As the festive countdown to 25th December begins, we take a look at some fun Christmas facts you probably didn’t know.
Jingle Bells from space
On 16th December 1965, the two astronauts aboard US space flight, Gemini 6 reported to Mission Control that they had seen an ‘Unidentified Flying Object’ about to enter the earth’s atmosphere. They interrupted the tense report with the sound of ‘Jingle Bells’ being played by Wally Schirra on the harmonica, accompanied by Tom Stafford jingling a handful of sleigh bells, they had smuggled on board, especially for the occasion.
Stockings by the chimney
According to legend, hanging stockings by the chimney on Christmas Eve started when generous St. Nicholas dropped gold down the chimney of a poor man who could not afford the dowries for his three daughters. The gold landed in their stockings which were drying by the fire and the rest, as they say is, history. Nowadays, colourful felt stockings, embellished with everything Christmassy are hung at the ends of children’s beds to be filled with gifts by ‘Santa.’
Santa’s own postcode
Every December letters to Santa Claus arrive in their thousands to post offices throughout the world. Post Office workers in Canada, decided to answer the letters written by the children and set up a special Santa address and postcode – Santa Claus, North Pole, H0H 0H0. Over 26million letters have been answered in over 30 different languages and letters have come from all around the world. The service processes an average of a million letters a year and roughly 200,000 ‘elves’ donate their time to write or type replies on behalf of the Great Man himself. Well done Canada for upholding such heartfelt Christmas traditions.
An ancient symbol of fertility, and believed by the Druids to be an aphrodisiac, this famous Christmas flora is not quite as romantic as it seems. Mistle thrush birds eat the plant’s berries, digest the seeds, and then the droppings eventually grow into new plants. So, the German word for mistletoe – mistel – literally means ‘dung on a twig’. Something to think about when you are puckering up for a kiss under the mistletoe this Christmas.
Norwegian Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square
Norway has donated the iconic tall spruce that stretches into the sky in London’s Trafalgar Square every year since 1947. The Christmas tree gift for the people of London is in gratitude for Britain’s support for Norway during World War ll. The impressive tree is prominently displayed from the beginning of December until the 6th January.
The Christmas gift that kept on giving
During World War II, The United States Playing Card Company joined forces with American and British intelligence agencies to create a very special deck of cards. They gave out the cards as Christmas gifts to help allied prisoners of war escape from German POW camps. Individual cards peeled apart when moistened, to reveal maps of escape routes. Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.
Record-breaking song sales
“Silent Night” is the most recorded Christmas song in history, with over 733 different versions copyrighted since 1978. The song was composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber to lyrics by Joseph Mohr in the small town of Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria. Meanwhile, “White Christmas” (1942) by Bing Crosby is the best-selling song of all time with over 50 million copies sold.