% of us use gift bags instead.

[239 129 174 ] If each of us wrapped only three gifts apiece, we would use enough wrapping paper to cover the length of 45,000 football fields.

[239 129 174 ] The largest Christmas gift in history is the Statue of Liberty, which was presented as a gift to the United States from France in 1886.


The origin of the word mistletoe, that beautiful leafy green plant with delicate red or white berries is decidedly less romantic than the customs it's associated with. Its name comes from the Anglo- Saxon word misteltan, which means, "little dung twig" because the plant seeds are spread through bird droppings. Mistletoe is a parasitic plant whose survival depends on attaching itself to the branches and trunks of trees and stealing their nutrients. So how did such an unromantic plant come to symbolize love at Christmastime?

[239 129 174 ] For the Celtic Druids, mistletoe symbolized peace and joy. During ancient times, when enemies met under mistletoe, they laid down their arms and declared a temporary truce.

[239 129 174 ] During the 18th Century, a kiss exchanged between a young man and woman was viewed as a promise to marry. However, a young lady standing under a sprig of mistletoe at Christmas could not refuse to be kissed, and the kiss could mean friendship or romance. It was believed that if a young woman wasn't kissed under the mistletoe that she would remain unmarried for the coming year.

Christmas trees

Evergreen trees have traditionally been used as part of our holiday decor at Christmas. Due to their year-round coloring, evergreens were seen as a promise of life to come after the long, cold winter months.

[239 129 174 ] The tradition of the Christmas tree began in Germany sometime during the 7th Century by a monk who used it to teach his followers about the Holy Trinity. The first printed reference to a Christmas tree appeared in 1531. …

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