In the spirit of the season, this blog offers a bit of fun facts about Christmas and holiday traditions. Enjoy!
- The tradition of Christmas trees goes back to ancient Egyptians and Romans, who marked the winter solstice with evergreens as a reminder that spring would return.
- The Christmas tree gained ground as a holiday tradition when Prince Albert of Germany introduced the tree to his new wife, Queen Victoria of England. A drawing of the couple in front of a Christmas tree appeared in Illustrated London News in 1848.
- 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. In the first year of publication, 2.4 million copies of Rudolph’s story were distributed by the retailer.
- May’s brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks, decided to adapt the story of Rudolph into song. Gene Autry recorded Marks’ musical version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in 1949.
- Candy canes originated in Germany. The National Confectioners Association says in 1670 a choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral gave candies to young children to keep them quiet during long church services. But it wasn't until a German-Swedish immigrant decorated his tree with candy canes in 1847 that they became popular as a Christmas candy. The tradition began to spread, and around the turn of the century, red and white stripes and peppermint flavors became the norm.
- “Jingle Bells” was originally a Thanksgiving song. James Lord Pierpont wrote a song called “One Horse Open Sleigh” for his church's Thanksgiving concert. In 1857, the song was re-published under the title it still holds today, and it eventually became one of the most popular Christmas songs.
- Nine days before Christmas in 1965, two astronauts aboard Gemini 6 sent an odd report to Mission Control that they saw an “unidentified flying object” about to enter Earth's atmosphere, traveling in the polar orbit from north to south. They interrupted the tense report with the sound of “Jingle Bells,” as Wally Schirra played a small harmonica accompanied by Tom Stafford on a handful of small sleigh bells they had smuggled aboard.
- The idea of Santa Claus came from the legend of St. Nicholas, a fourth-century Christian bishop who gave away his abundant inheritance to help the needy and rescued women from servitude. His name was Sinter Klaas in Dutch, which later morphed into Santa Claus.
- By the time the Puritans settled in Boston, celebrating Christmas had been outlawed from 1659-1681. If anyone was caught celebrating, they would face a fine.
- After the Revolutionary War, Congress held their first session on December 25, 1789.
- On June 28, 1870, toward the end of the legislative session, President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law a bill designating Christmas a legal, unpaid holiday for federal employees in the District of Columbia.
- While roast beef, turkey, and spiral hams are popular fare for Christmas dinner, in Japan, it has been a longstanding tradition to consume fried chicken. In 1974, KFC capitalized on this opportunity by asking the people of Japan to enjoy Christmas with a bucket of KFC, and the Japanese responded by ordering their chicken in advance. Approximately three million KFC orders are made every year in Japan.
- In Thailand, water is used to celebrate the New Year. Referred to as Songkran, the people of Thailand participate in water fights, which lasts for three days.
- Ethiopia is the only country that does not utilize the 12-month calendar. They use the Coptic Calendar instead, which has 13 months and as a result, the country celebrates New Year’s Day on September 11.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the JMI Pump Systems staff. May you have a blessed and prosperous 2021.