Have you ever spent an extraordinary amount of time hanging your Christmas lights, only to have half die ten minutes later, furiously asking ‘what do we need lights for anyhow?’ Maybe you’re curious as to whose idea it was to awkwardly go door-to-door singing Christmas carols, as you’re smiling down at the surprise chorus on your doorstep?
Whether you’ve questioned the origins of Christmas traditions, or you could really care less and just go with it – here are four pieces of Yule time trivia to help you start a conversation with your relatives this Christmas weekend.
Illuminating Christmas trees began in 1500’s when Martin Luther sought to mimic the glistening snowflakes during the winter season, and it was later popularized by a young Queen Victoria in 1832. For many years, individuals used wax candles or lanterns to light up their trees, creating huge fire hazards around the world.
The first electric Christmas tree was appropriately created by Thomas Edison’s associate, Edward H. Johnson. Located in the front window of his home on Fifth Avenue in New York City, his tree proudly displayed red, white and blue lights that were ‘the size of walnuts.’
The story was widely regarded as a publicity stunt by several newspapers at the time. It was first covered by Detroit Post and Tribune in 1882.
Shortly after, stores began to display Christmas lights in their windows. Electric Christmas lights eventually became affordable for average families in the 1930’s.
The mistletoe – Christmas’s kissing tradition – , is actually a parasite. The plant survives by attaching to suitable trees and can actually grow into a five foot wide basket-like mess of branches, weighing up to 50 pounds. Another fun fact about the mistletoe is that its Anglo-Saxon name actually translates to “dung-on-a-twig.” So romantic.
To be honest, no one is exactly sure of eggnog’s exact origins, but many historians say it originated in the 13th century Britain. The beverage became associated with the holidays during American colonial days, where farms and cheap rum were abundant. In fact, George Washington had his own rather boozy recipe. See below.
“One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, 1/2 pint rye whiskey, 1/2 pint Jamaica rum, 1/4 pint sherry—mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.”
Unfortunately, the FDA doesn’t quite approve of the original recipe, seeing as today’s eggnog can’t be sold with more than 1% egg yolk. Attempt at your own risk.
Caroling – a word that was originally associated with dancing and celebration – began as a Pagan tradition to celebrate all four seasons. Christian leaders later replaced the winter solstice songs with religious songs in honor of Christmas.
In 1647, Christmas caroling was banned in England after Puritan Oliver Cromwell came to power. As a result, singers would secretly travel to individuals homes and sing indoors for families. Next time a group of cheery carolers ring your doorbell, thank Puritan’s Grinch-like hatred of holiday songs.