These four fast facts about Christmas are bound to make you “that guy” at your next dinner party. You’re welcome.

Christmas present drawing

When Santa Claus began coming down peoples’ chimneys

The character of Santa Claus is actually based on a bishop named Nicholas, who lived at the turn of the fourth century in what is now modern-day Turkey. Nicholas is remembered for his kindness and generosity, particularly in gifting money to poor families who couldn’t afford dowries for their daughters. Insistent on remaining anonymous, he was sometimes known to drop these gifts down the chimney and get away unnoticed.1 Today, Nicholas would probably be arrested.

Mistletoe drawing

Sappy Christmas traditions (get it?)

The Druids and the Romans decorated the inside of their temples with evergreen boughs during their winter solstice celebrations to keep away evil spirits and symbolize everlasting life. In the sixteenth century, German Christians began bringing evergreens into their homes during the Christmas season. The first public display of a Christmas tree wasn’t until the 1830s, when German settlers put one up in Pennsylvania.2

Chinese takeout container drawing

It makes sense that the two largest immigrant groups would find a way to forge their own Christmas together.

Chinese Christmas feast

At the turn of the twentieth century, the Lower East Side of New York City housed both Chinatown and a large Jewish population.3 On Christmas Day, the only restaurants open in the neighborhood were Chinese restaurants, and their Jewish neighbors took full advantage of this convenient opportunity! It makes sense that the two largest immigrant groups at the time – Eastern European Jews and Chinese–would find a way to forge their own Christmas together, a holiday that neither culture observed.

Calendar Drawing

When Christmas was iIlegal

From 1659–1681, when the Puritans civilized Boston, celebrating Christmas was actually illegal. At the time, they considered its historically pagan associations and lack of explicit biblical references to mean it was evil. They forced any offenders to pay a fine. In fact, even after the Revolutionary War, Congress didn’t recognize the day and held their first congressional session on December 25, 1789.4 Christmas wasn’t recognized as an American federal holiday until 1870.5

Endnotes

1. https://www.stnicholascenter.org/how-to-celebrate/resources/teachers/stories-classroom/st-nicholas-welborn.

2. https://www.history.com/topics/christmas/history-of-christmas-trees.

3. https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/12/21/18151903/history-jews-chinese-food-christmas-kosher-american.

4. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/christmas-ideas/g2972/surprising-christmas-facts/?slide=8.

5. https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/christmas-day.