Some Fun Facts About Christmas

Christmas tree 2007The word “Christmas” is a contraction of the Old English Crīstesmæsse, meaning “Christ’s mass.” The term was first used in 1038.

  • Because the letter X in Greek is the first letter in the Greek word for Christ, the abbreviation Xmas is not, as some assume, part of a modern plot to “take Christ out of Christmas.” In fact, the abbreviation has been used since the mid-1500s.
  • This holiday season has been a tradition since long before Christ’s advent. Three Roman festivals were once the high point of the pagan year: Saturnalia (December 17 – 23), accompanied by partying and gift-giving; the Kalends (January 1 – 5), later celebrated as the Twelve Days of Christmas; and Deus Sol Invictus (Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun) on December 25. Though all evidence points to Jesus’s birth having occurred several months before December, the Roman Catholic Church chose this time of year to celebrate it — presumably because people were already in the habit of celebrating then.
  • Because of its pagan origins, the early Puritans in America banned all Christmas celebrations from 1659-1681. Those who favored Christmas were considered enemies of the faith.
  • Some traditions give Martin Luther credit for creating the first Christmas tree. As the story goes, he was so moved by the beauty of the stars shining between fir branches that he brought home an evergreen and decorated it with candles to share the image with his children.
  • The Yule log was an enormous tree trunk burned during the Roman celebration of the Kalends of January. The word Yule refers to the revolution of a wheel, symbolizing the cyclical return of the sun. A burning log or its charred remains was said to give health, fertility, and luck, and to ward off evil spirits.
  • The legend of Santa Claus arose from stories surrounding St. Nikolas of Myra, who lived during the fourth century in what is now the nation of Turkey. He became the patron saint of banking, pawnbroking, pirating, butchery, sailing, thievery, orphans, royalty, and New York City.
  • The tradition of hanging Christmas stockings is based on the legend of three sisters who were too poor to afford a marriage dowry and were, therefore, doomed to earn their living through prostitution. They were spared that fate when St. Nikolas, then a wealthy bishop, crept down their chimney and filled the ladies’ stockings (which they’d washed and hung up to dry) with gold coins.

UntitledWhen we consider the history of the holiday, it can be hard to see what any of it has to do with Jesus. But two things are certain:

  • It’s always the right time to celebrate Jesus; and
  • Christmas is a perfect time to proclaim the great tidings of the Gospel!



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2 thoughts on “Some Fun Facts About Christmas

    1. Thanks, Cathie, and Merry Christmas to you and your family as well! But actually, I’m in a Holiday Inn in Cleveland as I write this, so we’re north of you, not east!

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