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Christmas & Holiday Facts

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Christmas is an annual holiday that is celebrated on December 25.  Christmas
Day is a Christian holiday, but is widely celebrated by many non-Christians.
Popular modern customs include gift-giving, music, an exchange of greeting
cards, church celebrations, a special meal, and the display of various
decorations, including Christmas trees, lights, garlands, mistletoe, nativity
scenes, and holly
.  I have collected some interesting facts surrounding the
origins of Christmas.    

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In 1882, the first known electrically illuminated Christmas tree was created by
Edward H. Johnson, who was an associate of inventor Thomas Edison.
Johnson proudly displayed his Christmas tree, which was hand-wired with 80
red, white, and blue electric incandescent light bulbs.
 
In 1895, American inventor Ralph E. Morris invented electronic Christmas
lights.  They were small lights that could be used outside and were safer than
using candles.  However, Christmas lights were too expensive for the average
person and did not become the majority replacement for candles until 1930.

American singer Jimmy Boyd was only 12 years 11 months old when he
recorded the hit single I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.  The music and
lyrics for the song were written by Tommie Connor
.  In 1952, Jimmy Boyd took
the song to the top of the charts.  It became an industry phenomenon, selling
over two and a half million records in its first week's release.  Jimmy's name
became an international household word, and he skyrocketed to the status of
a major star.
  
 

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus has reportedly sold over 60 million records
worldwide.  When first released, Jimmy's record was banned in Boston by the
Catholic Church on the grounds it mixed sex with Christmas.  Boyd made
worldwide news at 13-years-old when he went to Boston and met with the
leaders of the Church to explain the song to them.  The following Christmas
the ban was lifted by the Catholic Church.

Although many believe the Friday after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping
day of the year, it is not.  The Friday and Saturday before Christmas are the
two busiest shopping days of the year in America.

During the Christmas buying season, Visa cards alone are used an average of
5,340 times every minute in the United States.

Before settling on the name of Tiny Tim for his character in A Christmas Carol,
three other alliterative names were considered by Charles Dickens.  They
were Little Larry, Puny Pete, and Small Sam.  Charles Dickens' initial choice
for Scrooge's statement "Bah Humbug" was "Bah Christmas."  After "A
Christmas Carol," Charles Dickens wrote several other Christmas stories, one
each year, but none was as successful as the original.

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The song White Christmas performed by Bing Crosby is the best selling
Christmas single in world history.  After writing the song, Irving Berlin is quoted
as saying “I just wrote the best song that anybody has ever written!"  The first
public performance of the song was by Crosby, on his NBC radio show The
Kraft Music Hall,
on Christmas Day, 1941.  In 1942 alone, Crosby's recording
spent eleven weeks on top of the Billboard charts.

Bing Crosby's White Christmas single has been credited with selling 50 million
copies.  The Guinness Book of World Records lists the song as a 100-million
seller, encompassing all versions and releases of the tune.  World sales
figures are incomplete before 1958, so officially White Christmas is rated as
the 2nd best-selling single worldwide.  Behind Elton John’s 1997 release
Candle in the Wind.  The best selling Christmas album in history is Bing
Crosby’s White Christmas (1945).  The first holiday album by saxophonist
Kenny G titled Miracles: the Holiday Album is the greatest selling Christmas
album in the last 20 years.   

The word Christmas originated as a compound meaning "Christ's Mass".  It is
derived from the Middle English Christemasse and Old English Cristes mæsse,
a phrase first recorded in 1038.  Christmas Day is celebrated as a major
festival and public holiday in most countries of the world, even in many whose
populations are not majority Christian.  In some non-Christian countries,
periods of former colonial rule introduced the celebration, in others, Christian
minorities or foreign cultural influences have led populations to observe the
holiday. 

There are two Christmas Islands.  The Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean
was formerly called Kiritimati.  Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean is 52
square miles.

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In 1752, 11 days were dropped from the year when the switch from the Julian
calendar to the Gregorian calendar was made.  The December 25, date was
effectively moved 11 days backwards.  Some Christian church sects and
countries in the world still celebrate Christmas on January 7.

The Tinkertoy Construction Set was created in 1914 by Charles H. Pajeau and
Robert Pettit in Evanston, Illinois.  Pajeau, a stonemason, designed the toy
after seeing children play with pencils and empty spools of thread.  Frustrated
by the lack of interest in his new invention, Pajeau hired several midgets,
dressed them in elf costumes, and had them play with "Tinker Toys" in a
display window at a Chicago department store during the Christmas season in
1914.  This publicity stunt made the construction toy an instant hit.  A year
later, over a million sets of Tinker Toys had been sold.

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In the Thomas Nast cartoon that first depicted Santa Claus with a sleigh and
reindeer, he was delivering Christmas gifts to soldiers fighting in the U.S. Civil
War. The cartoon, entitled "Santa Claus in Camp," appeared in Harper's
Weekly on January 3, 1863.

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Silent Night was written in 1818, by an Austrian priest Joseph Mohr.  He was
told the day before Christmas that the church organ was broken and would not
be prepared in time for Christmas Eve.  He was saddened by this and could
not think of Christmas without music, so he wanted to write a carol that could
be sung by choir to guitar music.  He sat down and wrote three stanzas.  Later
that night the people in the little Austrian Church sang "Stille Nacht" for the first
time.

The first printed reference to Christmas trees appeared in Germany in 1531.

The Blizzard of 1996 was a snowdrift that paralyzed the U.S. East Coast with
up to 4 feet (1.2 m) of wind-driven snow over a three-day period from January
6 to January 8, 1996.  It was the largest snowfall of the century in the United
States. 

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Christmas Facts From Around the World

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, Americans buy 37.1
million real Christmas trees each year.

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The General Grant tree is the largest Giant Sequoia in the Grant Grove section
of Kings Canyon National Park in California.  It was named in 1867 after
Ulysses S. Grant, Union Army general and the 18th President of the United
States (1869-1877).  President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed it the "Nation's
Christmas Tree" in 1926.  The tree is the second largest tree in the world after
the General Sherman tree, which is located in Giant Forest of Sequoia
National Park, California.  The General Grant tree is over 300 feet (90 meters)
high. 

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According to historical accounts, the first Christmas in the Philippines was
celebrated 200 years before Ferdinand Magellan discovered the country for
the western world, likely between the years 1280 and 1320 AD.  In the
Philippines Christmas is one of the biggest holidays on the calendar.  The
country has earned the distinction for celebrating the world's longest Christmas
season.  In the Philippines instead of Christmas trees they use holly bushes. 

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In Mainland China, December 25 is not a legal holiday.  The small percentage
of Chinese citizens who consider themselves Christians observe Christmas.
Many other individuals celebrate Christmas-like festivities even though they
do not consider themselves Christians.  Many customs do exist, including
sending cards, exchanging gifts, and hanging stockings.

In Taiwan, Christmas is not officially celebrated or legally recognized.
However, coincidentally, December 25 is the date of the signing of the
Constitution of the Republic of China in 1947, officially the Constitution Day.  

A unique feature of Christmas in Japan is the Japanese type of Christmas
cake, often a white whipped cream cake with strawberries.

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Mexico's Christmas traditions are based on Mexico's form of Roman
Catholicism and popular culture traditions also called posadas.  Over nine
days, groups of townspeople go from door to door in a fashion of when the
parents of unborn baby Jesus Christ looked for shelter to pass the night when
they arrived at Bethlehem, and are periodically called inside homes to
participate in the breaking of a gift-filled piñata.
 
In many Mexican places, children receive gifts not on Christmas but on
January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, when, according to tradition, the Three
Wise Men brought gifts to baby Jesus.  At midnight on Christmas, millions of
families place the figure of baby Jesus in their nacimientos (Nativity scenes),
as the symbolic representation of Christmas as a whole.

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Christmas is a widely celebrated holiday in the United States and Canada.
Christmas traditions are essentially the same in the U.S. and most of Europe,
except in Quebec and other French speaking areas, with its réveillon and the
Père Noël ("Father Christmas" in French).  A réveillon is a long dinner, and
possibly party, held on the evenings preceding Christmas Day and New Year's
Day.  The name of this dinner is based on the word réveil (meaning "waking"),
because participation involves staying awake until midnight and beyond. 

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In Australia, as with all of the Southern Hemisphere, December 25th occurs
during the height of the summer season.  The Australian traditions and
decorations are quite similar to those of the United Kingdom and North
America. 

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In some German-speaking communities, particularly in Catholic regions of
southern Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Liechtenstein, as well as in other
Catholic regions of Central Europe, the character of Santa is replaced by the
Christkind (literally "Christ child").  He brings the presents not on the morning
of December 25, but on the evening of December 24 (Holy Evening or Heiliger
Abend).  The Christkind is invisible; he is never seen by anyone.  However, he
rings a bell just before he leaves in order to let children know that the
Christmas tree and the presents are ready.

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In Germany the Christmas tree is first put up and decorated on the morning of
Christmas Eve.  There culinary feast takes place on Christmas Eve or on the
first day of Christmas, and usually involves poultry (typically roast goose). 

Since the 1880s, the Christmas customs of Eastern Europe and Slavic
countries have included a character known as Ded Moroz ("Grandfather
Frost").  According to legend, he travels in a magical troika, a decorated sleigh
drawn by three horses.  With his young, blond assistant Snegurochka (the 
Snow Maiden, said to be his granddaughter) at his side, he visits homes and
gives gifts to good children.

Ded Moroz only delivers presents to children while they are asleep, and unlike
Santa, he does not travel down chimneys, coming instead to the front door of
children's homes.  It is traditional for children to leave food for Ded Moroz.

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In Italy Christmas decorations, including the presepe, as well as the Christmas
tree are usually put up on the 8th of December, a national holiday.  On
Christmas Eve it is customary not to eat any meat.  Some people, especially
in the South, celebrate Christmas on the 24th; dinner traditionally consists of
seafood.

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In Russia Christmas is celebrated on January 7.

In 1907, Oklahoma became the last US state to declare Christmas a legal
holiday.  The first was Alabama in 1836.

In America, the weeks leading up to Christmas are the biggest shopping weeks
of the year.  Many retailers make up to 70% of their annual revenue in the
month preceding Christmas.

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In Britain, eating mince pies at Christmas dates back to the 16th century.  It is
believed that to eat a mince pie on each of the Twelve Days of Christmas will
bring 12 happy months in the year to follow.

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In North America, children put stockings out at Christmas time. Their Dutch
counterparts, however, use shoes.  Dutch children set out shoes to receive
gifts any time between mid-November and December 5, St. Nicholas' birthday.

People Born on Christmas Day

1642 - Sir Isaac Newton: Mathematician

1890 - Robert Ripley: Created Ripley's Believe It or Not!

1899 - Humphrey Bogart: Actor

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Humphrey Bogart

1932 - Little Richard: Musician

1936 - Ismail Merchant: Film Producer

1946 - Jimmy Buffett: Musician

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1949 - Sissy Spacek: Actress

1958 - Rickey Henderson: MLB Hall of Famer

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Rickey Henderson

People Who Have Died on Christmas Day

795 - Pope Adrian I: Pope from 772-795

1921 - Hans Huber: Swiss Compose

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Hans Huber

1977 - Charlie Chaplin: Actor

1989 - Billy Martin: MLB Manager

1989 - Nicolae Ceauşescu: Romanian Dictator

1995 - Dean Martin: Actor

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Dean Martin

1995 - Nicolas Slonimsky: Composer

1996 - Jon Benet Ramsey

2006 - James Brown: Musician

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James Brown

2008 - Eartha Kitt: Actress

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Copyright The List Blog - Top 10, All Rights Reserved, Posted December 17, 2009