*A traditional Christmas dinner in early England was the head of a pig prepared with mustard. Aren’t you glad that our menu has changed! In fact, turkey first appeared on English tables in the 16th century but it did not replace the traditional menu of goose, beef or boar’s head in wealthy households.
*According to the National Christmas Tree Association, Americans buy 37.1 million real Christmas trees each year. Twenty-five percent of them are from the nation’s 5,000 choose-and-cut farms. For every real Christmas tree harvested, two to three seedlings are planted in its place.
*After “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens wrote several other Christmas stories, one each year, but none was as successful as the original. His initial choice for Scrooge’s statement, “Bah Humbug” was “Bah Christmas.” Before settling on the name of Tiny Tim for his main character, three other alternative names were considered: Little Larry, Puny Pete and Small Sam.
*The average U.S. household mailed out 28 Christmas cards in 2009 and 28 cards returned in their place. This has probably decreased since that time. I don’t get as many cards as I did a few years ago. Do you? The first Christmas card was created in England on December 9, 1842. Hallmark introduced its first Christmas cards in 1915, five years after the founding of the company.
*Candy canes began as straight white sticks of sugar candy used to decorate Christmas trees. A choir master at Cologne Cathedral decided to have the ends bent to depict a shepherd’s crook. He passed them out to the children to keep them quiet during the services. It wasn’t until about the 20th century that candy canes acquired their red stripes. During the Christmas/Hanukkah season, more than 1.76 billion candy canes will be made.
*Animal crackers are not really crackers but cookies that were imported to the U.S. from England in the late 1800s. Barnum’s circus-like boxes were designed with a string handle so that they could be hung on a Christmas tree.
*Electric Christmas lights were first used in 1895. The idea for using electric lights came from an American, Ralph E. Morris. The new lights proved safer than the traditional candles.
*New York City’s Empire State Building’s world famous tower lights are turned off every night at midnight with the exception of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day when they are illuminated until 3 a.m.
*The 2000 movie, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” featured more than 52,000 Christmas lights, about 8,200 Christmas ornaments and nearly 2,000 candy canes.
*The modern Christmas custom of displaying a wreath on the front door of a house is borrowed from ancient Rome’s New Year celebrations. Romans wished each other “good health” by exchanging branches of evergreens. They called these gifts “strenae” after Strenia, the goddess of health. It became the custom to bend these branches into a ring and display them on doorways.
*The custom of singing Christmas carols is very old. The earliest English collection was published in 1521.
*Although many believe that the Friday after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year, it’s actually not. The Friday and Saturday before Christmas are the two busiest shopping days of the year. In fact, the weeks leading up to Christmas are the biggest shopping weeks of the year. Many retailers make up to 70 percent of their annual revenue in the month preceding Christmas.
Carrie T. Brazeal is the Family and Consumer Sciences agent for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service – Collin County. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972-548-4233, metro 972-424-1460, Ext. 4233.