Whether it's tucking into a delicious mince pie or puckering up under the mistletoe, at some point this Christmas season many of us will embrace the numerous traditions related to this time of the year. But where do these age-old customs and familiar images come from and which is your favourite?
1. Christmas day isn't Christ's birthday
There is no mention of December 25th anywhere in the Bible, in fact there is no mention of when Jesus was born at all. There was much debate amongst early Christians and it wasn't until the fourth century AD in the Roman Empire that Jesus' birthday was celebrated on December 25th. The most popular theory as to why this date was settled on is that it was borrowed from pagan traditions that already occurred on that day.
2. Boxing Day is actually about boxes
Multiple theories abound as to how this bank holiday received its name, the most popular theory suggests it was traditionally a day when servants had the day off to visit their families. Their employees would send them home with "Christmas boxes" containing money, gifts or food to thank them for their reliable service throughout the past year.
3. Turkeys replaced peacocks on the Christmas table
Before turkeys were brought into this country over 500 years ago people used to eat geese, boars' head and even peacocks during the festive season! Henry VIII was the first English king to enjoy a turkey on Christmas Day and the bird was still regarded as a luxury up until the 1950s, with many choosing goose instead. Thanks to the invention of the fridge and the ability of the large turkey to feed a whole family, it soon took top spot on many Christmas tables.
4. Santa doesn’t wear red because of Coca-Cola
Contrary to popular belief, Father Christmas’s red coat was not the creation of a clever Coca-Cola advertising campaign. Before the company had even been invented, St Nick was being depicted in multiple books and illustrations wearing a scarlet coat. From the 1930’s onwards Coca-Cola did, however, help shape the image of Santa as a jolly old man.
5. Christmas trees have pagan roots
During the time of the winter solstice, pagan homes would be decorated with evergreen branches in the hope of scaring away evil spirits and to remind the occupants that spring was just around the corner. This tradition survived the conversion to Christianity and during the 16th Century in Germany devout Christians began bringing Christmas trees into their homes. The practice was made fashionable in the UK during the mid 19th Century, when popular Queen Victoria, German Prince Albert and their children were drawn in The Illustrated London News standing around the main Christmas tree at Windsor Castle.
(Source: Sky History)